Friday, December 11, 2009

10 comments Bert Blyleven Hearts Scott Boras

The college bowls start next week. Anyone who wants to can sign up for the College Bowl Pick 'Em. The ID is: 3711 and the password is: jamarcus.

After yesterday's fiasco with Peter King and his All-Decade team I think I have had enough of Peter King's columns for the week. Bert Blyleven has a puff piece up on Scott Boras and how important he (Boras, not Bert. Though I am sure Bert would love to write an article about how important Bert Blyleven is to baseball) is to baseball and baseball players in general. Of course Bert also manages to relate what he is talking about in regard to Boras to how hard it was for him to be a baseball player back in the 1970's. This is a general formula (in the form of sentences) Bert has when writing a column...

"There are a bunch of good hitters on the free agent market right now. When I played there was no free agency and there were also a lot of good hitters. Back then we had to walk uphill both directions to get to the ball park and there wasn't nearly all the great amenities there are now. So free agents now are much luckier than they were back when I played...except for the fact MLB drug tests players now, so many of the 'greenies' and other shit the players too back then would get them a suspension today. Also, known cheating players like Gaylord Perry could get in the Hall of Fame back then, but now even the best hitters in the history of baseball can't get in if they are found to cheat. Today's players are so lucky."

Anyway, Bert loves himself some Scott Boras.

It’s the middle of hot stove season. Teams are looking for bargains on the free agent market, while players are looking to make a big score.

The big score the players are looking for? Probably a new delivery of untraceable steroids in the mail. Or if you are David Eckstein, a package that delivers grit and hustle in pill form and milkshakes made of dirt and scrappiness.

This time of year puts the focus more than ever on guys like Scott Boras, the oft-reviled agent known for getting top dollar for his clients with his hard-nosed negotiating tactics.

The evil Scott Boras! The guy who dares to get top dollar for his free agent players and is capable of making an amateur player's draft stock drop just by having his name attached to the amateur before the draft. The same magician Scott Boras who last spring managed to get Manny Ramirez zero dollars more as a free agent than the Dodgers were offering in the winter when he was a free agent? Evil Scott Boras who somehow managed to magically get A-Rod many millions more from the Texas Rangers when they were bidding against themselves?

I am sure everyone is tired of my opinion on Scott Boras. I don't hate him because I understand why he does what he does, but if I were a baseball player I would not sign with him before I become a free agent because I know I will probably only go to certain teams. Those are the only teams who are really capable of affording him. Heck, there are certain teams that pretty much refuse to deal with him. Is that smart on the part of some GMs? Probably not, but that's the state of hatred/dislike for Scott Boras among some general managers in MLB.

Boras has a reputation as difficult to deal with, a master of spin who is supposedly just as greedy as the players.

You mean the "spin" where (as is rumored) he takes a player's numbers from his first x years in the league and then projects them to be compared to a Hall of Fame player's numbers and puts it in a binder 250 pages large? It's not really spin, it is more cherry picking and optimistic projecting.

(Scott Boras) "Jair Jurrjens has comparables to Roger Clemens as stated on his Baseball-Reference page. Jair Jurrjens is on pace to be a Hall of Fame pitcher. What would you pay for a Hall of Fame pitcher like that?"

(MLB Team GM) "Um, probably a lot of money?"

(Boras) "Exactly. The bidding starts at 10 years $200 million. We won't accept a penny less than that. You want a Hall of Fame pitcher right?"

(MLB Team GM) "Yes, obviously we do, but he also has Scott Sanderson, Andy Benes, and Bill Gullickson as comparable players on that page. What if he is like them? Then that price would be insane to pay for Jurrjens."

(Boras) "You are focusing on the wrong things. Look at this huge binder. Would a pitcher like Scott Sanderson be worthy of a binder this large? It's not even doublespaced! That's 250 pages FRONT AND BACK!"

(MLB Team GM) "I don't know. He has been durable but that is a lot of money..."

(Boras waves hand in a circular motion twice in front of the executive) "Focus harder my friend on this binder of graphs and what they say...Jair Jurrjens is a surefire Hall of Fame player. So what if there are 20 other pitchers that Jurrjens is comparable to right now that aren't in the Hall of Fame? He is going to be like Roger Clemens. He is a Hall of Fame pitcher. I am going to call the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers or Cubs, I am sure they want to overpay...I mean sign...a surefire Hall of Fame pitcher."

