Boras calls new draft rules a “mockery”

One person who apparently won’t be shy to voice his disdain with the new financial restrictions is super-agent Scott Boras. It’s no surprise that Boras isn’t a fan of the new rules, after all, many people feel that they were specifically targeted at him to begin with, but the strong language he has used to condemn the new system is somewhat surprising, at least to me:

“There was all forms of artificial behavior in the draft,” Boras told USA TODAY Sports. “The purpose of the draft is that it’s supposed to create parity in the game. You want teams with the greatest needs to get the best available talent.

“That has not been achieved in this draft. It’s created a mockery.”

At first blush, I’m pretty hard pressed to disagree with him. Bud Selig at many points tried to sell the notion that restricting the amount clubs could sign on players would create a system in which players were drafted in order of talent, but there’s simply no way to say that that’s what happened this year. For the most part, rounds two through ten were dominated by college seniors and other low cost, easy to sign players while, after the first round, the rest of the most talented players fell out of the top ten rounds. The strategy being employed by the teams is pretty simple: save some money in the earlier rounds to give you some extra money to play with in the “one size fits all” rounds (where all picks are allocated $100,000 to sign and anything over that amount counts against a team’s draft pool), while simultaneously guarding against losing slot money entirely if one of your first ten rounds picks doesn’t sign.

To add insult to injury, it doesn’t even appear as though most of those picks will even get the full slotted value of their selection. First overall pick Carlos Correa, for example, is said to have agreed to a deal worth $4-4.5 million, or approximately 62.5% of the total amount that slot is “supposed” to get under the new system. In a very real sense, the drafted players would have been better off if the MLBPA had dropped their ridiculous symbolic opposition to hard-slotting, as under such a system they would have at least been guaranteed the slotted value of the pick they were selected with.

In the short term, the effect here is simple: teams are going to wind up acquiring a lot more low upside college players, while more talented high school players go to college instead of heading straight for the minor leagues. This obviously means that there will be less talent in the professional ranks in the future than there has been in the past, but it’s hard to say right now how much of an impact that will have on the major leagues over the next 5-10 years or so. In the meantime nothing is going to change, because Selig and ownership never cared about anything more than driving down the amount paid in bonuses, and the union doesn’t care one bit about the non-union amateur players being drafted. If anything, they’re actively hostile to the future union members, because like the NFLPA and NBAPA, they’ve internalized the notion that the money being paid to draftees is money being taken out of their pockets, even though they’re the ones who have “rightfully earned” it.

I’ll have more to say about what this means for the future of the union and the next round of collective bargaining, but for now just let me say that, since the MLBPA has decided they’d very much like to become more like their NFL counterparts, I sincerely wish them every bit as much success as the NFL players have had in building a lucrative, respectful, relationship with the NFL owners. They deserve it.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

24 thoughts on “Boras calls new draft rules a “mockery”

  1. Professor Longnose

    I’ve thought for years that it was not in the fans’ best interests to see everything as owners vs players. I think that’s a false dichotomy.

    And, by the way–Scott Boras is criticizing people who work against the neediest teams getting the best talent?? He’s made hundreds of millions of dollars doing that. How hypocritical can you get?

    • BrienJackson

      Your last paragraph seems like, well, a false dichotomy. Boras' job is to get his clients the best deal they can in the market they're operating in. If that hurts low revenue teams, it certainly isn't Boras' fault, per se. That seems quite a bit different than manipulating the rules and telling teams that they aren't allowed to spend more than a certain amount on their drafts.

      • Professor Longnose

        I wasn’t criticizing what Boras does. (I’d be happy to, but that’s a different story.) I was criticizing his saying that MLB should be trying to let the neediest teams have the best talent, when his job description is exactly the opposite. Seems dead on to me.

        • BrienJackson

          But that works only if you assume free agency should be about getting players to needy teams, which it obviously isn't. So there's just no basis for a comparison between free agency and the draft, which should be kind of obvious to begin with.

    • roadrider

      Scott Boras is criticizing people who work against the neediest teams getting the best talent?? He's made hundreds of millions of dollars doing that. How hypocritical can you get?

      Boras' job is to get the best deal for his clients. He has a contractual and fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of his clients not to ensure parity in talent among major-league franchises.

