Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Alex Rodriguez and Scott Boras seize the moment and embarrass Major League Baseball

Sunday night during the final game of the 2007 World Series, a breathless Ken Rosenthal reported that he had been contacted by agent Scott Boras. In a report, the Associated Press credited SI.com’s Jon Heyman for first reporting Alex Rodriguez was going to opt-out of his ten-year contract and become a free agent. The best player in baseball, the player whose contract seven years ago had rocked MLB to its core, was ready to test the free agent waters.

Boras negotiated the opt-out clause as part of the ten-year, $250 million contract Boras worked out with the Texas Rangers in December 2000. Rodriguez had the option of opting out of the ten-year $252 million he signed with the Texas Rangers in 2001. Rangers’ owner Tom Hicks realized he couldn’t afford the biggest contract in team sports history and dealt Rodriguez to the New York Yankees four years ago. Rodriguez had the right to inform the New York Yankees ten days after the conclusion of the 2007 World Series if he will exercise the free agency clause in his contract.

During the mid-summer classic Boras suggested not only would his client opt-out of his contract but he believed Alex Rodriguez was about to become the first professional athlete to earn more than $30 million annually. Boras being the best in the business negotiated a similar opt-out clause in J.D. Drew’s previous contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Drew opted out and signed a five-year $70 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Barry Bonds declared he would become a free agent Monday (a parade of names will follow in the coming days) but the team of Alex Rodriguez and Scott Boras chose the bottom of the third inning of baseball’s biggest showcase to announce A-Rod had had enough of the Evil Empire and was ready to become a free agent. Among the points A-Rod made in deciding to leave the Yankees – everything from the fallout from Joe Torre’s decision to leave the Yankees, the status of other potential Yankee free agents and the transition within the Yankees ownership hierarchy (the end of the George Steinbrenner era).

"There really was no way he could make a decision (to stay) until much later in the month of November,'' Boras said. “There are no deadlines. We clearly needed more time to understand what 'transitional' meant, what the new owners intend, and what's going to happen to Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.''

"There was a system in place in which Alex played and in which he performed well," Boras said. "Now there is uncertainty about that. It's part of free agency that you want to know about the team you are going to be working with."

"Alex made the decision today,'' Boras said.”I thought we should notify the club.''

In a move that served to only further embarrass the Yankees even more, Boras told the media he couldn’t reach Yankees general manager Brian Cashman claiming he was forced to leave Cashman a voice mail. George Steinbrenner’s son Hank Steinbrenner speaking on behalf of the Yankees made it very clear the most successful franchise in sports history in terms of winning sports championships in their sport (26) were not happy with Rodriguez and how he went about conducting his business affairs Sunday.

“It’s a shame, but we are all in agreement: myself, my dad, my brother, all the baseball people,” he said. “If you don’t want to be a Yankee and paid what you’re being paid, we don’t want you, that’s the bottom line. You’d be hard-pressed to argue that point. If you don’t understand the magnitude of being a Yankee and understand what that means, and being the highest-paid player in baseball, I think it’s pretty obvious.”

Steinbrenner made it clear the Yankees wanted nothing more to do with a baseball player who showed so little respect to the Yankees tradition and the commitment the Yankees make in putting a winning team on the field each year.

“I don’t understand Alex’s point of view,” Hank Steinbrenner said. “Of course, he had hinted many times the past two years that he had questions about staying a Yankee. I guess he was serious. But being paid what he would have been paid, you would think at the same time there would be pride in being a Yankee.”
“I mean, come on,” he continued. “Every ex-Yankee I’ve ever talked to says the same thing: ‘Are you kidding me? Everybody wants to be a Yankee.’ And it’s not the cheap Yankees, either. It’s the Yankees who will pay whatever we have to pay. But when he opts out, that is telling us he doesn’t want to be a Yankee.”

While the Yankees are upset with how Rodriguez and Boras conducted themselves, the Yankees reaction nearly paled in comparison to how Major League Baseball reacted to Boras’ Sunday night show.

"We were very disappointed that Scott Boras would try to upstage our premier baseball event of the season with his announcement," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said Monday in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

"There was no reason to make an announcement last night other than to try to put his selfish interests and that of one individual player above the overall good of the game," DuPuy said. "Last night and today belong to the Boston Red Sox, who should be celebrated for their achievement, and to the Colorado Rockies, who made such an unbelievable run to the World Series."

Late Monday realizing he had become the center of a storm that could hurt his ability to negotiate a contract for Rodriquez released the following statement to the media.

