Gonzo: Scott Boras strikes again

JEFF ROBERSON / Associated Press
JEFF ROBERSON / Associated Press
Posted: December 08, 2010

There are all sorts of con men. Frank Abagnale forged checks. Victor Lustig "sold" the Eiffel Tower. Christophe Rocancourt masqueraded as a Rockefeller. Then there are all the Baldwin brothers not named Alec.

One of the best modern flimflam artists has been scheming in full public view for years. He drives nice cars and wears fancy suits and makes millions by liberating funds from unsuspecting rubes who willingly hand over money. He ought to be on the FBI's top 10 most-wanted list. Instead, he appears on ESPN.

Scott Boras made another big score this week. Maybe you heard. He went to the Washington Nationals, walked in the front door, and asked general manager Mike Rizzo to give a seven-year, $126 million contract to an outfielder who's turning 32 in May and who's never hit .300 or driven in 100 runs in a season.

Instead of calling security and having Boras bounced from the building, Rizzo agreed to the terms. Now Jayson Werth - who told reporters he felt "unwanted" in Philly and now has a "home in Washington" - is a National.

It was and remains stunning stuff, but you really can't blame Boras for identifying Rizzo as an easy mark. According to the Phillies' website, the Fightin's offered Werth about half of what the Nationals gave the outfielder: $60 million over four years, including a vesting option. Why would Boras bang his head against Ruben Amaro Jr.'s negotiating wall when Rizzo was willing to drive Boras to the bank and hand over the Nationals' PIN ?

The con-man community notices these things. If the latest reports are true, Boras won't be the last guy to take advantage of the Nationals. According to the New York Daily News, Washington also has considered giving 32-year-old Cliff Lee a seven-year deal.

But back to Boras. The man is without peer when it comes to defrauding high-profile businessmen. Not even Bernie Madoff was so bold.

The Nationals are merely the latest team to get taken by Boras. He's been fleecing organizations for years. In the early '90s, he persuaded the Athletics to give a then-record guaranteed contract to high school "star" Todd Van Poppel. Shortly thereafter, he ran the same sting - better known to agents/aspiring grifters as the old "phenom scam" - on the Yankees with Brien Taylor. He got the Cardinals to pay almost triple what the Phillies offered for J.D. Drew. And he persuaded the Dodgers to make Kevin Brown the first $100 million man.

The list goes on. The best Boras con had to be the Texas two-step he pulled on the Rangers. I was living in Dallas and covering the Rangers when then-owner Tom Hicks agreed to pay Alex Rodriguez $252 million. At the time, it was the richest contract ever awarded in any American sport. It was also more than Hicks paid for the entire organization.

The good news for all 12 Nationals fans out there is that the Rangers almost made the World Series this past season. The bad news is that Hicks went broke and sold the team years ago, and A-Rod has played for the Yankees for a while now.

On a purely coincidental note, I finally caught up on Boardwalk Empire. There's a great scene in Episode 11. Nucky Thompson is entertaining people in his suite, including an associate named Harry Price, who lost a fortune after investing with infamous swindler Charles Ponzi.

The dialogue between Nucky and Harry is classic and cutting. In a few years - when the Nationals are still the Nationals and Werth has failed to give Washington anywhere close to equal value for all that money - there should be a reenactment of the exchange, but Nationals owner Ted Lerner should fill in for Harry Price:

"Doesn't anyone read a . . . newspaper?" [Ted] asks, aggravated.

"I do," Nucky says.

"Then you know I'm ruined," [Ted] barks. "My investment . . . He took me like some out-of-town Jasper."

"Nobody legit," Nucky says after a short pause, "can guarantee a return like that, [Ted]."

The Redskins suspended overpaid malcontent Albert Haynesworth for the last four games of the season. How long until the Nationals offer Haynesworth a seven-year deal? . . . Four Loko enthusiasts, unite: Adsum in Queen Village is having a special dinner on Monday. All four courses will be paired with the beverage. . . . A playoff edition of Page 2's weekly fantasy football chat will be held on Philly.com on Thursday at 1 p.m. Even though it's free, it's the chat that pulls a Boras and tricks you into thinking you're getting a good value.


Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com

Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gonzophilly.

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