(MLB Team GM) "10 years $230 million is the offer."

(Boras) "Accepted. Jurrjens is glad to play for your team for 3 years, at which point you will be so hamstrung by his contract he will force a trade and you will get 60% of his value back in a trade. It's a pleasure doing business with you. Can you give me change for the parking meter?"

I think a lot of this reputation comes from the owners, who like to blame the agents and players for higher payrolls.

Owners are truly mad at Scott Boras because he makes them spend money for players and they would prefer to have slave labor. I could never argue this point because I think it is true. I would say the owners' reputation for greediness is overshadowed by everyone thinking Scott Boras is evil. He's not evil. He's brilliant. He knows he only has to find one sucker in MLB to give him what he is demanding and with the top tier players he represents, someone is bound to cave and give Boras what he wants.

Example A is Derek Lowe. The Braves paid $60 million over 4 years for him. All Boras had to do was wait a little bit and the Braves got desperate and Lowe got $12 million more than the Mets were offering.

But the owners wouldn’t pay the money if they couldn’t afford it.

I actually disagree with this statement. The owners can afford it personally but many times the baseball team the owner owns can't afford some of these players because of the team's budget, which is why I say only a few teams can sign a top-tier Boras client. Owners may be wealthy but a team is a business and the business should turn a profit. Owners are business owners and it doesn't make business sense to not try and turn a profit...sometimes this makes owners cheap, which is annoying.

The Texas Rangers could not afford Alex Rodriguez, the Adrian Beltre contract had hamstrung the Mariners due to this production, and the Phillies could not afford to sign J.D. Drew after they drafted him. I blame the owner and general manager in each situation more than Boras, but owners do tend to pay money even if they can't necessarily afford it from a team salary perspective when they really want a player and that's how Boras wins in the end.

In reality, men like Boras are good for the game of baseball, and certainly good for the players.

I think saying Scott Boras is good for baseball is an overstatement. There is a good argument that can be made which says his need for maximum contracts for his players is part of the reason for inbalance in competitiveness in Major League Baseball, at least among the smaller market teams. Of course Boras is just responding to market demand and there is really nothing wrong with that. If one owner wants to pay Boras' price for a player then I think this is how free economics in baseball should work.

I think Boras represents a larger picture frustration with the economics of baseball. It's easy to blame him for inequity in what each team can afford when it comes to player contracts, so owners and others do blame him. The owners and some fans blame Boras for the lack of competitive balance among contracts, when the source of the problem is really tight-fisted owners and an inability to churn enough profits from every team to afford upper-tier players.

To say Boras is good for baseball is an overstatement because I don't think he is good for baseball, but I also don't want a salary cap so he is a necessary evil in my mind. He is good for the players because he sets the market for many players and has been partially responsible for player compensation rising like it has. Players should love him but an ex-player like Bert Blyleven should also be able to understand the frustration many have with Boras...which it seems he doesn't understand this frustration.

To appreciate Scott Boras, you have to appreciate how much things have changed in the game of baseball over the last 30 years.

Here we go with the "back in my day" crap from Bert. This is the part where Bert tries to explain how bad the players in the 1970's had it so we can feel good that baseball millionaires today get what they want when they are being offered $90 million from a team and want $100 million.

Before free agency, owners could give the players whatever they wanted.

You mean kind of like pretty much any employer can do to their employees today? Many times, if a person wants a job and is unemployed, they have to accept the offer they are given or stay unemployed. I know my company pretty much gives me whatever they want to give me. Also, I can't file for free agency, demand a trade or wait a year or two and go play for whatever team I want. I try to muster sympathy for baseball players in the 1970's but it is kind of harder for me to find too much sympathy.

One year the Twins gave me a 20-percent pay cut. Not based on performance, but just because they could. It was a take-it-or-leave-it situation, as it was for many players back then.

Ok, hopefully no one has it that bad. I have heard of people having their pay decreased in lieu of being fired, so that pay decrease seems pretty similar to some circumstances today, so Bert's bad luck in the 1970's isn't exclusive to just his situation and the decade of the 1970's in MLB.

