PLAYBOY: Fans say you’re greedy. Are they right?
BORAS: The last time I looked, fan was short for fanatic. Fans are fanatical about their favorite team. But athletes have choices. They don’t want to be 50 years old, saying, “I turned down $70 million. I could have done more for my family, my community, my church.” A player’s life span in the game is short; his agent is there to help him. In the end it’s not about the fans. I’m not here to win a popularity contest.
PLAYBOY: You have three of baseball’s five best-paid players in your stable—Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez—all of whom make more than $20 million a year. Their multiyear contracts add up to half a billion dollars. With the economy tanking, have salaries topped out?
BORAS: I don’t see that. Baseball has had record revenues for years. I expect we’ll see a ballplayer making $35 million to $40 million a year in the next decade.
PLAYBOY: Did you know A-Rod used steroids? If not, should you have known?
BORAS: I’m not answering questions like that. You need to ask the player.
PLAYBOY: You and A-Rod almost split up in 2007 after he opted out of his Yankees contract, upstaging the World Series. What happened?
BORAS: The purpose of the opt out was to get the Yankees to say, “Wait a minute. Don’t opt out. Maybe we’ll increase his compensation.” But we didn’t want the public to know—that was clearly not in our best interests. As for upstaging the Series, what about Fox? If they thought it damaged the integrity of the game, they didn’t have to cut in with the news during a World Series game. In 1985 Major League Baseball announced its drug policy after game three, a move that was wholly intended to get attention during the Series. Still, I have to be accountable. I could have handled that better.
PLAYBOY: Your former client Barry Bonds was indicted for perjury in a steroids case. Bonds still wants to play, but no team will sign him, even at the minimum salary of $390,000. Does that smack of collusion?
BORAS: There’s some potential litigation about that. I don’t have all the facts. I will say I was very surprised he wasn’t playing last year. Anybody with that much talent whose name isn’t Barry Bonds would have been offered a contract.
PLAYBOY: We have to talk roids. How should the Hall of Fame deal with players of the steroids era?
BORAS: Look, the Hall of Fame is for players who distinguished themselves in their day. Each era has distinctive features—from equipment and rules to pharmacology, surgical advancements, labor agreements, federal and state laws—that impact performance. The game is always changing. The Hall’s scroll of admission must be drafted with a fluid and broad pen. Only then can it recognize excellence from every era.
PLAYBOY: Manny Ramirez made himself such a distraction for the Red Sox last year that they traded him to L.A., where he led the Dodgers to the playoffs. Why did he want out of Boston?
BORAS: Manny enjoyed his Red Sox teammates and loved the organization, but he did not enjoy living in Boston. It wore him out. He wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t like Cleveland.
PLAYBOY: He wanted out because Boston isn’t like Cleveland?
BORAS: [Nodding] For Manny, environment is important. He had liked living in the Cleveland suburbs. I said, “Manny, I want you to play in L.A. They’ve got some really good young hitters, but they need a slugger, and Pasadena’s a lot like those Cleveland suburbs.” He had been to L.A. only three times in his life, but once we got him there he said, “This is the spot for me.”
PLAYBOY: Do you advise young players to watch out for baseball groupies?
BORAS: That’s a huge issue because you have high school boys making millions. We have a booklet for young players that tells them about paternity suits. It says, “If a woman has your child, it can cost you $2 million over the course of 18 years to raise that child.” We talk about using protection and having safe sex.
PLAYBOY: Rubbers for rookies?
BORAS: her if she knows any players from last year’s team and from the year before that. A girl who hangs around the ballpark year after year may be looking for something other than what you’re looking for. She may see you as her ticket out of town. So we tell young players, “An interaction with the wrong type of girl can wreck your career.”
PLAYBOY: Groupies used to be called Baseball Annies. What’s the nastiest term you’ve heard for them?
BORAS: Road beef.
PLAYBOY: You’ve said you’d rather watch a ball game than do anything else. Does that mean baseball is better than sex?
BORAS: [Laughing] Well, I may be better at watching baseball!
PLAYBOY: You grew up on a farm near Sacramento, California. What were your chores?
