Notes from All Over: Mets, Mauer, and Boras

I am hoping this will become a semi-regular feature. Time to look at some of the baseball news from the rest of MLB. Trust me, it’s worth the read.

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Intent on destroying any hope that Mets fans might have had coming into the season with the good news in past days about Johan Santana and Jose Reyes (both of whom appear to be healthy), Omar Minaya has declared that the starting first base job will be an “open competition” — between Daniel Murphy and Mike Jacobs. Both have some power, but have shown less of it recently. Both have been terrible liabilities on the field (though Jacobs posted a not-terrible UZR last year), and, the best thing, as Rob Neyer points out:

When you see the names “Daniel Murphy” and “Mike Jacobs,” you might say to yourself, “Self, neither of those guys are good enough to play every day, but what about a platoon? After all, the Mets are set with every-day players for every other position, so they should have the roster space to carry two first basemen.”

Ah, that’s what I thought, too. But then, a nagging little suspicion: Aren’t Murphy and Jacobs both left-handed hitters?

They are.

That’s right, friends. Even though he already had Murphy, Minaya chose — from among all the sluggardly sluggers looking for an invitation to spring training — another left-handed hitter to compete with Murphy.

[…]

[U]ntil something else happens, we’ll have to go with this as the No. 1 early contender for 2010’s Worst Plan of Spring Training Award.

Needless to say, both are terrible against left-handed pitching. Sort of makes our question about third base (PLEASE don’t hand the job to Punto without a fight) seem moot, eh?

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Jon Marthaler, over at TwinkieTown, thinks that Joe Mauer will sign this week, if only to eliminate the media swarms and drama that will result if he reports without his signature drying on a new contract. I tend to agree, but have to link for what may be my favorite Minnesota analogy of all time:

Have you ever tried to compliment a Minnesotan? It’s like trying to bathe a cat. “I liked your ravioli hotdish at the potluck,” you might say, to which the receiver of the compliment will say, “Oh, that? That’s not much, really, just some ground beef and noodles and tomato sauce, I guess. I’m just lucky anybody ate any of it, we’d have leftovers for a week.”

Do not make the mistake of arguing with this Minnesotan. You will enter into a vicious cycle of compliments and denials, one that will end with you offering to tattoo the recipe on your forearm, it was THAT GOOD, while the complimentee offers to cut out his or her tongue as a gesture of unworthiness.

Beautiful work.

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If there is one person in the baseball world that I hate, it is Manny Ramirez. If I had to pick a second, however, it would be Scott Boras. As an aspiring lawyer, I am constantly horrified by the constant conflicts of interest that Boras, a 1982 graduate of the McGeorge School of Law, manages to get himself into. Represent five players that play the same position in the same off-season? Sure, why not. Focus on the player that will receive the highest paycheck to the (seeming) exclusion of all others? The business of baseball. Boras has a near-sterling reputation for getting the most money possible for his clients, and with that in mind, it’s no surprise that few players fire him and even fewer complain. I would wager that Boras forces all his clients to sign waivers of ABA Model Rules of Professional Responsibility 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, and 1.10 (which govern conflicts of interest), though there is a hazy area where he could have problems under rule 1.3, which governs the diligence with which a lawyer must represent one’s client.

I dislike Boras so much that even though I loved Carlos Gomez (and trust me, I really loved me some Carlos Gomez), I fully expected him to be traded after last season, due to upcoming arbitration (which, by the way, he settled for 1.15 million) and free agency. And I can’t say that I am happy he’s gone, if only because it frees me from considering whether Minnesota would have even attempted to re-sign him after he hit free agency, due to Boras being his agent. However, it’s practically impossible for teams to avoid Boras, as he represents dozens of players.

Of course, this didn’t stop our favorite Bert Blyleven from writing a fawning piece about Boras last December. And most other agents defend him, since they do the same thing. Agents work on commission, like trial attorneys and furniture salesmen. When Boras convinces a team to sign one of his clients, he gets a certain percentage of the  agreed-upon amount, say 4%** . This has led to many, prominently Craig Calcaterra of HardBall Talk, to speculate that the reason Johnny Damon is out of a job is that Boras had a great financial interest in getting a job for Damon’s fellow client Matt Holliday first, as Holliday was almost guaranteed more money that Damon. This worked out to be true: I expect that Damon will sign a 1-year, $7 million deal with the Tigers sometime this week, while Holliday signed a 7-year, $120 million deal (with a ton of perks not included in the dollar amount, including guaranteed road suites, full no-trade, and incentives) with the Cardinals on January 5. Since then, the free agent market has cratered, leading to the one-year Damon deal. At our 4% rate, Boras stands to make $4.8 million off the Holliday deal and $280,000 off the Damon deal. Which one would you (or any self-aware lawyer) focus on first?

**Pardon the Posnanski italics here, but I wanted to stress that I have no idea what Boras actually earns. I have heard that MLB has a maximum of 4% of contracts (with no confirmation), but I know from law classes that sports agents typically make $15-25% of endorsement deals and 10% on any media. Either way, when you think about it, Boras stands to gain a ton more money than the 4% of the contract, as Holliday will likely be in a ton of commercials and do a ton of media around St. Louis, now that he’ll be there for the longer-than-near future.

Think about it this way: if you were a good player, not the best, but good, would you want your agent trying to arrange deals for the max amount of money possible for both you and the best player on the market at your position in the same off-season? I’m thinking not. Anyway, the reason I mention all this is that Felipe Lopez has fired Scott Boras as his agent.

Boras said: “We know how frustrating it is when a player can’t get a starting job from any one of the 30 teams,” Boras says. “We wish Felipe well. He’s a very talented player.”  He’s also had an agent that has represented other players that were far more lucrative all off-season. The quote has a repulsive “oh, no, it’s not my fault” quality that seems to quite aptly sum up the situation.

Lopez is now likely to get much less than the $5 million that the Twins signed Orlando Hudson for, despite better numbers last season. Lopez has scared off some teams with his .360 BABIP, which is overly high, and others are simply not interested or not in need of a second baseman. Joe Pawlikowski over at the indispensible FanGraphs thinks that some teams, including the Cubs or Cardinals (at third base), might still ahve some interest, though it seems unlikely. Lopez is looking at a 1-year deal worth a max of $2.5-3 million, if that. There’s a possibility

MLB needs to reform its rules regarding player representation. That, or the ABA (American Bar Association) needs to enforce its conflict-of-interest and diligence rules on sports agents, something it does not regularly do now.

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And, by the way, vomit.

One Response

  1. […] Tigers owner Mike Ilitch gave uberagent and conflict-of-interest maven Scott Boras a major bailout when he agreed, going around his front office, to give a 1-year, […]

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