Michael Weiner has already denied Tony La Russa’s claims that the MLBPA is somehow exerting pressure on Albert Pujols in the course of his negotiations with the Cardinals, and Weiner is the official voice of that. But there probably isn’t anyone who knows more about the dynamics of high-price player negotiations than Scott Boras, and he was on SiriusXM with Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy this afternoon saying — in his own lawyerly way — that Tony La Russa is full of crap.
He started calmly, saying that it’s “factually undefined to suggest such a notion” and that La Russa’s claims that the union is pressuring Pujols is “mere supposition” and “really not well thought out.” But after he got warmed up he said in much clearer terms that in his experience negotiating the top contracts in baseball, there have never been calls or pressure or direction of any kind from the union let alone explicit demands of what the union would like to see in a deal.
The reason for this, Boras says, is simple. The original basis for the MLBPA’s very existence as a modern bargaining entity was to ensure that players can be represented by the agent of their choice when it came time to do a deal. This was a direct repudiation of and remedy to the old reserve system in which the GM dictated to the player — with no representation whatsoever — that they will make $X next season. For the union, then, to step in and interfere with the player’s right of independent representation would be anathema to its very purpose.
It’s about freedom, right, and even if the union was agitating for the highest dollar, that limits the players’ freedom. And lest you forget: that freedom to bargain had its roots in where a player wanted to play, not how much money he was going to make, let alone that he be able to make the top dollar. The Curt Flood case was about Flood not wanting to report to Philadelphia. Not about the Cardinals or whoever else not paying him enough.
Back to Boras, who then turned his attention to Tony La Russa specifically. When asked by Duquette and Kennedy what might be animating La Russa’s lashout at the union today, Boras said “self-interest.” He noted that La Russa is competitive and wants the best player and that, like fans and anyone else, he’s reacting to the notion that the best player might leave the Cardinals. But he doesn’t forgive La Russa for this narrow-mindedness like he forgives the fans who just want to watch baseball. Why? Because La Russa is a hypocrite.
“There is a market for managers,” Boras noted. And in that market the managers have every right to take below market deals if they want to. “The last I remember,” Boras said, “Tony sits at the top of that managerial chain.” Which is true. And I’m guessing La Russa doesn’t think that he was unduly pressured to take that high dollar deal. He wanted it because he thought he deserved it. And I gotta tell ya: While I respect La Russa’s accomplishments as a manager, Albert Pujols has more of a right to ask for the top dollar in his job than La Russa does in his.
Boras went on to note that, while there is no pressure coming from the union to the players, there is certainly pressure coming from management. He didn’t say La Russa did it, but he said its common for managers and coaches to approach players on the field before games and say stuff like “hey, why don’t you wanna play for us anymore” or words to that effect when contract negotiations are going on.
So, boom, Tony La Russa just got roasted by Boras. And though I’m not a fan of either one of those guys, I enjoyed the daylights out of it.