Maybe It's Time
Heard Scott Boras on the radio yesterday, which was different than I expected, essentially because what I expected was for my radio to begin emitting an eerie red light and puffs of sulfur at the sound of his voice. Though I'd never heard him speak before (he sounds like Dan Duquette) and I wouldn't be able to pick him out of a lineup (he bears a passing resemblance to Harvey Keitel), his name alone was a blip on my sports-fan radar. The man in the black hat. The villain. The craven pursuer of lucre, the poisoner of childhood heroes, the nemesis of anyone looking to invest in a replica jersey, the bearer of reality into a world of artifice and legend.
Scott Boras is no fun.
Scott Boras is the guy who says, "Jason Varitek loves you, but if you really love him back, you'll give him $50 million and a no-trade clause." Scott Boras is the guy who says, "Alex Rodriguez would really love to come to Boston, but only if you pick up his $2 billion contract." Scott Boras is the guy who says, "Pudge really loved playing for you in Florida. But if you'll excuse us, I'm going to go sell his soul to the Detroit Tigers."
Scott Boras is the guy who makes "love" a meaningless word.
And yet listening to him speak, I was surprised at how genteel and articulate he was. He made some good points about just how lucrative major league baseball has become as a business in the past year alone, and how out of that, the Red Sox are the business enjoying the biggest boom--the franchise that sold for $700 million is now appraised at close to a billion. Buyers are clamoring to invest in the organization. H/W/L have never been more successful.
This is due in part to their ingenious marketing and PR efforts (the ID card fiasco notwithstanding), but mainly due to the way their players have played, winning them a World Series for the first time in nearly a century. Most players on the field agree that Jason Varitek was a linchpin of the team, and so he may be the single player (if there is one) most responsible for H/W/L's continued further success.
$50 million is a drop in the bucket compared to what the team's owners stand to earn from his efforts.
"He increases the value of every player on the field," Boras said.
You drive a hard bargain, Scott.
But the issue isn't the amount of money, of course--it's length of contract and the problem of another amenity Tek / Boras is / are requesting: a no-trade clause.
Jason Varitek is 33 years old. When a five-year contract expires, he will be 38. Most catchers don't catch that long. There is some argument that Varitek may be more durable, as he has yet to suffer a major injury and has not caught as many games as the average catcher his age.
And a no-trade clause? What are the chances of a free-wheeling GM like Theo Epstein--especially now that he has the faith of the Nation on his side indefinitely--letting himself get roped into a situation like that?
And yet Boras says, Tek's earned the right to some job security, and he's right. Whether he'll get it from the Sox is another matter.
And yet (the "and yet's" go on and on) the players have come right out and said, Tek is a big reason why people want to play in Boston.
Can a trophy really replace him as an incentive?