- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Scott Boras is one of the most powerful people in baseball. The high-profile sports agent has an unprecedented All-Star list of free-agent clients this winter — Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, Magglio Ordonez and J.D. Drew among them.

Boras also has one unique client, known in Japan as “the Last Expo.”

Washington first baseman-outfielder Brad Wilkerson is a big hit on the current tour of major league players in Japan, because, like “The Last Samurai,” Wilkerson is seen as the last of his kind — a Montreal Expos player.

“People come up to him and say, ‘Oh, you are the last Expo,’” Boras said. “It’s like the end of an era. He is wearing the Expos uniform, and everyone is trying to get pictures of him. He is like a cult figure because he is the last Expo to play.”

That’s not necessarily a sad thing for Wilkerson, one of the franchise’s young stars, who hit 31 home runs last season, or for Boras, who cited the grind of playing home games in Montreal and Puerto Rico the past two seasons under Major League Baseball’s attempt to generate more revenue for the franchise it has owned since 2002.

“I played ball in the Texas League, and we had some of the worst traveling you can imagine — 16 hours on bus rides,” said Boras, who was attending the general managers meeting in Key Biscayne to lay the groundwork for deals for his star clients. “[Expos players] lived like that at the major league level for a month longer. Your legs are dead, playing on the turf and playing on an irregular field in Puerto Rico. It was a real mental and physical grind for those guys.

“Brad loved the city of Montreal but being able to go to Washington and play major league baseball like everyone else is worth celebrating.”

Boras believes the relocation of the Expos is cause for celebration not just for the players who will be making the move to a permanent home but for all of baseball. He believes baseball in Washington will be a huge success, in part because of the city’s international status.

“Look, the most valued football franchise is the Redskins,” Boras said. “Why? Because they have become almost an international team. They are someone the city stops for when they play. It is almost diplomacy through sports. Having a baseball team in there, we may have detente.

“In Los Angeles, we get Hugh Hefner and Pamela Anderson and people who know nothing about baseball who come to the games. The fans get to see two things, the game and the stars. It could be the same thing for Washington.

“You are going to get international figureheads going to the games. You will have a monstrous television outlet that will go from Maryland all the way down to Georgia, a huge amount of people. The team will have an international element to it, and it will be a raving success. I think it will be the darling of the National League. Players and families will want to come to that city.”

Boras compared the future of baseball in Washington to that of the success of the Giants in San Francisco since they moved into their new ballpark four years ago.

“It will be a big destination spot,” he said. “When you think of the millions of school kids who make Washington trips, all of those will be drawn in. When San Francisco built their new ballpark, they had 10,000 more fans a game. They would sell the tickets to the hotels, and the hotels put together dinner and baseball packages, and you would get people from all over the world who came to visit and would go to the games just for the event and experience. They wouldn’t even know what baseball is.”

No matter how wonderful Boras might think Washington baseball will be, he won’t be sending any of his high-priced clients there until the franchise has new owners who are willing to pay top dollar.

Although Boras and Washington GM Jim Bowden were glad to see each other in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton — “I’ll take all of your free agents for $1million a year for 100 years,” Bowden said jokingly — they might not be doing business anytime soon.

Bowden spent yesterday vainly trying to generate a deal.

“It was a busy but unproductive day,” Bowden said. “I think we are setting the groundwork for the winter meetings [Dec. 10-13 in Anaheim].”

Bowden said he met with six teams yesterday to discuss players. He was seen talking to officials from the San Diego Padres, and assistant GM Tony Siegle was seen in discussions with officials from the Giants.

Meanwhile, the Washington club’s director of pro scouting, Lee MacPhail, interviewed here yesterday for a vacant similar job with the Baltimore Orioles. Also, former Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie was at the hotel. He is looking for a job with the Washington organization.

Bowden said he hopes pitching coach Randy St. Claire will return, adding “I have great confidence in [him]. I think he is a very good pitching coach.”

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