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Is Scott Boras Stepping Over the Line?

jim leyland

I’ve only written about hockey on this site, but I am a huge sports fan in general. I like to think that I have a good working knowledge of the business side of the four major North American sports leagues. So something caught my eye while I was perusing the sports pages over the past few days. Baseball super agent Scott Boras has complained about the Detroit Tigers benching one of his clients, outfielder Magglio Ordonez. To say that Ordonez is having an off-year would be a bit of an understatement. This is a guy who has averaged well over 20 home runs and close to 100 RBI per season. His batting average, home runs, RBI, and extra base hits are all down. Something is clearly wrong.

So when Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland decided to give Ordonez a few days off, it really should have come as no surprise. Except to Boras. He openly criticized the Tigers for taking this approach. There has been speculation that Ordonez’s benching has to do with certain clauses in his contract. According to this article, an $18 million option on Ordonez’s contract kicks in for next season if he starts 69 more games or makes 215 more plate appearances. Ordonez has played in 57 games this season and has 216 at bats. Barring injury, he should easily reach those marks.

In my opinion, however, to think that Jim Leyland, Dave Dombrowski and the rest of the Tigers brass are thinking about Ordonez’s contract at this point in the season is ludicrous. The Tigers are in first place in the American League Central, but they are certainly not running away with the division. The Tigers want to erase the memories of 2008, when they were among the favorites to win the World Series but finished dead last in the division. If Ordonez was playing at the level he has played in the past, this wouldn’t be an issue. However, he’s not. Leyland simply wants to give him a chance to get his game back and help the team.

I don’t think Boras’s concern is completely unfounded. The timing is what gets me. If this was the last week of the season and the Tigers benched Ordonez while he was close to achieving his contract goals I would be more suspicious. But at this point in the season, with the Tigers still a playoff contender, I don’t think anything fishy is going on.