From the Windup is FanHouse's extended look at a particular portion of America's pastime.
Two questions immediately arise from the recent hosing of the Braves at the hands of Rafael Furcal and his agents, Arn Tellem and Paul Kinzer. First, was misleading Atlanta -- a relatively safe assumption according to both accounts of how negotiations went down -- an ethical business practice? And secondly, are John Schuerholz and Frank Wren doing the smart thing by refusing to ever negotiate with Tellem's clients again?
"It was disgusting and unprofessional. We're a proud organization, and we won't allow ourselves to be treated that way. I advised Arn Tellem that whatever players he represents, just scratch us off the list. Take the name of the Atlanta Braves off their speed dial. They can deal with the other 29 clubs, and we'll deal with the other hundred agents."
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The second question is a fairly easy one to answer. In a word, "No." The Braves are not, by any stretch of the imagination, forwarding their ability to either extract later revenge on the agents, nor are they giving themselves full access to future free agents by striking themselves off of Tellem's list of clients.
It seems like the noble, albeit anger-fueled, thing to do; primarily because the answer to the first question above is "Yes." Kinzer followed acceptable business standards and asked the Braves to fax an offer sheet after a deal in principle for Furcal to rejoin Atlanta had been reached. When Wren and his staff complied, it became an unspoken rule that the Raffy would be a Brave after passing a physical.
Now, presumably, Kinzer instead used that in-hand contract to leverage Ned Colletti and the Los Angeles Dodgers into tacking a $12 million option for a fourth year onto the same contract that the Braves had offered. It's also entirely plausible that the information leaked to the media about Furcal's impending contract with Atlanta came from Kinzer as well (although certainly it could have been Wren) considering that Colletti was standing pat at "a certain level" in terms of money offered and had no knowledge of Furcal dealing with the Braves.
$12 million is a lot of money. Probably not enough though, in the grand scheme of baseball economics, to warrant burning a serious bridge.
And in the Braves' case, there wasn't any money lost here (although adding Raffy certainly seemed like a gateway to Jake Peavy, and that seems pretty costly) but there was a lot of public embarrassment. That, however, is not worth losing out on the 60 some clients that the Wasserman Media Group represents in the baseball (including Furcal, Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, Edinson Volquez and current Brave Peter Moylan).
The last name is particularly interesting, because if you believe Schuerholz, they'll either be cutting or trading Moylan pretty soon, unless he finds new representation. Which is what makes totally boycotting a particular agency so ridiculous -- at some point that agent is going to have a client that the Braves want and, clearly, they won't be even be in the running to get said client. Not to mention that not only will the Braves knock themselves out of future consideration for various draft picks, but they also can no longer even run up the price for other teams on anyone Wasserman represents.
But there's a certain amount of pride that relates to this whole process, and I suppose that it's kind of understandable that the Atlanta front office wants to totally cut off Tellem and company.
But I've got a better idea. Do the American thing and sue Tellem's pants off. No, seriously. John, Frank, call up your lawyers tomorrow and file a lawsuit against the entire Wasserman group for fradulent trade practices. It seems excessive, aggressive and totally out of line, but so was what the agents did.
A lawsuit would do a number of things. First of all, if won, it provides the Braves with compensation for their perceived loss (I'm not sure about Georgia, but in North Carolina, FTP carries trebel damages plus the possibility of attorneys' fees -- that's a decent bit of payback considering Raffy was going to get $30 million).
Secondly, it would push a little public embarrassment back towards the Wasserman Group. And, as a result, it would create a nice little side bonus in which agents were suddenly a little more scrutinized and a little less willing to bend the rules because of the medium they work in, an ironic concept considering what Tellem told the Wall Street Journal about a month ago.
The irony is if the same scrutiny that applies to pro sports were applied to executives of public companies, we'd be better off as a nation. The statistics are part of the public domain, we all know the ups and downs, and players are accountable to the sports media each day about their performance. If we had an equivalent level of scrutiny and accountability in the business world, I guarantee we would not have the same levels of compensation given to executives of public companies that are now being bailed out by the government.
Re-he-heeaaally, Arn. Because you do know that if you pulled this in a venue that wasn't "baseball", the other party involved in the negotiations wouldn't have even blinked before filing a lawsuit and seeking. And that's what the Braves should do. Come Monday morning -- or, I suppose as soon as Furcal has officially signed with the Dodgers -- they should drag Tellem and his entire agency (or at least their 30 lawyers) into a Fulton County Courthouse and start demanding some answers. Or some money.
Hell, even if they lose, the very least they can do is drag a shoddy sports agent's name through the mud in the public domain. And if using a lawsuit to get payback isn't what this country is about, I don't know what is.
From the Windup: The Braves Should Just Do the American Thing and Sue Arn Tellem originally appeared on MLB FanHouse on Fri, 19 Dec 2008 10:00:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.