CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Scott Boras sure drew a big crowd Wednesday at the GM Meetings, waves of reporters washing in front of baseball's biggest agent like the waters of the nearby Pacific Ocean.
And much like the ocean, important and enjoyable as it is, Boras delivered what you'd expect.
He didn't exactly rant and rave, but he did admonish, voicing his distaste of the game's rebuilding trend, a trend the White Sox are very much a part of. With complete teardowns yielding championships for teams like the Cubs and Houston Astros -- heck, even the Boston Red Sox spent back-to-back seasons in last place in the AL East not too long ago -- it's no wonder front offices are trying to copy that template. It's also no wonder why Boras would be against such a widespread strategy: It means fewer teams vying to spend big bucks on his clients.
Boras took these rebuilders to task, citing printed-out pages of attendance data, blaming the smaller number of fans moving through the turnstiles on teams' attempts to strip everything away and start over, attempts to build homegrown champions. And though he never mentioned the White Sox by name, he criticized the AL Central as a division with "non-competitive" teams, surely noticing that two of the three teams that lost 100 games this season -- the White Sox and the Kansas City Royals -- reside there.
"One thing we wanted to address is the competitive cancer that's dominated our game, what we saw teams doing that were what ownership felt was positive for the game and positive for the franchise," Boras said. "And some of the information that we've collected is that the fans of baseball have clearly rejected this voluntary approach that owners have made to where they're not competitive. We have 17 teams in baseball where the attendance has declined, 17 out of 30. We had six stadiums where they had the lowest attendance in their stadium's history.
"We have teams that have responded and responded appropriately. The Cleveland Indians have retained their players. The Cleveland Indians have signed free agents. The Cleveland Indians have won their division, they've been in the playoffs regularly. They've done a lot of things right. But the Cleveland Indians are in a division of non-competitive teams. And as a result of that, despite the fact that they are a franchise doing a lot of right things for their fans, they've had a decline in attendance. And the reason is that in their division, the mystery of the game is lost because of non-competitive teams. And we do not have fans responding to a franchise when a franchise is doing what it should be doing, and because of non-competitiveness throughout the division, they don't show.
"It's gotten so bad that even when divisional clubs come to Minnesota, it's gotten so bad that only one of the Twins shows up."
If only Boras brought along his own drummer for a rimshot after that one.
Surely White Sox fans don't care much to the attendance woes in Cleveland and Minneapolis, but there's no doubt that the 100-loss product on the South Side had its own local impact on the number of fans filing into Guaranteed Rate Field. Boras is right there, that losing teams mean the fans stay at home. It's not a novel concept, but it's perhaps part of the thing that makes this ongoing waiting game so difficult for the White Sox, who ranked 25th out of 30 teams in total attendance in 2018.
Still, it's hard to argue against the approach the White Sox have taken in recent seasons. For so long they did what Boras wanted, attempting to bring in free agents and field a playoff contender with short-term stopgaps. And from 2009 through 2016, it resulted in a grand total of zero playoff berths.
Rick Hahn's front office has stripped things down and started a rebuild so the team's long-term fortunes wouldn't hinge on the fortunes they spend on a small number of players. Instead, they hope to have a deep organization full of players who can power the White Sox to the postseason and win championships for years to come. That's the plan anyway.
And of course Boras knows that. But he's an advocate for his players, and he wants to see them get huge paydays. So of course he's not buying into the White Sox rebuild, or any rebuild for that matter.
But what will make Boras happy is if the White Sox opt to infuse their rebuild by handing out one of the biggest contracts in baseball history. They're reportedly interested in Bryce Harper, one of Boras' clients. But even if they were to back a dump truck of money up to Harper's house and lure him to the South Side, he'd still be part of an ongoing rebuild. Even Harper, as good as he is, likely wouldn't make the White Sox an instant playoff team all by himself.
What would Boras' thoughts on the White Sox rebuild be in that case? If his No. 1 client got the money but had to wait to be a winner?