CARLSBAD, Calif. — Baseball’s most influential agent said the sport was the victim of a “competitive cancer” caused by teams unloading veterans to accumulate draft picks, and that the Atlanta Braves‘ World Series title was a direct result of tanking.
In an outdoor news conference in front of a steakhouse at the general managers meetings, Scott Boras backed the demands of the players’ association for changes in the collective bargaining agreement that expires Dec. 1. The sport is braced for a lockout that would be baseball’s ninth work stoppage but its first since 1995.
“This is the Easter Bunny delivering rotten eggs,” Boras said Wednesday. “Every team says, ‘I need to do this because it’s my only option, knowing I can’t reach a divisional crest, I can’t get in the playoffs.'”
Atlanta made a series of July acquisitions and went on to its first World Series title since 1995.
“We have seen the championship in 60 days,” he said. “The rules allow them to be a less-than-.500 team at Aug. 1 and add four players, five players from teams that no longer wanted to compete and for very little cost change the entirety of their team and season.
“And we saw this unfold to the detriment of teams that create at vast expense, planning and intellect and won over 100 games. In doing all this, we have now created an understanding that a fan would not know who the true team is until, frankly, the trading deadline.”
Boras blames the turn toward tanking on restraints imposed on amateur spending in 2012. The caps came as the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros undertook painful rebuilds that resulted in World Series titles, informing decisions by other clubs to tear down. Boras represents many top draft picks and has lost revenue because of the system of draft signing pools.
“It created an incentive for the race to the bottom, because now we have half the major league teams at some time during the season being noncompetitive, trading off their players, making the game and the season very different than what it was intended to be, and that was having an incentive to win every game that you play,” he said.
Boras represents five of the eight men on the union’s executive subcommittee: Zack Britton, Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, Max Scherzer and Marcus Semien, who switched his agency to Boras last month. Jason Castro, Francisco Lindor and Andrew Miller are the other members.
As usual, Boras arrived armed with colorful descriptions and comparisons for his players and some of the teams in play to sign them.
• On free-agent slugger Nick Castellanos: “I kind of advised all of you like two years ago, St. Nick was going to bring a lot of presents, and frankly, we’re just going to sit back and see what teams have been naughty and nice.”
• He compared Kris Bryant to Sean Connery, saying “he has Bond-like abilities to create a great middle of the lineup. He’s always red-hot in the hunt for October. He’s an extraordinary gentleman and is in a league of his own.”
“We’re pursuing a multiyear contract. We weren’t going to sign a one-year contract.”
• Former Mets outfielder Michael Conforto had become the “King of Queens,” Boras said, but “in free agency now, he’s kind of like the ace of many GMs’ hearts.” Mets president Sandy Alderson responded: “Those comments I would characterize as a blowhard in a house of cards.”
• For infielder Semien: “He kind of brings a charge in the batter’s box and kind of, you know, he insulates the middle infield. So he’s truly a modern-day Semien conductor, and we all know there’s a shortage of chips worldwide.”
• Shortstop Corey Seager is “like a rock,” Boras said. “Of course, his parents knew this. That’s why they named him Corey.”
• On the Mets, whose search for a general manager has dragged on: “Well, there are 29 teams that have their big carts out there, and they’re filling them up now. Now, probably when you look at the old adage, ‘What’s upsetting the big apple cart?’ And it might be that it’s rather unattended at the moment. I’m sure that will be there, and we know that in our shopping malls, we’re very welcoming of the big apple cart.” Said Alderson: “So he’s changed the supermarket metaphor to something vehicular, I guess, and I’m not really prepared to respond. I had a great answer for the supermarket question, but I’ll keep it to myself.”
Asked if New York was a stable organization, Alderson said: “I think we’re working toward a stable environment.”
• On the possibility of a free-agent spree in February or March at the end of a potential signing freeze that might accompany a lockout: “Talent is the steak, and I don’t really care what time dinner is.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.