Make sure you read today’s story on Robert Andino. Tough not to root for him.
Some of you might have read our story and my blog post yesterday about a growing trend of players seeking personalized skills and conditioning training away from their respective teams. Well, count super-agent Scott Boras out on that front. Boras has been pre-occupied of late trying to find a landing point for free-agent pitcher Kyle Lohse. But I’d called him up on this issue and he phoned back, wanting to make clear that he is entirely opposed to the idea of agents offering any skills training to clients apart from their teams.
Boras runs a training facility in California and recently announced plans to open another one in Florida. But he wanted to emphasize that he is only offering conditioning training to his clients. Any skills training, he added, has to come from the team.
“We would never consider doing something like that,” he said. “It’s just not practical. A coach has to be there with the player full-time and we can’t do that.”
Instead, he added, his facility offers conditioning work only to his clients and invites the team’s trainers down to work with players in the off-season.
The issue of players getting both skills and conditioning type of training separate from their teams is becoming a growing issue in baseball, where the modern approach to off-season workouts lagged behind other sports until very recently. Now, agents and players are working to find more specialized skills training in the off-season, often to supplement what is proposed by the teams themselves.
But Boras, a former minor league ballplayer who hit .288 and made it to the Class AA ranks, said the idea of a player straying outside of a team’s individual coach is a bad idea.
“I’m a career .290 hitter in the minors,” he said. “Should I start getting in the cage with all of my clients? I don’t think so.”
Interestingly enough, Boras recently became the agent for Mariners infielder Nick Franklin, whose gain of 34 pounds since last September through a high-caloric eating regimen approved by a personal trainer in Orlando wasn’t communicated to the Mariners in advance. Boras declined to comment about Franklin’s specific case, but sources close to the team say the player was made aware of the Mariners’ disapproval and that he’s expected to distance himself from the regimen.
For Boras, sticking with what the team wants is a matter of common sense.
“Nobody knows more about what a player needs than the team and its coaches,” he said. “From a skills perspective, we leave that entirely up to them.”
It’s worth pointing out that few agents anywhere have the sheer volume of clients that Boras does and some can afford to offer more personalized attention. Also of note: Boras is a trailblazing agent when it comes to the dollar values he commands for his clients and it’s in his best interest not to rock the boat with teams dishing out his record-setting deals unless entirely necessary.
That said, he is a former professional ballplayer and that carries weight on the knowledge scale. Like it or not, few are good enough to make it to the pro ranks as a player and that insight often can’t be dupicated by those who were stars in high school or college.
So, his point is worth considering.
“We leave the skills part to the team,” he said.
But not everyone agrees. And as every Michael Saunders has success like he did last season, as with Justin Smoak this spring, the temptation to stray even further outside the box will always be there.
Especially because, it sometimes works.