For super agent Boras, it’s money time

Over the next 24 hours, the Photoshopping of Scott Boras’ visage – devil horns are a popular accessory – will take up plenty of man hours and megabytes. The deadline for signing draft picks is upon us, and as much of a maestro Boras is at preying on teams’ weaknesses during free agency, he saves his greatest work for amateur players.

Boras is not evil. He is brilliant at what he does. Argue away about the moralistic implications until in need of some Chloraseptic, and then look at Boras’ role from a more realistic point of view. If he weren’t the sort of agent who leveraged every last dollar out of a team, someone else would fill that vacuum, because there will always be clients who demand that very characteristic.

Photo Scott Boras

Occasionally his tactics come off as unseemly, and Boras’ menagerie of threats – about Stephen Strasburg going to Japan, for example – get old. And there he is, strong as ever, taking his 5 percent on every contract and adding to an empire as strong as any in baseball.

Many want to see it crumble. Sorry. The foundation is too big. If Strasburg doesn’t sign when 11:59 turns to midnight Tuesday, the blame will fall on Boras, as it always does. That he’s stupid (which he isn’t) and he’s greedy (which he may be) and he’s bad for baseball (which is arguable).

Whatever the case, the baseball world will revolve around him. This time of year, it always does.

1) It’s not just Strasburg with whom Scott Boras must concern himself leading up to midnight. He’s also got No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley (Seattle), No. 3 Donavan Tate (San Diego), No. 9 Jacob Turner (Detroit), No. 13 Grant Green (Oakland) and No. 30 LeVon Washington (Tampa Bay).

Tate is reportedly on the verge of signing a $6.5 million deal to forgo a football scholarship at North Carolina, and Washington may be close as well. The other signings have been hamstrung by Major League Baseball’s attempt to keep over-recommended-slot bonuses under wraps before the deadline, which was supposed to encourage players to sign early and has instead had the opposite effect: They all know the most money comes at the deadline, so they wait.

None has a great reason to let the deadline pass, either. Ackley and Green won’t make any more money if they return to college, and Turner will get a well-over-slot bonus from the Tigers. All of them know better. They saw what happened to …

Photo Aaron Crow

2) Aaron Crow, who continues to follow in Matt Harrington’s footsteps all the way to installing tires at Costco. Remember Harrington? Drafted by Colorado and offered a $4.9 million bonus, he turned it down. The next year, San Diego chose him and presented $1 million, and he said no again. Long story short, he never pitched an inning in organized baseball and now makes $25,000 a year.

Well, last year, Crow wanted $9 million when Washington drafted him seventh overall. Fifteen minutes before the deadline, he asked for $4.4 million. Washington offered $3.5 million. He didn’t sign.

Kansas City drafted him with the 12th pick this year. The Royals reportedly offered $3 million. He still hasn’t signed, and though the deadline doesn’t apply to him because it’s his second time through the draft, Crow turns 23 in November. And to think, he’s not even the biggest right-handed-throwing dolt of the week. That honor goes to …

3) Brett Myers(notes), the rehabbing Philadelphia pitcher whose initial lie about an injury actually sounds more plausible than the truth to which he’s sticking. We know that Myers injured his left eye and it was so swollen it caused him to miss a minor league appearance. We know that he was at a bar Friday – the day before his stint – and at that bar, one of his friends got in a fight.

So it makes complete sense that Myers hurt his eye playing catch with his 4-year-old son. Er, uh, that was his original story. Here’s the beaut he’s now offering: He tripped and fell while getting out of a truck.

Maybe Myers is telling the truth. Maybe the guy who allegedly punched his wife in the face while drunk in Boston once actually did get a black eye by face-planting out of his truck right around the same time he happened to be in the proximity of a bar fight. Yeah, and maybe …

4) The New York Mets aren’t hexed by the name adorning their new ballpark. The latest victim of the Citi Curse was David Wright(notes), who also got hit in the head – by a 93 mph fastball from Matt Cain(notes). The Mets placed Wright on the disabled list and may shelve him for the rest of the season, it being lost and all. No point in rushing him back, not after seeing Corey Koskie(notes) and Mike Matheny(notes) lose their careers to concussions.

Which means for the rest of the season, it’s indisputable that …

5) Hanley Ramirez(notes) is the best player in the National League not playing first base. And someday he could surpass Albert Pujols(notes). Ramirez, Florida’s do-everything shortstop, is having another ho-hum year: .356 batting average, 18 home runs, 82 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. Tack on the improved defense and it more than makes up for Ramirez’s lower walk rate.

