The scariest event from the Texas Rangers’ off-season was not the departure of Nolan Ryan, but rather the unofficial readmittance of a far more imposing figure from this franchise’s past.
Mr. Randy Galloway called him The Great Satan. In baseball he is called Scott. Or Boras.
Either name often evokes tremors throughout front offices and among fans everywhere.
You may hate baseball’s super agent with the Napoleonic complex, but there is a reason why ballplayers line up outside his office. There is a reason why the clients he fires so desperately try to rejoin his group, i.e. former Rangers catcher Gerald Laird.
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This is the same guy who trashed catcher Ivan Rodriguez to Rangers management and, with a straight face, tried to tell them they should sign his client, Charles Johnson. Only a few years later, he represented Pudge.
Boras gets people paid more money than they could possibly imagine and creates such stupid contracts that only a year or two later teams repeatedly smack their heads in disgust at the deal.
Four of the top hitters in the Rangers’ lineup are Boras guys — Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo.
Do not blame the players for grabbing as much as they can or the agent for lining up favorable deals for their clients. You would do the same thing.
Blame management when any of these deals go to the dogs. The one that scares me to death is the seven-year, $130 million contract the Rangers handed a 30-year-old leadoff hitter, Choo, when they already have his replacement on the 25-man roster, Leonys Martin.
The additions of Fielder and Choo have all the makings of classic Boras moves — find new owners, make them friends, hand them a pretty blue notebook extolling the many virtues of his next big-time client, and squeeze out a few more million.
Boras has made a fortune doing it to the Texas Rangers under Tom Hicks, the Anaheim Angels, the Detroit Tigers and on and on. The fans scream, “Don’t deal with him!” but the clubs usually have no choice.
The rub is that in less than two years, Martin, who already is a better defensive center fielder than the $130 million man, will replace Choo as the leadoff hitter and make him an expensive and, sooner rather than later, expendable toy.
They didn’t need Choo — they need another starting pitcher. In fairness to the Rangers, they signed Choo before Derek Holland’s dog took out his knee, and Matt Harrison’s “multi-surgeried” back flared up.
And this does not mean Choo is a bum. In the past two years, his on-base percentage is around .399, he has 118 extra base hits and has scored 195 runs. In case you are wondering, those numbers are wonderful for a leadoff hitter.
He is also 30, his arm isn’t as strong as Martin’s, he can’t cover as much ground as Martin, and he is not Martin’s equal as a base stealer.
Martin’s biggest problem is that he is still “young and dumb.” He is only 25 with one year of big-league experience. When Rangers manager Ron Washington forced him into his natural leadoff spot last season, Martin was exposed and in over his head.
“He was terrible,” Wash said. “He wasn’t ready for it.”
For the stat geeks — in 138 plate appearances batting first last season, Martin hit .279. Batting ninth, he hit .292.
Because the Cuban-born Martin is blessed with freakish baseball skills, those numbers are going to improve. Pretty soon he will be better than Choo in the leadoff category as well.
“This guy is still learning how to play. That’s why I keep him in the bottom of the order so he can relax and just play,” Wash said. “When that opportunity rolls around I’ll make the move, but right now he’s hitting ninth.”
When might he bat leadoff?
“I’m not in the business of predicting,” Wash said. “I just know he’s going to be a good ballplayer and the more he acquires in this game that he can apply out there between those lines that’s going to dictate where he ends up in that lineup.”
Having signed a $130 million contract, Choo will be batting first from the first game of the season.
By the middle of next season, do not be shocked if Martin has taken the leadoff spot, and Choo is a $130 million expendable toy the team will have a hard time unloading for the starting pitcher they need.
Scott, nice to have you back with the club.