      His comments might sound like hypocrisy but he's within his rights to criticize the new draft rules for not providing parity because that's what the draft is supposed to do. The amateur players he represents would probably be within their rights to sue MLB and the MLBPA for antitrust violations and restraint of trade. They do not do so because they were (for the most part) getting paid what they were worth on the market (yes, even undeveloped amateur talent has a price) under the previous system. Under the new system that's much less likely to be the case.

      The justification for this is supposed to be "parity" but it's really about them the clubs and the MLBPA clawing back a big piece of the pie from the entry level players. Boras' comment may be somewhat disingenuous but then again, so is anything that comes out of Selig's mouth.

      • Professor Longnose

        Of course, MLB is trying to make the most money it can, which is just what Boras does. There’s hypocrisy in what MLB says about the draft (although parity does help them as a group make money). But again, one isn’t right because the other one is wrong. Boras is being hypocritical, and the media is being just plain dense in reporting what he says as if it’s an expert opinoin, rather than direct propaganda. Selig is also hypocritical, but the media I’ve seen doesn’t portray him as anything but a bozo.

  2. lordbyron

    Well said, Brian.

  3. Hugh

    "many of whom happily signed up for limiting their predecessors‘ abilities to do the same"

    Do you mean "…successors' abilities…"? If not, am not sure about whom you are talking…

    • Whoops. fixed. Thanks.

      • Hugh

        Just glad I'd not missed something.

  4. Hugh

    Though, technically, the responses to the comments by Professor Longnose are correct, I 100% agree with PL. Boras is one of a miniscule number of people on the planet who are morally disqualified from commenting on the pros and cons of agreements like this or, indeed, of commenting on anything that contains even 0.00001% of anything not to do with money.

    "You want teams with the greatest needs to get the best available talent." Possibly you and I do. He couldn't give a rats' anything about it, unless there was some money in it for him. Let's not pretend he's anything other than a leech sucking money from the bloated body of MLB.

    • BrienJackson

      I honestly don't see what about free agency and the draft would lead you to conclude this, but I do think there are a number of factors about the draft's recent history that make the notion that Boras is somehow being hypocritical somewhat self-refuting. Most notably, that these "neediest teams" have both been some of the biggest spenders in the draft and that most of them, especially Washington, have shown little to no reluctance to deal with Boras. Heck, it was perennial loser Pittsburgh who got the worst of Selig's ire last year for having the temerity to steal a top 20 talent in the second round AND wound up drafting Appel this year.

      "Let's not pretend he's anything other than a leech sucking money from the bloated body of MLB."

      That's an interesting way to describe a lawyer who gets paid to represent a client. I'll just say that there's a damn good reason that owners fought tooth and nail to prevent players from being represented by ages for decades, and why even to this day the NCAA treats players dealing with agents as the worst of offenses against their right to exploit 18-23ish year old athletes. Oops, I mean "amateurism."

      • Hugh

        I get all that and I don't for a moment think that only agents despoil sport in their monetaristic focus. But I just hate the money-as-the-be-all-and-end-all attitude to sports with all my heart and, in Boras, I see its ultimate exposition. That said, if Randy Levine or a Steinbrenner made similar comments, I'd be similarly antagonistic. It's just that they seem to understand that their views have no currency in this particular debate. Either that or no journalists are calling them since they're not likely to have any controversial quotes to print.

        Re earlier thread: thinkg about it, this whole thing is actually prolefeed, isn't it?

        • BrienJackson

          Well, I guess that depends what you mean by "currency." To be sure, I think that what owners think/say is *important*, because they're one of the two parties to the CBA (the bigger party, at the moment), so they have the power to make changes for better or worse. As for Boras, I don't think he's a bad guy, especially if you open up the horizon a little bit and realize that he's just a peripheral figure at the end of the day. He's become a boogeyman because the owners want him to become a boogeyman, because somehow they've managed to make "agents" the least well liked people in sports, and by making Boras a super villain in the mind of a lot of casual fans they've been able to boost their sales pitch for a lot of crummy, anti-labor, ideas.

          Anyway, it's interesting to me that Boras wasn't terribly vicious about the new rules back before the draft when he was mostly proposing a bunch of imminently reasonable tweaks to the rules. It is interesting that he's bashing it now, but in light of what just transpired in the draft, I don't see anyway to argue that he's *wrong*, at least in terms of 2012.

