CINCINNATI — Today is media day at the All-Star Game and this afternoon featured hour-long availability of all of the All-Star players. That’s interesting to a degree, but once you figure that 95% of them are “just happy to be here” and are “just soaking it all in,” you realize that there are limits to the exercise, as there are limits to all big time sporting event “media days.”
But the exercise presents some opportunities, too. As in getting to talk to super agent Scott Boras, one-on-one. That rarely if ever happens, as the media tends to form scrums around him while he holds court. But when there are 35 All-Stars sitting up on podiums in the room, Boras is able to walk around relatively unnoticed and unmolested, so I took the opportunity to talk to him briefly.
It’s not really free agent season so I let players and transactions and things go to the wayside. I was more interested in the legally-trained Boras’ opinion on that protective netting class action lawsuit that was filed this afternoon. He wasn’t aware of the specifics of the suit but has clearly thought about the issue before, citing some of the previous cases challenging the “Baseball Rule” and foul ball injuries. I asked him what his views or what the views of his clients were about extending the protective netting farther down the lines. Boras:
“There is an expense to it. But in terms of compliance to safety, putting up netting, the costs of it, is not the problem. It’s not that expensive. It’s more about the viewing obstruction additional nets would bring.”
When he said this I immediately thought about how, at many Angels games in Anaheim, you can see the Newport Beach-based Boras sitting directly behind home plate, behind the netting. That’s where he went:
“But I sit in seats that are always behind the netting. And you get used to that pretty quick. I don’t think it would be something that would be obstructive. As to how strict the objection would be from Major League Baseball or specific teams or from fans that sit in those seats, I don’t think it would be a big problem. I think you could side on the safety issue. Because you just hate to see [foul ball injuries] happen. I weigh it as the benefit to the detriment and I think there’s probably good cause for many people supporting [extending the netting].”
So, a plaintiff’s law firm, some bloggers and now the agent who, more than most, is responsible for salaries going through the roof are in support of additional protective netting at ballparks. If Major League Baseball’s usual response to those categories of folks holds, they’ll likely remove netting now rather than extend it.
When I asked Boras for his comments on that, he seemed pleased to be asked a legal question rather than yet another question about some of his famous assertions about his clients’ value. But I figured that since I had his attention I’d ask him about that too. I did so rather diplomatically, noting that I appreciated him talking to me given that, in the past, I’ve been critical of him.
“You’ve been critical of me?” Boras asked, with a sly smile, playfully pretending that the idea of anyone being critical of him was an unheard of phenomenon. I told him that, hey, I think he does a great job for his clients and that how I respected him for seeming relatively unconcerned about public opinion as opposed to his duty to those who hire him. But, um, aren’t some of the assertions he makes about the value of his clients a bit . . . exaggerated?
Boras laughed and said “It may seem so to some. But people only see a small part of how we value a player and, for that matter, how a team values them.” Not having expected to talk to Scott Boras today, I wasn’t prepared to put him to his proof on some of his past player comps, so I conceded his point and bid him adieu.