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Congratulations, Frank McCourt. In fact, congratulations to baseball owners everywhere who have proven, at least momentarily, they are in control of the game's biggest villain and that his reign of terror will only last as long as they deem.
For years, fans have crucified agent Scott Boras for ruining baseball and chastised him for widening the gap between the game's rich and poor teams. Yet there was always a gullible owner willing to give Boras the ridiculous contract he wanted and allowed him to consistently raise the payroll of teams everywhere.
Well, for one day, maybe even longer, he was put in his place by the owners who always held the power but eventually crumbled and gave it right back to the man they despise the most.
Esquire famously described Boras as "the Most Hated Man in Baseball, the heartless bastard hell-bent on destroying our National Pastime, the keen-eyed pimp of ball-hogging, bat-whipping, splitter-hurling youth." It isn't far from the way most everyone but his clients viewed the most reviled agent in the game, but it's ultimately as big a lie as Alex Rodriguez telling Katie Couric he never took performance enhancing drugs.
Boras is only as powerful as owners allow him to be. Boras became public enemy No. 1 in baseball after he brokered Rodriguez's landmark 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers in 2001, which was twice as large as the previous biggest contract in sports at the time. That's right. He didn't want the richest contract in sports history, he wanted whatever that number was doubled and some.
Boras always found a suitor willing to meet his unprecedented demands. A-Rod for 10 years at $275 million? Why Not? Barry Zito for seven years at $126 million? Where do I sign? Chan Ho Park for five years at $65 million? Bring it on!
Blaming Boras for the idiocy of owners would be like Eliot Spitzer blaming his prostitute's pimp for making him pay for her services and ripping him off in the process. These are powerful grown men making conscious decisions and it's Boras' job to get the most for his clients. Is it really his fault that some moron always jumps at the opening highball price like a schmuck who doesn't know how to negotiate at a used car dealership?
For once, however, Boras didn't come out on top. He didn't have some team jumping at his demands for a four-year, $100 million contract for Manny Ramirez, who will be 37 in May. It had to be a humbling experience for the man who was usually able to hoodwink teams into giving him whatever he wanted with over-the-top leather-bound books extolling the value of his client and threats that if Team A didn't meet his lofty demands, Teams B, C and D gladly would.
Sure, you could blame the economy for this, although the current economic state of the country didn't stop C.C. Sabathia from signing a seven-year, $161 million contract, the richest ever for a pitcher, or Mark Teixeira, another Boras client, from inking an eight-year, $180 million deal this off season. No, this was simply a moment where McCourt (and really baseball owners everywhere) called Boras on his bluff instead of folding when he went all in before the flop.
Basically the same two-year, $45 million contract that McCourt offered Ramirez in November was the same one he signed in March. The same deal that Boras rejected four months ago, claiming he would only field "serious offers," was the same one he had to settle for in the end. Not only did the Dodgers not budge, no other team was willing to serve as Boras' leverage, refusing to even admit even a slight interest in one of the game's best hitters.
It's actually a credit to McCourt that he didn't kick Boras while he was down, giving Ramirez a far less lucrative deal than the one he offered in November in light of the economy's downward spiral and the fact that they weren't bidding against anyone but themselves.
In the end, Boras was able to leave with some face, getting Ramirez a deal that will make him the game's second highest-paid player this season and one of the highest paid next season. He will spin this as a win for him and his client, but he and everyone in baseball knows better. For once, baseball owners collectively stood up to their worst enemy and won.