Scott Boras is baseball's most famous or infamous player agent, depending on one's point of view.
He is a baseball fan, to be sure. Boras can be seen at many Dodgers and Angels home games. Four decades into the job, the former minor league third baseman says it's a privilege to work in baseball. He has passed on chances to represent football and basketball players, he says. He enjoys "talking baseball" with players, scouts, club executives, many of whom he's known for decades.
Boras claims fondness for several owners of baseball clubs, even though he knows some owners despise him.
"I want to see owners make a lot of money," he says. "I want to see baseball have success."
More money for the baseball industry means more money for Boras clients and the Boras Corporation, based in Newport Beach. To that end, Boras researches and gives thought to how the industry can increase its revenues. When negotiating contracts for stars and potential stars, including the signing bonuses for two of the game's current elite prospects, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, Boras has spoken of of the revenues his clients will generate. If some of his forecasts were pie-in-the-sky, Boras also has predicted industry growth with success, and dismissed correctly "doomsday" scenarios predicted by some in management during the 1990s and 2000s.
Boras was at Petco Park last month to chat with Strasburg, the former San Diego State ace, and several other players with the Washington Nationals.
The crowd was small, the weather gray, the Padres deep in last place. But when asked about the state of the Padres, Boras spoke as if describing a potential home run. And he didn't mention the team's much-praised farm system.
"There are a lot of good things about this market," he said.
The Padres are up for sale, and Boras said if the team finds the right owner, the club, in time, can rise up both the revenue rankings and the National League standings.
"Has to be an owner with lot of money and patience," he said.
But the next owner also will need to have smart ideas about how to build the business, Boras said.
For example, he said a new owner should want to negotiate his own TV deal and perhaps with an eye on the Pacific Rim. The Padres and Fox Sport San Diego have a 20-year agreement in place, although neither Major League Baseball nor the Padres has announced that the deal is official.
Boras noted that Padres owner John Moores recently restructured the agreement, which gives the Padres a 20-percent stake in the regional sports network.
"If I was a future owner of this franchise, that would not be the TV deal I subscribed to," Boras said, without being critical of FS San Diego. "There's no blue sky. There are more ways to grow this franchise, and flexibility in a number of areas is needed to do it. But what do I know? I just represent players."
The deal with Fox will double the Padres' rights fees this year. Over the 20 years, the agreement could be worth $1 billion or more.
Boras didn't provide details about his vision for an expanded TV deal. But he hinted that the Padres could tap complementary TV riches in Japan and South Korea, two baseball-loving countries where his company is active.
"Because of the time zone and geography, this franchise has value to the Pacific Rim," Boras said. "Time zones are really important. The Padres should look west. And south."
Boras said the Padres can grow a mid-sized revenue pie, despite being one of the industry's five smallest TV markets. Revenues don't always correlate to payroll ranking, but the Padres, at a time when their intake of revenue-sharing and other outside financial assistance has gone up, have been among the bottom five in player payroll each of the last four years, and last or next to last in three of those years.
"What the next owner needs to realize is, this franchise has a value structure and a TV value structure that is equal to that of the mid-markets," Boras said.
Several former agents have attempted to buy baseball teams, including Jeff Moorad, Dennis Gilbert and Arn Tellem. Boras said he doesn't want to own a baseball club but has had chances to cross over to ownership.
When his client Kevin Brown pitched for the Padres, Boras had season tickets to Padres games. The crowds impressed the agent.
"In '98, this market illustrated what it was capable of and the fans here illustrated what they are capable of," he said, "but going forward, you have to optimize the TV, the licensing and the franchise value."
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