What we have here are two different extremes. Bert is arguing because owners could reduce baseball player's pay whenever they wanted for any reason, this was unfair, so the fact MLB salaries have skyrocketed since then is completely justified. I disagree and wish there was more of a middle ground we somewhere in there between a 20% pay cut for no reason and a player earning $20 million per year. Again, I think anyone reading this can see the two extremes only three decades of baseball contract negotiating has brought on. There is a huge gap in players getting pay cuts for no reason and the average salary of a baseball player being just under $3 million. Isn't there some middle ground?

Bert's initial sentence explaining why Scott Boras is good for baseball isn't too convincing to me.

But things changed later in the 70s. Curt Flood stood strong. And Marvin Miller stood strong. Both men did so much for the baseball union and the baseball players, especially Miller.

Marvin Miller was good for baseball and for baseball salaries. I will not argue this point because I truly believe this to be true. I actually think giving any credit to Scott Boras is a big, huge slap in the face to Marvin Miller and his impact on baseball contracts.

I’m a huge Marvin Miller fan, and I believe he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

As does Bert feel the same way about himself. In fact, take out "Marvin Miller" and insert "Bert Blyleven" and Bert would definitely agree. For the record, I think I do too.

Early on a lot of players were taken by agents. I was among many players represented by LaRue Harcourt in the late 70s and early 80s. Harcourt taught business courses at a junior college and got into negotiating contracts for baseball players. He also got into financial planning, but it turned out he wasn’t very well qualified.

Agent licensure is a good thing. Notice how Bert was taken for a fool in the late 1970's and early 1980's. At that point he is a big enough boy to know who he should and should not trust. A guy who taught business courses at a junior college, and that is background for negotiating baseball contracts, is not a guy anyone should trust.

Nowadays agents are more closely scrutinized. There are restrictions today that agents have to work under. They must be licensed and be approved by the players’ union.

This seems like a great example of why Boras is good for baseball players...not the game of baseball. No offense, I don't give two craps if baseball players are taken for a lot of money in business investments, just like baseball players and owners don't give two craps if I pay $8 for a 16 ounce beer at a game or have to pay $20 to park half a mile from the stadium.

Sympathy for this situation is not received from me.

Like Miller, Boras and the other agents help even the playing field for players.

I don't like the owners either, but I would argue the playing field has been leveled a little bit too much. Now baseball players can hold an entire franchise hostage with a contract (see Kevin Brown, Chan Ho Park, Mike Hampton), force a trade whenever he wants (see Manny Ramirez), or use arbitration to get a raise when his performance on the field shows he does not deserve a raise (Jeff Francouer and many other players). They can do all of these things because the players have power and make so much money.

I like the players having some power, but we are at the point where only a certain number of teams can afford certain players. Just look at what the Matt Holliday sweepstakes are doing to the Cardinals this offseason. They can't really make any moves until it gets resolved. No matter whose fault it is, there are certain payroll restrictions the Cardinals have and if they re-sign Holliday then the payroll will be tightened. It's the state of baseball, but Boras and Holliday haven't determined where the bidding will start so the Cardinals are in a holding pattern right now.

Should the Cardinals make Holliday an offer and then say, "this is it, take it or leave it?" Possibly, but they want to keep Holliday and that's really not the best way to go about that. So they are in limbo, which is good for Holliday and other players, but I find it hard to believe this is good for baseball.

He knows what players are worth on the marketplace, and he knows which teams need his players.

The teams that need his players: Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, Mariners, Red Sox, and every once in a while another team (a Scott Boras client list is in the link) tries to afford a Boras top-tier client. Was Barry Zito really worth what he got from the Giants on the market place? Of course not, but it just took one owner to pay what Zito wanted. I don't think one team offering an extreme amount of money for a player really helps determine that player's worth on the free market...maybe it does though, I could be wrong. I just didn't see a bunch of teams lining up to sign Manny Ramirez this past offseason or Alex Rodriguez when he opted out of his contract in 2007. What I am saying is that I am not sure one team's offer equals "market value" in these situations.

I don’t know about the personal side of Boras and why he brings such negative publicity sometimes. Maybe he rubs owners and general managers the wrong way.

So Bert knows Scott Boras is good for baseball and players but doesn't really know that much in-depth about Boras enough to see why people don't like him. Basically, Bert sees the money that Boras makes for his clients, makes a blanket statement that Boras is good for baseball and doesn't pursue any proof that may cause him to deviate from this line of thought.

