Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

A Day With Scott Boras


Those of you who watched CNBC on Friday probably caught my reporting on baseball superagent Scott Boras. Despite all the negativity that comes from fans – they dislike him because he takes their players away from them for better money – it's hard to deny that he's a powerful figure who rarely disappoints his clients.

The new 20,000 square foot office in Newport Beach, California, is pretty unbelievable. It's got this big steel door that reminds me of some maximum security establishment. Inside, there's this wall of baseballs and a client highlight wall with exact replicas of the gold gloves they won.

Scott is a smart man, but going to his offices made me realize that only he can do the job he does because of the people that work with, and for, him.

It starts with former major leaguer Jeff Musselman – went to Harvard, you probably best remember him with the Blue Jays. Another key figure is Mike Fiore – his name might not ring a bell unless, like me, you collected Topps cards in 1988 and got his Olympic card.

Musselman gave me a tour of the facility – which will soon include a workout room for the 77 employees. This included him taking me to the server room where there the TiVo hardware lived so that every agent could record every game of his clients.

Here's some of the highlights of my interview with Scott:

There are people that criticize you, saying that you will send your clients anywhere as long as it is for the top dollar. How true is that?

Boras: I have some clients that come to me and say, "I want a contract that allows me to get the optimum of the market," and some of my clients come to me and say, "I want a fair contract, but I also want to be in a city or a place or a particular geographical location." The evidence is that about 65 percent of our clients have taken deals that were not the best deals in the negotiations because their pursuits and their wants from the negotiation was something other than the top dollar.

How much do people in the business world want you to negotiate something for them?

Boras: I'll get calls all the time from people in different business areas about how they'd like me to come in and be a consultant in their negotiation. But you go back and you look at great negotiators and you find out that they really limit the focus and the text, the substance of what they negotiate so that they really have a great feel for what they're doing.

Some have said that you didn't get what you wanted from the Daisuke Matsuzaka negotiation. You said that you were hoping that the Red Sox would not include the posting fee in their $100 million price, but in the end, they did with Matsuzaka only getting $52 million.

Boras: The reality of it was that our first offer to Boston was in the mid $60 million range. We had done a historical look at Japanese pitchers in the marketplace and the fact of the matter is, it has not been good and we looked at that and evaluated it.

Fans have called you the anti-Christ or the worst man in baseball. Why do you think anger comes from you to the fan?

Boras: By definition, my role in sports and in baseball, doesn't offer the fan much. Because if a player goes to a particular city as a free agent, that was the player's decision and well it should be. If a player leaves a particular city, that was the result of my work, so – by definition – fans who support their teams I'm happy they feel that way because I respect and want baseball fans to be who they are.

Some owners and general managers have said that you – by getting all this money for your clients – are ruining the sport. What do you say to that?

Boras: I would like to take responsibility for what I've done to the sport since I've been involved. Because the industry was making about $300 million when we began in the late 70s and early 80s and now were up to a near $6 billion industry.

At the end of the interview, I asked him if there was anything I didn't ask him that I should have. He gave me the best quote yet.

Boras: One of the best questions someone asked me actually came from a commodities broker. He said, "My job is about instinct and preparation. How do you balance the two? And when do your levels of instinct override you? When do you understand that this is the way to go apart from the numbers that you had?" And, to me, that was a very intuitive question, because in negotiation, a lot of it is how you hear. You'd be on the phone, you'd a tone, and a voice and you really understand where they are going now, what they want from the negotiations and then you are able to put this deal together. To me, those finer points come in time, experience and really listening well to give you the instinct to know how to bridge a negotiation and create something."

A Real Fight:

One of the most interesting articles I read over the weekend was about Spain's bullfighting tradition being in distress. Bullfighting is a huge industry there, employing about 200,000 people and grossing $2 billion a year. About 12,000 bulls are killed each year by matadors. Apparently, in part because of animal rights activism, and in part because old traditions are dying, 72 percent of Spaniards no longer have interest in bullfighting. That's compared to 43 percent who didn't care about the sport 35 years ago.

Weather Hurting Business:

We might all love the nice weather on the East Coast, but those in the ski business are getting slammed. While golf courses have gotten an unexpected winter boost, the slopes are empty. And the next couple weeks are going to hurt even more, especially since it's supposed to be in the high 50s and low 60s this upcoming weekend. The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend is usually one of the busiest weekends of the year for those in the skiing business.

Tiger On Top:

Golf Digest's Top 50 earners came out today, here's a look at the first 10 on that list:

The longevity of Palmer, Norman and Nicklaus is absolutely amazing, but the most interesting story might be Michelle Wie. Why? Well, she is the sixth highest earner thanks to endorsements from the likes of Sony and Nike and didn't win a single LPGA tournament and missed 11 of 12 cuts in men's tournaments. If that wasn't enough of a blow to the companies that spent money on her, she announced last month that she is enrolling in Stanford in the fall, adding that she hoped to stay at Stanford longer than Tiger Woods (who left after two years). Because of the money spent on her, Wie will be one of the most interesting sports marketing stories to watch over the next couple years.

Questions?  Comments?