BORAS: Milking cows, cleaning the barn. I wrecked a tractor, too. My dad didn’t tell me that listening to Giants games on the radio would distract me from my chores, so I got an oversize baseball cap and taped a transistor radio to the inside of it. I was driving the tractor, listening to a ball game, when one wheel went into a hole. The axle broke, the tractor tipped over, and I got knocked out. I remember waking up and hearing the radio—Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons announcing the game. Then I saw my father, who had these big Mickey Mantle forearms, crushing my radio with his bare hands.
PLAYBOY: You went to graduate school while playing minor league ball. How did you study?
BORAS: We had 14-hour bus rides in double-A ball. Most of the players were right out of high school, so they read comic books or adult material on the bus. If you read a textbook, it was not well received. I’d stick a pharmacology book inside a Playboy so they’d think I was one of the guys.
PLAYBOY: You hit well in the minors, but you quit and went to law school. Why?
BORAS: I had a knee operation. I was getting my knee drained every 10 days. I could hit .280, .290, but I really wanted to be the best at something, so I changed paths. Baseball can be heartbreaking. I never forgot my first spring training. On cutdown day at the minor league complex, they post a list. If your name is on it, you continue. Everybody crowded around the list, and I was on it. Phew. Then I saw guys who weren’t. First-round picks. They were done. I watched a guy go to a rusted-out van and tell his wife, “Honey, I’ve been released.” His kids were crying. I’d always thought of baseball as all good, but too many young men take a big risk to play pro ball and then go home with nothing. That’s why I think baseball should stop drafting high school kids. Other sports don’t do that. Maybe you let each team take one exceptional high school player a year and pay him a substantial bonus, but that’s all.
PLAYBOY: Do you have a favorite minor league memory?
BORAS: I loved old George Kissell, the Cardinals’ coordinator of minor league development . George would give you the intel. He said fielding a grounder is like dating a girl: “You don’t go up and grab her. You gotta foster the ball.” Let it come to you. He’d knock on my door at 5:30 in the morning and say, “Boras, get up! Time for church!” I’d go, “Church? It’s Tuesday.” He said, “I saw ya play last night, and we got a lot to pray about.”
PLAYBOY: How would you change the World Series?
BORAS: I’d modernize it, make it five out of nine games, with the first two in a neutral city. Announce the MVP and Cy Young awards at a gala held between the playoffs and a new World Series weekend. Move the home-run contest from the All-Star Game to that week, too. The gala and home-run derby would lead to game one of the Series on Saturday, with game two on Sunday. Then the Series would go on with the final seven games in the Series teams’ cities. This way, different places get part of the Series. I want the World Series in Pittsburgh, Texas, Seattle. Teams in those markets would sell more season tickets. World Series weekend would be a major stage for corporate events; it could advance the game to the next level.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever taken less than top dollar for a player?
BORAS: Many times. Alex Fernandez had a big contract with Cleveland but wanted to play in Florida, his home state. We took less from the Marlins. Kyle Lohse liked St. Louis; he just re-signed without even becoming a free agent. Jason Varitek took a lot less to stay with the Red Sox in 2005. Jason said, “Get me a fair contract, but don’t negotiate with other teams. Just Boston.” I said, “That could cost you 20 percent of your value,” and he said fine. Greg Maddux loved pitching for the Cubs, but in 1993 he told me, “I want to play for a team that can win.” I said, “Greg, that won’t happen in Chicago.” We agreed that, with the Braves’ pitching and the prospects, Atlanta was a great destination. Later on Greg gave up about $30 million because he didn’t want to go to the Yankees. His pitching style suited the National League.
PLAYBOY: What will happen on the field in 2009?
BORAS: The Yankees should win 95 games and make the playoffs. Teixeira, with his .400 on-base percentage and Gold Glove defense, was a huge signing for them. The National League races could be very different this year. The Mets probably would have won in 2008 with the bullpen they have now. The Marlins have an up-andcoming superstar in Hanley Ramirez. Manny’s in shape for a great season with the Dodgers, and I won’t be surprised if the Cubs have a great year.
PLAYBOY: You’ve been heckled at ballparks. Does it hurt?
BORAS: Yeah, people come up to me and say, “You’re wrecking the game.” All I say is “I’m glad you’re a baseball fan.” Because the fans care. They love the game, and so do I. The difference is that my appreciation for the players’ skills is much higher than a fan’s because I know how hard the game is. I never wanted anything more than to play pro ball. Even the job I have, as much as I enjoy it, there’s no comparison. There is just nothing like waking up and thinking, I’m playin’ ball today.