Agent Scott Boras took his act to the winter meetings Wednesday and tried to boost his client, pitcher Max Scherzer, by comparing him to NFL quarterback Peyton Manning. “Max is kind of a Peyton Manning No. 1 type of guy,” Boras said.
Maybe Boras was too busy last winter negotiating that three-month deal for infielder Stephen Drew, for which Drew hit .162, to watch the Super Bowl. “No. 1 type of guy” lost 43-8 and threw two interceptions.
If Boras really wanted to drive up the price on Scherzer, maybe there was a better NFL QB comparison to be made. Say Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. And, for the record, Peyton might be a No. 1 type of guy, but he’s No. 2 in his own family when it comes to Super Bowl rings.
Tigers fans might wonder if the comparisons to Manning are apt if only because Scherzer’s postseason record, like Peyton’s, isn’t as good as his regular-season one. Scherzer lost his last two postseason decisions for the Tigers, and even worse, bowed out of Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS after seven innings and 108 pitches with a 5-1 lead. It’s a tossup whether Tigers fans’ hearts or Torii Hunter’s head still hurts more from his departure.
There are two ways to take Boras’ improv, and most find him as irritating as those first responders in the comments to Internet stories who ignore the topic and have a line about how much money they made per hour while working at home (Boras would probably tell them they’d make more if he represented them). The others find Boras funny, like the eccentric relative who entertains at holiday gatherings in an off-color kind of way.
(Boras said the Cubs’ signing of Jon Lester gives their roster a better balance. “Much like swimming pools, when there’s too many kids in the pool, it changes the color of the water,” Boras said.)
Boras’ act is part schtick, part unorthodox insight and part comedy, intentional or otherwise. Wednesday, it was reported, Boras said the Tampa Bay Rays should move to Montreal (what’s French for ignored?), that Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts’ 2014 was “extraordinary,” (never mind the .660 OPS and 20 errors) and that there was “widespread” interest in pitcher Barry Zito, who sat out 2014 (interest for what, Boras didn’t say). If he put a positive spin on Drew, it wasn’t widely reported, although Boras could have pointed out Drew did hit 26 points higher with the Red Sox than the Yankees (.176-.150).
It’s never hard to figure out who the Boras clients are. They’re the ones who had better seasons than you thought they did.
Boras had more to say about Scherzer, or else more of his comments on him made news, which seems fitting since more of his money will be made on him (by comparison, Zito has to be the agent’s version of pro bono representation). Scherzer already turned down the Tigers’ in-season offer of $144 million for six years (Boras said it was $160 mill for seven) and Scherzer is a better pitcher than Lester, who did sign for $155 mill for the next six, although not as good as Clayton Kershaw, who accepted $215 million over seven years without free agency.
You can see where we’re going. But just in case, Boras made the point that he’s “not sure Kershaw is relevant because he’s not a free agent.” Try telling that to the Dodgers, who thought they spent $30 million per on the best pitcher in baseball.
Boras chases contract records the way Pete Rose once pursued Ty Cobb’s hits record, and he rarely fails. But it’s hard to see Scherzer topping Kershaw no matter how much Boras talks him up.
Long-term contracts with pitchers are a lot like bad marriages. The first couple of years are a lot of fun, but the good times fade. Think Josh Beckett. Or CC Sabathia. Or even Justin Verlander, who produced a 4.54 ERA and led the AL with 104 earned runs allowed for the bargain price of $20 million. Next year that increases to $28 million for the first of five straight seasons, and Verlander’s contract has the potential to be for pitchers what Ryan Howard’s is for position players. More teams are a little more hesitant to say I do when they think about paying $25 million at age 37.
Boras battles that perception by saying signing Scherzer would be like adding a “25- or 26-year-old player,” as he told cbsssports.com’s Jon Heyman, even though Scherzer is 30 and has made at least 30 starts per year since 2009. Boras talks about Scherzer’s low “odometer,” but if it is, someone set it back a few hundred batters. Good luck getting the Better Business Bureau to restrain Boras’ hyperbole, or finding an outlet on Yelp to review it. It’s part of the game.
The more Boras exaggerates, the smaller the audience, and the market on Scherzer has already begun to constrict. The Cubs signed Lester, the Dodgers agreed with Brandon McCarthy and the Red Sox stocked up every six-inning ground ball pitcher they could (with Bogaerts at short and an iffy bullpen, what could go wrong?). It’s hard to see who will pay it unless the Yankees suddenly decide they’re bored and start having spending withdrawals.
There’s talk the Tigers are still interested (updated: Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Anthony Fenech, said: “We’re not in active pursuit of that situation”), but Boras said they’ll get no chance to match. “This is not church bingo,” Boras said, and he’s right about that.
It’s going to require a lot more faith.