|In Defense of Scott Boras
Growing up in West Texas, I had one of the greatest jobs any teenager could have — serving as the batboy/clubhouse manager for the Chicago Cubs AA farm team in the Texas League. I started this gig in 1974 and continued it until I left for college in 1978.
I met an interesting cast of characters during this time. A few former Midland Cubs actually made it all the way to "The Show". Mike Krukow pitched for the Cubs, Phillies and Giants. He is now part of San Francisco's broadcast team. Dennis Lamp played for the Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Pirates. I remember both of these men fondly. They were genuine, caring and had razor sharp senses of humor.
However, of all the players I met in my five seasons with the M-Cubs, only two went onto fame and fortune.
Bruce Sutter was one of the greatest relief pitchers in MLB history and is member of the Baseball Hall-of-Fame. He only spent one full season in the Texas League, right after he underwent career threatening shoulder surgery. As a result, Sutter had to master a new arsenal of pitches. It was in Midland that legendary pitching coach Fred Martin taught Bruce the pitch that would resurrect his career — the split finger fastball.
In terms of generating money and headlines, even Sutter's Hall-of-Fame career took a backseat to another player who passed through the Midland clubhouse. That player never rose above AA and had his career cut short by injuries. However, Scott Boras' impact on the game of baseball has been monumental. As an agent for some of the games most high profile players, he basically redifined the art of contact negotiation.
As any baseball fan knows, Boras is no longer the agent for A-Fraud, his long standing and most notorious client. The talking heads used this occasion to once again bash Boras. Through the years, I have heard him referred to "as the man who ruined baseball" and "the dark prince of MLB." This is nothing new. Boras has been the target of scorn and ridicule for much of the past two decades.
In the past, I have reacted to such talk with both anger and amusement. My experience with Boras was just the opposite. In fact, if I sat down and made a list of the most humble, honest and trustworthy people I have met in my life, Scott Boras would be near the top.
Upon arriving in West Texas, Boras began dating my older sister, a junior at TCU who was home for the summer. Their relationship quickly became serious, so Scott spent a lot of time at my parent's house, sitting around the pool. And although he couldn't hit a curve ball, it became apparent that Boras was a man who was destined for greatness in some field.
He was just finishing up his PhD in Pharmacy, and while the other players squandered their signing bonuses on Corvettes and Monte Carlos, Boras drove a 12 year-old Volvo. While many of his teammates spent the morning sleeping off their hangovers, Scott was up at the crack of dawn attending Mass. Sitting around the pool that summer, he talked with me about the importance of planning for the future, living a Christ-like life and finding happiness through self-sacrifice. This sounds like heady stuff to discuss with a 16 year-old, but I have carried those memories with me ever since.
Boras left after the season was over, my sister and he drifted apart, and he eventually returned to the University of the Pacific where he enrolled in law school. I have not seen nor heard from him since. However, when he burst on the scene as a high profile agent, I was not surprised. People who approach life the way Scott did seem to rise to the top. As he negotiated one multi-million deal after another, people began to hate on him. He became the poster boy for all that was wrong with baseball.
He was most widely criticized for his tactics in the J.D. Drew and Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiations. One critic called his strategies "nothing more than adversarial prostitution". I, on the other hand, call it by another name — good lawyering.
I know nothing about the details of the A-Roid-Boras split. It may have been mutual and in the best interest of both parties. I do, however, know this — Scott Boras is not the villain he has been made out to be. In my opinion, he is something else entirely.
A major influence on my life.