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Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Did Daisuke Matsuzaka "Overrule" Scott Boras?

The Boston Red Sox have signed Daisuke Matsuzaka, the 26-year-old Japanese pitcher whose agent, Scott Boras, had adamantly contended was worth between $15 million and $20 million a year. During the 30-day-window in which the Sox could negotiate with Matsuzaka, Boras repeatedly threatened that Matsuzaka would return to Japan unless he signed a deal worth in excess of $100 million over six years.

But to the surprise of many baseball experts, Matsuzaka has agreed to a much smaller figure--try a half. The Red Sox will pay him $52 million over six years. Sure, that's still an insane amount of money, but it seems that Boras didn't get anywhere near what he told the world he would get.

So what happened?

It's not yet clear, but I have to imagine that Matsuzaka felt that he could not return to Japan. Not only did his team, the Seibu Lions, bid him an emotional farewell in front of 36,000 fans, but they are apparently in financial troubles and really need the $51 million the Sox agreed to pay if Matsuaka signed. So perhaps returning to Japan was not a realistic option for Matsuzaka if he was not willing to absorb a serious reputational cost. And it's possible that Boras was aware of this all-along, had hoped the Red Sox and the baseball world would think otherwise, but gradually realized that the Red Sox saw through the veil.

It's also possible that Matsuzaka simply overruled Boras. Boras is known for maximizing the financial value of his clients, but he's less well regarded for placing them in situations where they thrive. Earlier this week, ESPN's Buster Olney had this revealing comment about A-Rod's contract with the Rangers:
A few months after Alex Rodriguez signed his $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers, a deal negotiated by Boras, A-Rod was quoted in a New York newspaper as saying that he had really hoped to sign with the Mets. That seemed utterly bizarre, and a little silly: A-Rod had more negotiating leverage than any player in the history of baseball and yet he wound up playing someplace other than where he wanted to play. He could've played for the Mets – maybe not for $252 million, but maybe for $200 million. The difference between his playing for the Mets or not playing for the Mets was a whole lot of numbers on bank statements.
So maybe unlike A-Rod, Matsuzaka told Boras, in essence, "I appreciate you trying to get me as much money as possible, but I'm signing with Boston, even if doing so might make you look bad or somehow tarnish your tough-guy reputation." And if Matsuzaka indeed said something like that, it would serve as an important and appropriate reminder that the client should always call the shots, even if the agent is of the highest profile and greatest influence in the sport. This is a subject that I examine in my Brooklyn Law Review article "It's Not About the Money."


I'm sure Boras advised Matsuzaka to return to Japan and wait out his free agency to either challenge the posting system or just to wait the two years and reap the $100 million payday for himself.

I'm also equally sure that Matsuzaka wanted to get the deal done now, which Boras was happy to do.

Boras extracted what he could given the nature of the one team bidding process. But in the end, it is always up to the player.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/14/2006 9:49 AM  

I think you made an extremely important point. Putting the client first seems to be but a faint thought among many of today's agents. Agent's should be more focused on adequately representing their clients (to the client's satisfaction)than about power, money and being regarded as the "tough-guy." According to Mark Twain, "virtue has never been as respectable as money," and I regretfully believe that this is the disposition of many of the high profile agents.

Anonymous Paul Williams -- 12/14/2006 11:44 AM  

I enjoyed your analysis Michael, but I have two questions for you. First, will this make Boston a winner in 2007? And, second, do you see A-Rod going to the mets? Ian H.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/14/2006 8:06 PM  

Thanks for these excellent comments. In response to the two questions asked by Ian H.:

1) I believe the Red Sox will be a contender in 2007, particularly if they sign Roger Clemens, as is being rumored. Even as presently constituted, the rotation looks formidable:

Curt Schilling
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Josh Beckett
Jonathan Papelbon
Tim Wakefield

I do have concerns about the bullpen and the lack of a closer, but that's a very good rotation, especially if Beckett improves and Papelbon transitions well into the rotation.

The lineup also looks good

Julio Lugo
Kevin Youkilis
David Ortiz
Manny Ramirez
J.D. Drew
Mike Lowell
Jason Varitek
Coco Crisp
Dustin Pedroia

2) In terms of A-Rod going to the Mets, it's an interesting idea, but I don't see the two New York teams working out such a deal.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 12/15/2006 12:15 PM  

Thanks, Michael for your excellent response. Do you know if it's true that the manager that traded Babe Ruth got punched in the nose by a taxi driver because he traded Babe just because he wanted to go to a Broadway show in New York? And do you know what team Trot Nixon is going to, or is he going to retire? (These are some of my last questions -- unless something big happens in Red Sox nation.) Thanks. Ian H.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 12/17/2006 9:16 PM  

Thanks Ian H. I didn't know that about The Babe, thanks for sharing. He had quite an effect on people while he was alive, and maybe also, given the "Curse of Bambino," quite an effect long after he died.

In terms of Trot Nixon, I heard the Pittsburgh Pirates are interested in signing him. I think Trot would rather return to the Red Sox and finish his career with the team that he has always been with. And maybe he'll get that opportunity--it will be interesting to see what happens with J.D. Drew. He still hasn't officially signed with the Sox, as apparently the team is concerned about his health after he took a physical. I imagine they would consider signing Trot if they back out of the Drew contract.

Blogger Michael McCann -- 12/18/2006 8:03 PM  

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Türk Sanati

Anonymous Halk Bilimi -- 1/31/2009 4:08 PM  

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