          • Professor Longnose

            I think you’re wrong. Yes, the owners do try to make Boras a villain, but it works because people keep thinking that the interests of the players and owners are a zero-sum game. Boras works in direct contrast to many fans interests. Yes, that’s his job. No, I don’t blame him. But yes, I think what fans want should be a bigger consideration; right now it’s a tiny fraction of what motivates either MLB or the union.

            The new rules work against amateur players in favor of the union members. Boras doesn’t like that because he represents amateurs as well as union members. That’s the end of the story. Boras trying to defend parity is just as insulting to me as Selig doing it.

          • BrienJackson

            I'd wager that the Nationals were much happier paying Boras' clients in 2009-10 than they will be this year.

  5. Hugh

    (Breathe.) Sorry. I know it's a professional sport and all, and I know that in modern times, esp. in the US, these things get refined to the nth degree, including the way in which contracts for the participants are negotiated, but I cannot for a moment accept that the soulless abomination that is Boras is entitled to a moment's consideration on anything other than the matter of the contracts of his own clients and then only privately in his negotiations with the clubs in question. As a social or moral commentator, he has nothing to say that can be of any interest to humanity. He has set himself up to make as much money as he can for his clients and, by inference, himself. That's it. He has nothing else. Nothing.

    Boy. I really hate his type, don't I?

    • BrienJackson

      "He has set himself up to make as much money as he can for his clients and, by inference, himself."

      Um…so? I mean, there's a lot in there that I fundamentally disagree with in a variety of ways (full disclosure, in terms of off-the-field matters, Boras might be my single favorite person in all of baseball), but I really don't get what this is supposed to mean as a pejorative. Yes, Boras has "set himself up" to get the best deal he can get for his clients, but what makes that a bad thing? It's not like he's fleecing the public treasury and taking money from school lunches or something, any dollar he doesn't get is just going to go into some billionaire owner's pocket. As far as that battle goes, it really doesn't matter to me which otherwise useless rich guy's bank account gets fatter.

      • Hugh

        Love that we're writing to each other on our first rebuttals at the same time!

        Come back to me on mine above, if you'd like.

    • roadrider

      So Boras is a "soulless abomination" and a "leech sucking money from the bloated body of MLB"? What does that make MLB which is a multi-billion dollar business that sucks every dollar (and cent) it can out of its fans with outrageous prices for tickets, parking and concessions, contributes in no small part to raising cable TV rates for fans and uses ridiculous black out rules to prevent fans who want to pay to watch games from doing so if they happen to live in the wrong place. Add to to all this that MLB, if it were any other business, hell, if it were any other sport, would be an illegal cartel in blatant violation of anti-trust regulations.

      So please excuse me if I can't get outraged about Scott Boras beating up on poor, little old MLB.

      • Professor Longnose

        Again, why does one of the set of MLB and Boras have to be right? They’re both grabbing all they can. Fans get screwed.

        By the way, the anti-trust thing–it’s a little overblown at this point. Basically, all the anti-trust laws are written into the CBA. The only two things different with baseball and other sports are that the fines aren’t tripled if you violate the agreement as opposed to losing an antitrust case, and baseball franchises have a right to refuse to allow other teams into “their territory”.But it’s baseball owners who lost an antitrust suit, not other sports, and the baseball union is far more powerful in baseball than in any other sport.

        That doesn’t make owners good guys. Most of them are scum, adnt eh system sucks. But what you said about antitrust is, in my capacity as no expert on any of this stuff, not true.

        • BrienJackson

          "Fans get screwed. "

          Well, no, because as I said above, Boras has basically no give and take with fans. His money comes out of ownership's profits, and doesn't affect the fans.

        • roadrider

          But what you said about antitrust is, in my capacity as no expert on any of this stuff, not true.

          Actually, it is. What you said about baseball being the only sport to lose an anti-trust suit is false. Baseball's antitrust exemption has twice been upheld by the Supreme Court. The NFL lost the anti-trust suit filed by Al Davis and the USFL in the 80's. True, they were fined only $3, they did lose the case. It's not clear to me that MLB has lost an anti-trust suit. They lost their exemption as it applies to labor issues but the rest of the exemption was codified into law by the Curt Flood Act of 1998.

          And I never said that Boras was "right", in fact, I said his comments were somewhat disingenuous. I merely said that it was not hypocritical for him to criticize the draft – and it's not. You should really read more carefully and know your history before you comment.

          • roadrider

            Correction – the NFL was fined $3 in the USFL case. IIRC Davis won the right to move his team to LA.

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