Agent dares Braves to boycott his players

Arn Tellem, lead agent for the Wasserman Media Group, on Thursday evening dared the jilted Atlanta Braves to boycott his players, a heading he said would defy baseball policies as well as national labor laws.

In a seven-point statement, the usually well-regarded Tellem disputed the Braves’ claim they’d been duped during negotiations with the agents for shortstop Rafael Furcal, who agreed Wednesday on a three-year contract with the Dodgers. The Braves believed they had come to an agreement 36 hours earlier.

In the aftermath, Braves president John Schuerholz called the agency – and, presumably, Tellem and fellow agent Paul Kinzer, in particular – “despicable” and “unprofessional,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For the most part, Kinzer handled the Furcal negotiations.

Both Schuerholz and general manager Frank Wren said they no longer would deal with players represented by the Wasserman agency, whose clientèle includes Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, Aramis Ramirez, Hideki Matsui, Carlos Lee, Nomar Garciaparra, Frank Thomas and Francisco Rodriguez, among others. Tellem also represents Randy Wolf, a free-agent pitcher the Braves might have considered for their rotation.

“The Atlanta Braves will no longer do business with that company – ever,” Schuerholz said.

The dispute perhaps boils down to a conversation late Monday night between Wren and Kinzer, along with the authority held by a term sheet. During that discussion, Kinzer apparently requested the Braves fax him a signed term sheet. The Braves complied, believing an agreement had been reached.

According to Tellem’s statement, “the Braves were fully aware that Furcal was not prepared to make a decision but had requested an opportunity to sleep on it, before deciding.”

“Moreover,” the statement read, “the Baseball rules which all agents and teams operate under are clear that no deal exists between a player and a team unless and until: (i) there is a signed and executed player agreement or; (ii) the Player’s Union and the Commissioner’s office have otherwise confirmed the deal. Neither occurred here.”

Several general managers and agents contacted by Yahoo! Sports said Thursday the term sheet constitutes a handshake agreement, and they couldn’t recall a situation when such an agreement was broken.

“I’d be furious,” an American League general manager said.

Tellem further stated he would continue to engage the Braves regarding his clients, and he expected the Braves to be receptive.

“If it serves our clients, we will continue to present opportunities to the Braves, which in accordance with the rules governing Major League Baseball, the Braves must entertain. We hope that once emotions have subsided, the Braves will act in a manner consistent with not only their obligations under the Collective Bargaining Agreement and The National Labor Relations Act, but also the best interests of the franchise. In short, we would not want this incident to color their better judgment.”

Furcal was signed by the Braves and broke into the big leagues with them in 2000. Following six productive seasons as their shortstop, he became a free agent and signed a three-year deal with the Dodgers before the 2006 season. A free agent once again this offseason, he ultimately faced a tough choice between his two former teams, a situation that resulted in confusion and rancor.

Tim Brown is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. He co-authored with Jim Abbott the memoir “Imperfect: an Improbable Life”.   Follow him on Twitter.   Send Tim a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Thursday, Dec 18, 2008