Scott Boras: the teflon agent

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Buster Olney has an article up about Scott Boras over at ESPN today. It’s framed with a “I guess we’ll wait and see what Boras does” kind of thing, but the meat of it — and Buster’s probable intention — is to catalog some of Boras’ screwups in recent years.  The highlights:

  • Playing cute with Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates’ No. 1 pick in 2008, at the signing deadline and then starting a grievance process against Pittsburgh. Buster thinks this will hurt Alvarez long-term;
  • The A-Rod opt-out fiasco, which was only saved when Rodriguez went around Boras to negotiate with New York;
  • Johnny Damon’s apparently failed gambits this offseason, which have likely cost him either millions of dollars, playing in his preferred New York or both.

There’s room to argue about all of this. On the one hand, yes, Varitek probably took less money last year by opting out of arbitration than if he had gone, but if he did he probably wouldn’t have a job this year, which he has by virtue of the player option he got last year. $9 million for one year via arbitration in 2009, or 2009 and 2010 for $8 million total as a result of Boras-led negotiation? Varitek may very well prefer the latter to sitting at home doing nothing this season.

I’m not sure what to think about the Alvarez thing. Maybe Boras’ tactics have delayed his development in Pittsburgh, maybe not. Though I think that if any team is going to hold such business against a player it will be Pittsburgh, I think that even the Pirates are bigger than holding a grudge if the player’s talent and performance demands that he be advanced in a regular fashion.

What to say about A-Rod? It was messy to be sure, and probably ill-handled by Boras. But at the end of the day, A-Rod did get more money and what amounts to seven year extension, and no one would dare give him that now, let alone next year when his original deal would have expired. Take points off for style, but I can’t see how you can really criticize this when you take everything into account.

Ultimately I think Boras’ biggest mistakes come in the smallest of places, not these high profile affairs. Places like Johnny Damon’s contract this year, whatever it will be. In the welfare of his lower-profile clients like Joe Crede and Hank Blalock and Jarrod Washburn who likely have to deal with (a) an aversion on the part of front offices to deal with them because of who their agent is; and (b) the fact that they cannot possibly rate in the top ten of Scott Boras’ daily priorities given the other guys he represents, even before taking arguable conflicts of interest into account.

Boras gets raked over the coals for his high profile behavior. That’s probably a mistake. I’m way more curious about what happens when and where no one notices.

Brewers hold off the Dodgers to force Game 7 of the NLCS

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Down 3-2 in the NLCS, the Brewers faced a must-win situation during Game 6 on Friday. Any residual uncertainty they might have felt about their chances of extending the series was all but resolved in the first inning, however, when Jesús Aguilar, Mike Moustakas, and Erik Kratz combined for a four-run spread to take an early lead. Powered by those early-game RBI, as well as masterful performances from Wade Miley, Corey Knebel, and Corbin Burnes, the club surged to a 7-2 win to pull even with the Dodgers and force a Game 7 tiebreaker.

Left-hander Wade Miley trounced the Dodgers in 4 1/3 innings of two-run, four-strikeout ball. He was bested by David Freese in the very first at-bat of the night, which culminated with a 402-footer to right field to put Los Angeles on the board, 1-0. After a few scoreless innings from the Dodgers, Freese returned to torment Miley in the top of the fifth, this time with an RBI double that narrowed the Brewers’ advantage from four runs to three.

Things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for opposing lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu. In the bottom of the first inning, Ryu allowed a leadoff single to Lorenzo Cain, followed by a four-pitch walk to Ryan Braun. Jesús Aguilar came up to bat with two out and two on, then smacked a two-RBI line drive double to right field. Moustakas and Kratz went back-to-back-to-back with Aguilar, putting up another three runs on an RBI double and single, respectively.

The Brewers kept rolling in the second inning. Christian Yelich and Braun each collected a double off of Ryu, bringing Milwaukee’s lead to 5-1 over Los Angeles. Braun advanced to third on a Travis Shaw groundout, but with Aguilar up to bat, Ryu wasn’t going to chance a repeat of the Dodgers’ first-inning debacle. He intentionally walked Aguilar, then whiffed Moustakas on three straight fastballs to cap the inning.

By the time both Miley and Ryu were forced from the mound, the Brewers stood 5-2 above their opponents. Right-hander Corey Knebel worked a scoreless 1 2/3 innings, striking out Manny Machado to eliminate another potential rally from the Dodgers in the fifth inning and retiring all four batters in the sixth (save for Joc Pederson, who reached base after taking a 96.3-MPH fastball to the wrist). The righty received another significant opportunity to do some damage against the Dodgers in the bottom of the fifth, when he came up to bat for the first time in his professional career with the bases loaded and two outs… but saw just four pitches before swinging at a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.

After Ryu’s unexpected departure in the third, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts cycled through five pitchers — Julio Urías, Alex Wood, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson, and Kenta Maeda — in an attempt to squelch the Brewers’ comeback. The bullpen combined for four consecutive scoreless frames, but was ultimately foiled in the seventh, when, with runners on second and third and two outs, a wild pitch from Maeda ricocheted off the front of home plate and allowed Aguilar to plate yet another insurance run. Still not content with a two-hit, two-RBI performance, Aguilar came back in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI single — only moments after a failed double play that would have ended the inning — to bring the Brewers to a cushy 7-2 advantage as they entered the ninth.

No similar last-minute rallies awaited the Dodgers there. Rookie right-hander Corbin Burnes orchestrated another flawless 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, retiring Pederson and Puig with consecutive strikeouts and inducing a game-inning, series-extending pop-up from Matt Kemp to wrap the win.

Game 7 is set for 8:09 PM EDT on Saturday. The starters for both clubs have yet to be announced.