Sunday, November 18, 2007

How the mighty have fallen...

Schadenfreude is not something of which I like to partake. Lord knows I have screwed up on numerous occasions and loath the idea that my misfortune has made somebody’s day. With that being the case, I strive to be empathetic whenever possible. I figure if I wish for folks to be in my corner when my fortunes are in a bear market that I am obligated to act likewise.

At the same time, I have made no secret of my dislike of Scott Boras’s modus operandi. He is a showman who has never shied from the spotlight even if it hurts the people that pay his salary. Agents ideally should be like umpires in that if they’re doing a good job you do not even notice they are there. A number of reports indicate that players that hire Boras must understand that he needs complete freedom to handle negotiations in whatever manner he sees fit.

Finally, it appears, some players are beginning to feel that they feel that they’re working for the agent and not the other way around. How hard would it have been for Boras to get $300 million guaranteed from the New York Yankees? Had Boras used the full 10 day period prior to when a decision on Alex Rodriguez’s opt out needed to be made, chances are the Yankees would’ve offered an extension that totalled $300 million when added to the final three years of A-Rod’s pre-existing deal.

It’s obvious that Rodriguez wished to remain in pinstripes so why all the drama and ill feelings?

I guess it was about Scott Boras wishing to hit another financial grand slam as he did seven years ago. I have no doubts that he was confident he could get at least a $350 million contract and probably felt that $400 million was within reach. As we discussed a couple of days ago, Boras gunned for a quarter billion dollars in 2000 and got it. I can’t see him thinking that his $350 million baseline meant he was actually looking for $275 million. He saw the revenues in baseball and he had one of the game’s great players in his stable and still young enough to produce. Boras thinks he is so much more cunning than every GM and owner in the game that he could easily get the bidding up to the levels he envisioned.

It begs the question though, suppose the bidding got up around the $350 million mark without the Yankees part of the process. I’m inclined to think that he would convince his client to take the offer even though he wanted to remain with the Bronx Bombers.

That’s the problem. Who is working for whom here? Kenny Rogers stated quite clearly that he wished to stay in Detroit. Where did all this ‘return to Texas’ and shopping the Tigers’ offer come from? In both cases, Boras would look for top dollar and hoped his client would take it despite his preferences.

Who is the MLBPA working for nowadays--the agents or the players? It’s easy to understand why Marvin Miller thinks little of Boras. He is getting to the point where free agent players and draft picks are more about his career as an agent than the players he represents. Shouldn’t the union be telling Boras to back off a bit? They won’t do that of course because Don Fehr and Gene Orza care more about the salary bar and their own ideologies than what the players may wish for their careers. Suppose for a moment that a club went nuts as Tom Hicks and put a mind-blowing offer on the table … say 10 years/$400 million. Let’s say that team is the Washington Nationals. Will Boras and Fehr recommend that A-Rod take the Nats offer or maybe see if he can return to New York?

Sadly, we know the outcome of that situation--and it is pathetic. The players need another Marvin Miller. The MLBPA and certain player agents have become the new team owners and GM’s of the post Messersmith/McNally era--they have too much control over where free agents decide to play and that is so very wrong. Soon a salary cap will come to baseball and quite possibly NFL-type non-guaranteed contracts unless the union pulls itself together. It is time for other players to stand up and take their careers back from servitude to the salary bar.

Bottom line … yeah, it looks good on Scott Boras and I hope it is not his last indignity. He may be enriching his clients over the short term but over the long term, it is going to cost the players plenty.

On to other matters ….

Probably the number one problem Barry Bonds will have in trying to prove he never knowingly ingested anabolic steroids is this: His physique and bodily changes indicate long term usage. It is one thing to claim that he thought Greg Anderson gave him flaxseed oil under his tongue and to rub on his leg. It is quite another to state that it happened multiple times over several years. A couple of cycles of THG and or hGH will not produce the long term effect observed on Bonds hence it’s pretty obvious he will have a difficult time explaining how he unknowingly ingested steroids so many times over an extended period.

All of us notice when our body changes. Our old clothes don’t fit as well either being too loose or too tight, we have trouble squeezing our frame into certain situations where we never had problems before. In Bonds’ case, it would be a stretch to think that your hat is too tight despite the fact you are no longer sporting hair to be a little bit odd. I am about the same age as Barry Bonds and when these changes happen, I, like most, look for reasons why. Am I eating properly, am I burning fewer calories? Do I need to exercise more? Is it I’m just getting older? Is there anything I can do about this? We rarely just shrug our shoulder and say ‘Oh well, c’est la vie’ especially if our body is the primary tool of our trade.

Bonds underwent an extreme bodily change above and beyond the extra weight we tend to add as we age. It’s very difficult to believe that a professional athlete undergoing such a metamorphosis would not stop and think ‘Just what have I been taking anyway?’

Bottom line, despite his lawyer’s rhetoric, he will probably suggest Bonds cut a deal and not take a chance on a jury trial. The deal you make for yourself is generally less onerous than the deal forced upon you should you choose to fight a very difficult battle. Had Pete Rose walked into Bart Giamatti’s office and said ‘Mr. Commissioner, I have a problem and I desperately need help, here is what has happened …’ chances are he would be in the Hall of Fame and working in some capacity in MLB. In that scenario, Rose would serve a suspension of probably less than five years, be vilified by members of the press for a short time but be ultimately forgiven. Now he is a pariah.

If Barry Bonds admits guilt, cuts a deal and explains that his ego and desire to be the best got the better of him. While it doesn’t excuse what he did, a lot of players were juicing. Therefore, to regain his status as the best player in baseball he felt he needed to level the playing field. In time, chances are he would be viewed much like the hero of a Greek Tragedy. A god brought down by his own hubris only to find redemption and forgiveness in humility. We don’t want our heroes to be gods, we wish them to be just like us since it means that we all have potential greatness within our mortal coils. That’s why we’re so forgiving to the truly repentant, it assures us that indeed we are not unlike those to whom we look up.

Will Barry Bonds learn from the past? Doubtful, another human trait is that we feel that our own circumstances are somehow unique and past lessons simply don’t apply. It is Einstein’s very definition of insanity--doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Barry Bonds lives in the same insane world we all do.

Best Regards


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