Joel Sherman of MLB Network Radio reported on the air last night that Detroit Tigers owner Mike Ilitch told the media that Scott Boras educated him about his organization. You have to know that Dave Dombrowski loved hearing that. Thus, the Boras strategy becomes clearer and clearer as more and more owners go public with how their negotiations go with him. Right or wrong, we also see why is the best agent in the business.
The number one source of inefficiency in the baseball market is information. The side that has it is the side that usually wins any deal. That goes for the amateur draft, international scouting, trades, and especially free agency signings. However, we are learning more and more that information is three dimensional. Before, we thought that some teams had it and some teams didn’t have. Now, we know that some agents have it and some don’t. Boras is clearly one that does.
When Boras has a superstar client he goes out of his way to not only control what information teams have on his client, but also what information they have on themselves. This is why he enjoys the most success bypassing general managers. GMs are trained to know everything there is to know about their payrolls and how things shape up for the future. What GMs don’t necessarily know is what the business side of the game is going to look like a decade into the future.
Boras sold Ilitch on Fielder because he sold him on the economic impact of the signing. He showed him projections for what would happen with attendance and what would happen with cable television negotiations and other broadcasting rights. Were his projections right? Who knows? Where they skewed? I’m sure there is a huge chance they were. If you did not catch my last piece on the subject, be sure to catch Long Money is a Bad Bet. The basic crux is that superstar free agents don’t necessarily have much of an effect on attendance.
Prince Fielder isn’t going to help the out of work autoworker suddenly afford tickets. The Tigers were sure fire bets to win the Central division and with Justin Verlander they always had a chance to advance to the ALCS again. Fielder may improve their odds, but they aren’t locks to get there. Fielder doesn’t make the Detroit media market any bigger. It doesn’t help those media outlets generate anymore sponsor money in a depressed market. The economy may improve to the point where more money is there within a few years, but that would have happened with or without Fielder.
While we can get angry at Boras, it isn’t his job to give owners both sides of the coin. Our country has long lasted on the tradition of buyer beware. If an owner isn’t going to use the information resources at his or her disposal then he or she has to take the word of a charlatan. This is why owners shouldn’t go about spending in the hundreds of millions on a player without bringing in someone to study the economic ramifications. If your GM can’t do it, there are plenty of experts like Vince Gennaro (author of Diamond Dollars and incoming president of SABR) that would be willing to help out.
More importantly though, if you are too much of a schmuck to ask your own general manager for the information then you deserve what you get. There is a fair to midland chance that Mitch Ilitch will look up in several years and wonder where that windfall is. Meanwhile, he’ll as many as three DHs on his team and nowhere to put them.
In addition to being the editor of hardballchat.com, Scott Barzilla is also the proud father of one and the author of four books. His books can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Barzilla's Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical advancement.