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The Deal Makers

Boras Offers Absolutely No Apologies for What He Does for His Clients

December 15, 1998|ROSS NEWHAN

NASHVILLE — His negotiating style, agent Scott Boras was saying during a relaxed moment Monday, is based on the four Ps: preparation, passion, persistence and prayer.

Others have described it differently.

The man who negotiated Kevin Brown's $105-million contract with the Dodgers and Bernie Williams' $87.5-million deal with the New York Yankees and who represents many of baseball's best players, has been accused of a scorched-earth approach, of being the anti- this or that.

"I've heard it all . . . 'You're wrecking the game, you're pushing teams to the limit,' " Boras said, adding that those labels and descriptions generally come from people who support and trust their team's decisions up until he is involved.

"It's as if in dealing with me, their team suddenly becomes dysfunctional, short-circuited," Boras said.

"I mean, is there a perception now that I misled the Dodgers or misread the market? My job isn't to create the market. My job is to define the market."

He does that, he says, by knowing which teams will have realistic interest in his clients, how his clients can improve those teams and where they slot in baseball's pay scale.

"I do think there are times he tries to create the market," Angel General Manager Bill Bavasi said. "But he's very prepared, very smart and very patient. He's not afraid to take a good player and wait [for the market to shake out].

"He's definitely there for his client, but I don't think he's the devil and I don't think he had to carry a .357 into Kevin Malone's room."

In other words, Bavasi was suggesting, Boras didn't have to put a gun to the Dodger general manager's head to produce a seven-year contract that is the largest in baseball history and a $5,250,000 commission for Boras--if his take is 5%.

Not bad for a former St. Louis Cardinal minor league infielder whose career was curtailed by three knee operations. He used free hours to get a doctorate in industrial pharmacology and a law degree from the University of Pacific.

Dr. Boras, is it?

Well, pharmacology yielded to the four Ps of contract negotiation as Boras kept remembering the one-sided aspect of his own minor league contracts. Some say he has been determined to make baseball pay for that.

Nevertheless, his bargaining powers have attracted an all-star clientele that includes Greg Maddux, Alex Rodriguez, Darren Dreifort, Andy Benes, Charles Johnson and Andruw Jones, besides hot tickets Brown and Williams.

Boras represents 52 major leaguers and about 40 minor leaguers, operating out of an Irvine office with a staff of 25, among them a resident psychologist and nine former players.

He has also represented five former No. 1 picks in the amateur draft, a favorite target and subject.

Boras often points out that Rick Monday received a $100,000 bonus as the first pick in the first draft in 1965 and, 17 years later, the bonus for top pick Shawon Dunston was still $100,000.

That landscape has changed dramatically--with Boras among the primary architects. Two of his clients--Jason Varitek and J.D. Drew--were first-round selections twice, dissatisfied with their offers and refusing to sign the first time. Baseball castigated Boras, who claims he can't make a client do what he doesn't want to do.

Drew played a year with the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, was drafted by the Cardinals in June and ultimately received a $7-million guarantee, including a $3-million bonus, which has become the standard for No. 1 picks, a healthy improvement on Dunston's $100,000.

"He pushes teams to where they've never been pushed," catcher Jorge Fabregas once said of Boras. "If I'm a player, I want him on my side."

Somehow, Boras got the moderately successful Fabregas a two-year, $2.9-million contract from the Arizona Diamondbacks last March.

On Monday, he got part-time catcher Chad Kreuter $725,000 from the Kansas City Royals, which may be a more impressive bit of negotiation than the Brown deal.

The pitcher, after all, is an acknowledged ace and had just led the San Diego Padres to a National League pennant.

Boras prepared a 35-page book, documenting Brown's accomplishments and leadership qualities, for interested teams. He analyzed the market, concluding that 11 teams needed a No. 1 starter and six of those needed a No. 1 starter with leadership qualities, since they had two or three other starters with less than five years of experience, a category in which the Dodgers fit.

"Kevin Brown breeds confidence among the other starters because they see how he takes risks," Boras said. "He goes after hitters. He is not just a robot."

Six years were a must. There would be no financial discounts for the Padres or anyone else. Boras said he knew that this group of elite free agents would lift the record for average annual value to $13 million or more.

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