- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scott Boras, the middle child between Jaws and the Terminator, is about to become part of our lives this summer. In fact, between now and Aug. 17, the drop-dead date for the Nationals to reach an agreement with aspirin-throwing Stephen Strasburg, we’ll probably be seeing and hearing Boras’ name as much as we hear Borat’s (“Bruno” - coming soon to a theater near you).

And make no mistake, it figures to be a lot closer to Aug. 17 than to now before a contract with the first pick in the draft is finalized. This is, after all, Scott Boras we’re talking about. A year ago, he served as the agent for Pedro Alvarez, the second selection overall, and Alvarez didn’t sign with the Pirates until late September. Don’t ask why; it’s a long story. But then, most negotiations involving Scott are - long and, for the teams and fans involved, about as enjoyable as gum surgery.

It’s scary to see a piranha like Boras with leverage like this - representing a much-hyped prospect and bargaining with a club that desperately needs that prospect. Scott is the ultimate hardballer, the guy who got Alex Rodriguez his $252 million deal with the Rangers, the guy who convinced J.D. Drew to reject the Phillies’ offer after they drafted him second overall in 1997, the guy who, many are convinced, orchestrated Manny Ramirez’s messy departure from the Red Sox.

You almost pity Ted and Mark Lerner, you really do. By the time Boras is through with them, they’ll be eligible for TARP funds. Already the figure of $50 million - in guaranteed money - is being bandied about, which is almost five times the previous record for a draftee.

But that’s because Boras views Strasburg as a special case - more like Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was auctioned off to the Red Sox, than Mark Prior, who received $10.5 million in guarantees from the Cubs. So it always is with Scott. His clients are always unique, always exceptions to any rule - as he’s only too glad to point out.

It was he who propagated the myth of Matsuzaka’s unhittable “gyroball.” Three years later, Dice-K is a very hittable 1-4 with a 7.33 ERA. Around the same time, while hawking Barry Zito to the highest bidder, Boras offered this testimonial: “He is, next to Greg Maddux, the most durable pitcher to hit the marketplace in more than 30 years. … In the last 25 or 30 years, only two pitchers have pitched 200 innings every year and had over 100 victories for six years.”

Only two pitchers? I can think of five off the top of my head: Jack Morris, Roger Clemens, Maddux, Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine. But here’s the best part: Zito had won only 95 games in the six seasons before he became a free agent, not “over 100.”

This past offseason, Boras made Jason Varitek, the downward-trending Boston catcher, sound nigh irreplaceable. As Scott put it, “He’s the captain of a team in the major leagues, which is a rare event.”

To which I might add: Yeah, and hitting .220 and going 1-for-20 in the ALCS are also rare events.

“His marketplace is unto himself,” Boras insisted, “because of the value he supplies. … When you talk about Jason’s down year, I basically take issue with the terminology. I know from the past negotiation with Boston, his offense was a very small value in the market place.”

You take issue with the terminology, Scott? What part of Varitek’s paperweight .359 slugging percentage don’t you understand?

“Value,” by the way, is a word that appears in many of Boras’ sentences - market value, TV value, value to the team. Soon enough, he’ll be telling the Nats and their beaten-down followers what Strasburg’s value is. Indeed, he’s pretty much done that by claiming that the kid is “a different breed of cat” and worthy of, as Scott might term it, a rookie salary scale unto himself.

Give the man his due. A player couldn’t ask for a more zealous, pound-his-fist-on-the-table advocate than Boras. That’s why his stable of clients is the envy of his profession. (I keep waiting for Teddy Roosevelt to sign on with him. Scott, you’d better believe, would have it written into Teddy’s contract that he had to win the Presidents Race every now and then - or he’d take him to the Brewers and have him run in the Sausage Race.)

To hear Boras tell it, such a large investment in Strasburg would pose little risk for the Nationals. But things have a way of happening in baseball, especially to the arms of radar gun-busting pitchers. For every Nolan Ryan, there are a dozen Priors, guys whose shoulders or elbows came unhinged. At San Diego State, Strasburg worked once a week; how will he adjust to the every-fifth-day life?

Anyway, pull up a chair and put away your watch. This Nats-Boras staredown is going to take a while. Scott loves to push deadlines, loves to make teams twist in the wind, loves to beat them like a pinata until all the goodies fall out.

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