He’s been called an “exquisitely bad” man, the sort of agent who will “foreclose on the family farm” to close a deal.
Mike Ovitz? No, Scott Boras, the baseball agent whose stratospheric deals for his clients are often blamed for transforming America’s pastime into a brutal class system.
In 2000, Boras negotiated what remains the landmark sports contract — a 10-year, $252 million deal for Alex Rodriguez, now the Yankees third baseman.
But while Ovitz underwent cross-examination in a Delaware courtroom, Boras was at the top of his game. Armed with filing cabinets full of exhaustive performance data, Boras was laying the groundwork for what could be half a billion dollars in new contracts for his clients this off-season.
There are sharp similarities these days between baseball and Hollywood, in which star salaries are judged against exhaustive market research and box office data.
Is it any coincidence that former Warner Bros. co-chief Bob Daly ran the Dodgers for five years, or that sitcom producer Tom Werner is co-owner of the world champion Boston Red Sox?
Boras has no designs on the entertainment biz. He notes few players ever reach free-agent status. “For a lot of the players, it’s like the old studio system in that they’re tied to one team,” Boras says.
And baseball players don’t get backend deals; most performance clauses are based on durability issues.
There’s little love lost between Boras and baseball owners, some of whom flat out refuse to do business with him. In an April profile in Esquire, Boras was called “the most hated man in baseball.”
But the Mike Ovitz of baseball isn’t fazed by such critiques.
“Historically, players’ compensation has been 53% to 55% of revenues,” Boras notes. “My job is to make sure that balance stays intact.
“People come to the games to see the top players, not because of the stadium or the logo,” he adds. “They don’t go to the movies to eat the popcorn; they go to see the stars because they’re unique. There are only a few of them, and that’s why they get these seemingly astronomical salaries.”