"I apologize to the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies and their players, Major League Baseball and its players, and baseball fans everywhere for that interference," he said in a statement. "The teams and players involved deserved to be the focus of the evening and honored with the utmost respect. The unfortunate result was not my intent, but is solely my fault. I could have handled this situation better, and for that I am truly sorry."

An act of contrition on Boras’ part, Boras waves the white flag – that isn’t Scott Boras’ style. If he believed he hurt his ability to maximize A-Rod’s value on the open market than his apology makes sense. But like the boy who cried wolf, Boras’ track record and his understanding of the market suggests otherwise. And if Boras was as sorry as he has stated, why didn’t he consider apologizing to the Yankees as well? Leaving a voice mail for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman? Cashman deserved better.

Late Monday afternoon Cashman released the following statement to the media.

"I received a message from Scott Boras last night informing me that Alex Rodriguez formally opted out of the final three seasons of his contract," Cashman said in the statement. "We always understood that it was his contractual right to do so."

Cashman also told the Associated Press that the Yankees invited Rodriguez and Boras to negotiate an extension on the existing contract, an invitation which evidently was declined.

"We expressed our interest in keeping him in pinstripes," Cashman said. "We requested the opportunity to convey those feelings to him directly with the Steinbrenner family in an open, face-to-face dialogue.

"Alex was a key part of our success over the last four seasons, and I appreciate having the opportunity to work with him," Cashman said. "I wish Alex, Cynthia and their growing family the best of luck in the future. I only wish we could have raised a championship trophy together during his time here, which was the ultimate goal we all shared."

Boras spoke with the New York Daily News Monday suggesting money was never an issue but instability within the Yankees played a key factor in Rodriguez’s decision.

"If economics were the sole reason, you'd go in there and start talking and see if you have a meeting of the minds," Boras said. "We didn't even address (the economics)."

"It was clear that none of the player decisions would be made in that time frame, and we understood that," Boras told the Daily News. "It was just something where Alex called me and said there was no way he was going to be able to make any decisions before (the opt-out date)."

There is no doubt Alex Rodriguez is the best player in baseball. An 11-time All-Star, Rodriguez batted .314 with 54 homers and career highs of 156 RBI and 143 runs scored. Like Barry Bonds, A-Rod’s success has been limited to the regular season. While a member of the Seattle Mariners the teams he played for made it to the post season three times. In each of his four seasons as a Yankee, the Bronx Bombers made it to the post season. A-Rod hasn’t played a World Series game yet.

Rodriguez’s post season average is .279, compared to his .306 career regular season average. Of greater concern – A-Rod’s reputation isn’t that of a team player, but one who cares primarily about himself. Sunday’s decision to upstage the World Series will only serve to reinforce Rodriguez’s reputation as someone who doesn’t care about anyone other than himself.

ESPN’s Buster Olney made it clear he believed a team has far more to lose than they have to gain in signing Rodriguez.

“Rodriguez talked intermittently about loving New York and loving his place with the Yankees, but some of his peers within the team thought this was the real bluff. In the end, this meant so little to him that his time with the Yankees didn't end with the requested face-to-face meeting, but with Boras sending a text message with a document attachment to GM Brian Cashman.

“And some of Rodriguez's teammates were constantly perplexed by him, wondering why he had a knack for melodrama; they were awed by his talent and by his seeming insecurity, which they thought was at the root of his postseason struggles. He has played four seasons in New York and will almost certainly leave after two MVP awards, 173 homers and 513 RBIs, and yet somehow he never seemed to fit in entirely.

“Somebody will buy into A-Rod, of course. He's an extraordinary player. The cost will be hundreds of millions, and the heart and soul, of his next franchise.”

The richest man in the world or in this case the best player in baseball isn’t going to be worth 10 cents if his reputation is a sullied as Alex Rodriguez’s is today. If Scott Boras accomplished nothing else Sunday night, he succeeded in hurting Alex Rodriguez’s reputation. Now be very clear about one issue – Alex Rodriguez was fully aware what Scott Boras did Sunday night and has to be held accountable for the actions of his agent. Scott Boras is too good an agent to have not made his client fully aware of the ramifications for the timing of their announcement.

The relationship between an athlete and their agent makes it clear – the athlete always makes the decisions when it comes to their careers. Sunday night Alex Rodriguez and Scott Boras made a mistake. It remains to be seen if they’ll pay the price.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: ESPN.com, SI.com, The New York Times and The New York Daily News

Labels: , , , , ,