The only negative with Boras is that he represents so many players. If I were a client, I would worry about conflicts of interest with him representing players similar to me. Like this offseason, Boras has two prominent left fielders to look after in Matt Holliday and Johnny Damon. As a player in that situation, you have to wonder if your agent labors for you, or does he labor for the other guy?

See, I don't see this as a negative. Boras can tell the Yankees they can pay 3 years $42 million for Damon or 8 years $160 million for Holliday, just pick one and tell him which offer looks better to them. Since Damon and Holliday are on two different pay scales and looking for different contracts, I don't see a huge conflict.

If there were two players of similar stature then I could see the conflict. For example, I can see the problem in football if the same agent represented Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford before the NFL draft. I see a real conflict there because both players were considered Top 10 picks and played the same position. In baseball, I can see this conflict if Boras represents 2-3 of the potential top picks in the draft. Mostly, I guess I see this conflict when it comes to the draft of amateur players more than established baseball players.

In answer to Bert's question, Boras labors for the guy who makes him the most money.

He cares about players, and even employs some ex-players like former Indians infielder Mike Fischlin and former Mariners closer Bill Caudill.

Boras employs Bill Caudill because Caudill was Boras' first client and was Boras' friend. Boras employs Mike Fischlin because he has been Boras' friend for 30 years. So Boras does employ ex-baseball players, they just also happen to be his friends as well.

Thanks to men like Boras, and those like Flood and Miller before him, players are reimbursed very well in this era. But I don’t quite understand the feelings that they are overpaid.

Oh really? The average baseball player earns $2.996 million dollars, which comes to $18,493.83 per game. Basically a baseball player earns for 3-4 games what the average middle class family earns in a year. Bert is quite a moron if he doesn't understand the feeling that baseball players are overpaid. He's either an idiot or completely out of touch with the people who pay money to watch these players play the game of baseball. I will let you decide.

Football and basketball players are also paid well, as are actors and musicians. The entertainment industry is at an all-time high as to how people are compensated,

Comparing baseball players to other incredibly high earning entertainers is an incredibly poor way to determine whether baseball players are overpaid or not. These people do not represent the majority of Americans and their salaries. So compared to even more highly paid entertainers, yes, baseball players may not be completely overpaid. Compared to nearly everyone else in the United States, and 99.9999% of the people who read Bert Blyleven's columns on NBC Sports, baseball players are overpaid. It all depends on the frame of reference a person uses...and using a frame of reference of other highly paid entertainers isn't a great frame of reference to determine if someone is overpaid or not.

and if you’re one of the best players on a 25-man roster, then you should be compensated.

And they are compensated incredibly well for being on that roster, even if it pales in comparison to movie stars and other athletes. The fact they are not as big of millionaires as some football players doesn't mean baseball players are underpaid or not overpaid.

I actually even question whether baseball players are comparable to football player's contracts. Baseball salaries are guaranteed, while entire football salaries are not. It also seems like baseball players overall make more than football players make overall. So it seems that baseball contracts are difficult to compare to football contracts because NFL contracts aren't guaranteed fully and I am pretty sure MLB players make more than NFL players. I could be wrong about this but it's just a feeling I have without doing any research.

It would be nice to have had a chance to make what players make today. It was players in the 70s and 80s who enabled today’s athletes to make the money they’re making.

Partial (because they only have his earnings from 1985 - 1992) career earnings according to Baseball Reference for Bert Blyleven:

1985: $650,000
1986: $1,450,000
1987: $1,150,000
1988: $1,000,000
1989: $1,225,000
1990: $1,175,000
1991: $2,000,000
1992: $900,000

Partial career earnings for $9,550,000 over an 8 year period for 224 starts. That comes to $42,633.93 dollars per start.

Poor guy! I bet he does wish he had made some good money pitching during his career. I don't know how Bert paid his mortgage every month later in his career when he was a baseball player.
I would have to say Bert bounced back from the 20% pay cut he had to take one year pretty nicely. Remember this nearly $10 million that Bert made is only for 8 years of his career. Granted, he didn't make as much as baseball players do today, but I don't think he should be able to be too upset at his career earnings.

