Wednesday, January 19, 2005

On Boras and ethics 

Marc Levin, an attorney in Austin -- described as "a lifelong Astros fan" -- wrote a whiny editorial in the Houston Chronicle about Scott Boras, accusing him of unethical and illegal behavior in the Carlos Beltran negotiations.

This is a pretty silly piece. It comes across as someone mad at Boras because Boras's client didn't sign with the writer's favorite team, and thus he's lashing out.

The conclusion of the editorial is particularly sanctimonious:

"To be sure, the blame goes well beyond Boras for the integrity deficit in both baseball and the corporate world. From steroids to revenue sharing, the players' union and owners have so far failed to ensure that the game is played on a level playing field. From Enron to WorldCom, millions of Americans have suffered financially as a result of deceptive statements.

While Boras is unlikely to face any ethical or legal repercussions, professional athletes should choose agents who negotiate in good faith and abide by basic rules of fair play. Like their clients, baseball agents are entitled to play hardball and swing for the fences, but they should refrain from making misleading pitches."

So he links Boras's hardball negotiating tactics to steroids and Enron, while also whining about baseball owners not implementing revenue sharing so that there is a "level playing field".

Bottom line, professional athletes should choose agents who will best represent their interests. If that means engaging in scorched earth tactics such as the type Boras engages in -- if that is what the player feels will ultimately best serve him -- then so be it.

I think Mr. Levin makes an accurate criticism of baseball, if you disregard some of his subjectivism. He is dead-on in claiming Boras to be unethical in his dealings with the Astros, though no laws were broken. In effect, the fact that the Astros lost out on Beltran has doomed them to a terrible season, so I can understand the anger. However, part of the problem lies with the Astros. Everybody knows Boras uses a "scortched earth" approach to negotiations, so the Astros should have had some contingecy plans. However, misleading statements are not just a product of greedy agents. Owners say they need financial restraint, yet overpay mightily for average talent. They complain about the disparages in payroll and blame the Yankees, yet say nothing about the teams that continually refuse to pay above $35 million in total payroll. If Selig wants to clean up drugs from baseball, why do they not test for greenies? If new ballparks are such a great investment, why do owners only contribute the absolute minimum in financing a new one? Everybody talks about the good of the game, but each party has a personal agenda that will always come first. Sometimes it is to put the best team on the field not matter what the cost, other times it is to spend as little as possible so that personal wealth increases. In the end, the fans suffer the most. However, we are not blameless either. We spend money on tickets, watch games, and create/contribute to blogs such as this, which just fuels the status quo. The entire system itself is flawed, not just the players, or agents, or whomever.
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