June 21, 2009
One of my favorite commercials running right now is the baseball cap ad with Cole Hamels(notes). In it, a guy from the crowd (a father of two boys also in the spot) somehow walks to the mound, like a pitching coach would, to counsel Hamels in a tense situation.
The joke is, the fan wears the same kind of cap as the players, which makes him think he's actually on the team. He's not really Rich Dubee of course, which we find out for sure when Hamels asks, "Who're you?" before another camera angle cuts to the guy, with a beer in hand, wearing shorts, tube socks and sandals.
Well, somebody needs to knock the cap with the old English "D" off Scott Boras' head. He's an agent, not the manager of the Detroit Tigers.
You could have fooled Boras, who has been sticking his greedy little finger in the domain of Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who benched outfielder Magglio Ordonez(notes) the past two games because of an extended slump.
Leyland was being nicer to Boras than I would be.
"This is about no other issue," Leyland continued. "This is about Magglio Ordonez and trying to get him right so he can contribute the way he feels good about himself, because, by his own admission, he's embarrassed."
Embarrassed about what? Well, Ordonez came in batting well below his career averages of .311/.370/.513. In 57 games, he's hitting .273 with two homers (11 extra-base hits total) and 22 RBIs — well off his usual pace of 113. His .690 OPS represents a 200-point drop from a season ago, and is nearly .400 below his career best of 2007.
That's a massive slump, no matter how Boras tries to characterize, defend or rationalize it.
Ordonez turned 35 this season and clearly Boras is concerned the big paydays are over. Maggs stands to make $18 million in 2010 if his club option kicks in, which happens if he starts 69 more games or makes 225 plate appearances. Other than injuries, the only thing preventing Ordonez's quota is, well, if he gets himself benched.
In this era of fiscal mutation, diminishing playing time is the most effective card a manager can play, even one who has just been given a contract extension, himself.
There's actually another way Ordonez could fail to get most of his money, as Jon Paul Morosi points out: the Tigers could release him and buy out the extension for $3 million. Hey, man, nice severance package.
If the slump continues, Tigers could cut him, like they did with Gary Sheffield, and it wouldn't cost them nearly as much.
But are we close to that point?
Although Leyland said, at first, he was taking Ordonez out of the lineup indefinitely, does anybody in his or her right mind think the benching would last the rest of the season? Not when the Tigers have outfield options such as Ryan Raburn(notes), Marcus Thames(notes), Clete Thomas(notes) and someone named Don Kelly(notes).
Leyland said Saturday that Ordonez, who claims to be in the best shape of his career, might be back in the lineup against the Cubs on Tuesday. Possibly, with a clear head, he could ignite his season and help the Tigers, you know, win? Winning is what we're after here, remember, Boras?
"He's been through situations like this before, and he didn't get benched then," Boras said.
Oh my God, can you sound any more like a Little League parent? Push the young man away from your teat. Or is it the other way around?
Boras chillingly built his reputation on getting top dollar for his client and fiercely defending them with extreme prejudice, even if it meant holding out or making other kinds of threats for leverage. He let down and showed an emotional side in April after the death of Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart(notes), another client. But Boras' attempted intervention in the Tigers' internal workings reminds me what a jerk he can be, and makes me wonder if even his sorrow is fueled by the bottom line.
When told of Leyland's explanation for the benching, Boras sniveled: "I don't know. Maybe that's your answer. I've known Jim for a long time, and I haven't had a chance to call him."
Put the phone down, unless it's to apologize for being a buttinski.