This is a great time to be Scott Boras.Or is it?
On one hand, this is the time of year when the uber-agent is on center stage.As a result of having a seemingly inexhaustible supply of the most sought after MLB free agents, Boras is clearly the prime performer in the Hot Stove League.Even if his clients aren’t in high demand, Boras is a master at creating a feeding frenzy among competing clubs for the services of the next “greatest, most in demand” player.Failing that, Boras’ greatest magic acts involve finding that one dumb or crazy owner who is willing to make a splash by bidding against himself for the services of one of the agent’s clients (see:Tom Hicks with Alex Rodriguez and Ted Lerner with Jayson Werth).
But last month The New York Times broke a story that Boras may be in hot water with the Players’ Association.According to the report, Boras’ company has been loaning tens-of-thousands of dollars to the families of Dominican prospects, a practice which may be a violation of union rules.It should be pointed out that in an interview with Yahoo!Sports, Boras denied any wrongdoing, stating that his firm’s actions were part of a “goodwill story” and the practice of “advancing funds” to poor Dominican prospects was within the union’s rules and regulations governing agent conduct.
Exactly what those rules may entail is unknown.The activities that the Times referred to took place between 2007 and 2009.In an effort to strengthen regulation of agent conduct the union issued new rules earlier this year that may or may not impact what occurred several years ago, either in interpretation or enforceability.
Even if Boras violated union rules, you can be sure he isn’t about to plead mea culpa to anything.His nature suggests that Boras’ first course of action would be to take the offensive and come out swinging against any allegations of impropriety, which would set up a contentious battle with the union.The MLBPA would seemingly have little appetite for such a confrontation, especially on the eve of negotiations with owners on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
And once the union starts investigating one agent, where do they stop?This is a dog-eat-dog profession that is rife with back-stabbing, double-dealing, client stealing activities that knows few bounds.Best for the union to stay out of the fray and let agents be agents.
Despite his abrasive personality, Boras has long been a favorite of the union for urging his clients to hold out for the last dollar on the theory that what’s good for one union member is good for all.On more than one occasion – the Werth deal is a perfect example – the contract signed by a Boras client has set the market for the players who follow.
But the union may not be able to ignore Boras’ activities altogether.Major League Baseball asked the union for an explanation of the agent’s payments to Dominican players and a determination of whether such action violated union rules.The union has yet to respond to MLB’s request, but even if the response is in the affirmative, it’s uncertain what, if any, action MLB could take.It’s doubtful that the payments in question violate the current CBA.However, they may impact negotiations on the next CBA to take effect after the 2011 season.
MLB is conducting its own investigation in the Dominican which was prompted by the alleged embezzlement of signing bonuses by team personnel and local player agents, known as buscones, who sometimes engage in activities similar to what Boras stands accused of doing.The union and MLB agreed in principle to a world wide draft, but the specifics have proven to be elusive.The Boras disclosures may give added impetus to the topic in the next round of negotiations.
Although MLB views the bombastic agent as the prime villain in the inflation of player salaries, and would like nothing better than to rattle Boras’ cage, the chances of that happening are slim-to-none.While a number of his fellow agents are undoubtedly chortling over Boras’ seemingly embarrassing revelations, beyond that, there is likely to be no adverse affect on the super agent or his business.
In other words, it’s still a great time to be Scott Boras.
Jordan Kobritz is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network. He is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Eastern New Mexico University and teaches the Business of Sports at the University of Wyoming. He looks forward to your comments and can be contracted, here.
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