Of course, Bert being the out of touch guy he is, wishes he had made more money rather than the barely living wage he made playing baseball towards the end of his career. Sure, baseball players who weren't as good as Bert made much less money in the 1970's, but Bert isn't talking really about how he wishes those "non-star" 1970's players had made the money players today make...he wishes HE had made that much. Apparently the wages towards the end of his career were not enough for him.

But I’m not jealous in any way shape or form. I’m just proud of how far they’ve come.

Yes, baseball players are just sticking it to "the man" now. I still don't know exactly why Scott Boras is good for baseball. Bert didn't exactly explain why this was because he got caught up in talking about "the old days" as usual. Apparently he thinks anything that is good for the players is automatically good for baseball. I am not sure this is true.


Fred Trigger said...

"Apparently he thinks anything that is good for the players is automatically good for baseball. I am not sure this is true."

a common misconception among fans is that players salaries raise ticket prices. This is not true, as I've pointed out before. Long before free agency, the players were taken advantage of by owners and gm's.

Think about this: before free agency, the yahkees won around 20* of their championships because owners would just sell their players to them to make a profit.

*I'm estimating.

If you want, I can send you a copy of "Lords of the Realm", just to show you how crazy things were before the players got any power*.

*funny thing is: the only reason the players wanted a union is that they wanted a pension. The owners were just too stupid and got the shit kicked out of them by Miller.

Fred Trigger said...

p.s. I'm kinda pro union, if you didnt guess that already.

Bengoodfella said...

I am not really referring completely to raising ticket prices when I wrote that last sentence. I was talking more about the competitive balance of baseball mostly and the ability of players to control their teams.

I realize the players got taken advantage of in the past but I think the balance has shifted. Not that it is a bad thing, but Bert Blyleven expects us to be happy the players are getting tons of money and all of that now and I am not necessarily at the point, that's all.

Owners today sell off players in some fashion to turn a profit. The Marlins trade most of their players every couple of years and if anyone doubts Zach Greinke will leave the Royals I think they are wrong. Owners sell of players to turn a profit to a lesser extent today, but the outcome seems to be the same.

I am not against the player's union and I think Marvin Miller is a great guy and should be in the Hall of Fame, but I don't fall directly on the side of the players because they can't play the "poor pitiful us, we are getting taken advantage of" card anymore.

Fred Trigger said...

I actually read an article where MLB players get less of the revenue than the NBA and NFL. Kind of interesting when you consider there are salary caps in those sports. Of course, I dont remember where I read the article.

Fred Trigger said...

why am I up so early? Because it was 50 degrees in my house when I woke up shivering. At least the weather has finally acted like it is supposed to.

KentAllard said...

I'm pro-union, too.

I was going to ask you to break done Jamarcus' interview, but I realize there's nothing that can make it funnier than it already is. My favorite part is where he accused the receivers of trying harder to catch Gradkowski's passes than his. Oh, and he said being benched embarrassed him at first, but doesn't really bother him.

Bengoodfella said...

That is interesting to hear that MLB players make less than NBA/NFL players. I haven't heard that.

It's freaking cold here too.

I didn't know I had run into such a pro-union crowd, not that it really matters.

I haven't read that interview with Russell yet, but the guys on PTI seemed pretty positive that he had kept his head up about the whole issue. They compared him to Vince Young which is not a compliment I guess. I didn't know he accused of his receivers of catching the ball for Gradkowski but not him. That's really pathetic. He should be bothered about being benched, I will have to find this interview.

KentAllard said...

Here's a link:

If Russell was right (he's not), then I would say in a hypothetical situation where players are more willing to make plays for Quarterback B than Quarterback A, that is a valid reason to play Quarterback B.

There's also an interview somewhere with Al Davis where he doesn't sound too happy that Gradkowski is starting over Russell, but I couldn't find that link.

Bengoodfella said...

I think you are daring me to post something about that...though I have to say, it's pretty much just kicking him when he is down. Don't think I have learned my lesson after bashing Vince Young for getting benched...I will bash Russell too.

KentAllard said...

Well, the interview is pretty funny just as it is. And I never thought I'd say it, but even teasing Raider fans has lost its luster. Anyone who has watched Jamarcus quarterback their favorite team for parts of the last three years has suffered enough.