Anyway, he’s hitting third now after three years at leadoff, and should he stay at .356 or better, he’d join an impressive group of shortstops to have hit that high: Nomar Garciaparra(notes) in 1999 and 2000, Alex Rodriguez(notes) in 1996, Cecil Travis in 1941, Luke Appling in 1936, Arky Vaughan in 1935 and Honus Wagner in 1905.

If Ramirez can lead the skinflint Marlins to the playoffs, it would be more impressive than any of his individual numbers. But first …

Photo Troy Tulowitzki

6) They need to pass wild-card-leading Colorado, which is led by its own pup of a shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki(notes). He has actually put up numbers every bit as good as Ramirez’s since June 6, when he returned from a bruised hand. In the 41 games leading up to the injury, Tulowitzki barely kept his OPS over .600 and then-manager Clint Hurdle benched him.

Since then, Tulowitzki’s 18 home runs rank third behind Mark Reynolds(notes) and Albert Pujols, and his 52 runs lead baseball. It’s enough to make Tulowitzki forget about his injury-pocked 2008, which ended …

7) Much like Ian Kinsler(notes)’s: shrouded in disappointment. Kinsler was on the disabled list, with surgery for a sports hernia torpedoing a brilliant coming out with Texas. While Kinsler’s batting average has suffered most of the season, he remains three home runs behind second-base leader Aaron Hill(notes) despite 85 fewer plate appearances.

Kinsler came off the disabled list this weekend and smacked home runs in each of his first two games, both Rangers wins that catapulted them into the AL wild-card lead, a half-game ahead of Boston. His fielding has even been a plus this year, according to Ultimate Zone Rating, which places him among the five best second basemen in baseball. How Kinsler ended up around the ball so much more this year …

8) Is a mystery repeated in the NL, and by a pitcher no less. In his first 411 career innings, Adam Wainwright(notes) made 23 putouts. Over 172 innings this year, he has 20. Only Felix Hernandez(notes) has more this year.

Surely Wainwright will attribute it to hustle, as he does his two home runs this year to pure batting skill. The likelier culprit is luck. Same thing can’t be said for his pitching prowess, which seems to improve by the start, putting the 27-year-old St. Louis right-hander in position to make a late Cy Young Award run. Following seven shutout innings against San Diego, Wainwright’s NL-leading win total jumped to 14 and his earned-run average dipped to 2.62.

It made him one of 10 NL starters with a sub-3.00 ERA. The last time that happened was in 1992, when there were 14 and Billy Swift led the league at 2.08. This year’s leader could be even better …

9) Whether it’s Tim Lincecum(notes) or the first player to lock up an award this year, certain Comeback Player of the Year Chris Carpenter(notes). He could add a second Cy Young to that haul, too, his 2.27 ERA buoyed by 17 of 19 starts for St. Louis with three runs or fewer. Carpenter did miss a month earlier this season, and his brittle body is liable to break down anytime.

So watch him while he’s still throwing and enjoy how he toys with hitters better than anyone since Greg Maddux(notes) in his prime. Never did Carpenter lose his ability to locate, not even after multiple arm surgeries, and at 34 he’s a smarter pitcher than ever. He just gnaws at the corners, attacks them with ferocity and goes for the kill, like …

10) Scott Boras, his foot firmly on the pedal and not moving one iota. Welcome to the party, Ted Lerner and Stan Kasten and Mike Rizzo. Care to play chicken?

When the Nationals dole out something in the range of $20 million for Strasburg, they will spin it as a victory, and it will be. He throws 102 mph. He can jump into the rotation now, learn the nuances of the major leagues on the job and sell truckloads of tickets. He gives a moribund franchise hope.

On the other hand, Boras will have gotten a new record contract, perhaps twice the $10.5 million Mark Prior(notes) received almost a decade ago. He enjoys setting such marks. Almost all belong to him.

Which makes it fascinating that none of the other eight degrees that came back to Boras are actually represented by him. Randy and Alan Hendricks told Crow to hold out and Craig Landis needs to get Myers to tell the truth. Keith Miller hopes Wright is OK, Andy Mota wonders if Ramirez will be the only Marlin to get beaucoup bucks and Jay Franklin and Jeff Frye know if they waited one more year, they could’ve done so for Kinsler. Paul Cohen is glad to see the real Tulowitzki back, Steve Hammond is thrilled to watch the emergence of Wainwright and Bob LaMonte is giddy to know Carpenter is looking like his old self.

Boras doesn’t have time for any of that nonsense. Today is his day. He’s got contracts to negotiate and millions to make, and he doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Jeff Passan is a national writer for Yahoo! Sports. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jeff a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Monday, Aug 17, 2009