Tex, Inc. (cont.)
One afternoon in late November, Boras rose from a conference table at his headquarters in Newport Beach, Calif., and said to a visitor, "If you have a moment, I'll show you my pride and joy." He walked down a flight of stairs to a room that looks more like a shed. It is 12 feet wide and 32 feet long, cooled to 47 degrees, with exposed wires running along the ceiling. The room is jammed with computers that crunch statistics from every major league game ever played. "There are more than a billion megabytes of storage here," Boras says. "If I want to know any stat since 1871 [such as] how a player today compares to Ty Cobb in any category I can have it in minutes."
Boras famously puts together binders for all of his free-agent clients, filled with a player's statistics, comparisons with his historical peers and projections of how the player will perform over the duration of his desired contract. Teixeira's binder is 56 pages of glowing data, separated into seven sections, with headers such as Leadership and Durability. One particularly impressive stat: Only three first basemen in history have hit more than 30 homers and driven in more than 100 runs for five consecutive seasons by age 28: Jimmie Foxx, Albert Pujols and Teixeira.
Boras and Teixeira first met when Teixeira was a senior at Mount St. Joseph, an all-boys Catholic school where the students wear Oxford shirts and ties. Teixeira's high school coach, Dave Norton, wanted him to sign with Ron Shapiro, a Baltimore-based agent who had represented Orioles legends Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson and Eddie Murray. But Shapiro showed up late to his first meeting with Teixeira, and as Norton says, "that did not sit real well with Mark."
Teixeira instead signed with Boras and was projected as a first-round pick in the 1998 draft. But when the Red Sox asked him beforehand if he would accept a $1.5 million signing bonus, Teixeira thought he could do better. He tumbled all the way to the ninth round, where Boston finally grabbed him. "The Red Sox told everybody that I wouldn't sign, and when it got to a late enough round they said, 'Let's take a flier on him,'" Teixeira told Baseball America in 2006. "So they spoiled me for everyone else." Dan Duquette, then the Red Sox general manager, says it was common knowledge that Teixeira would be difficult to sign. "That's why he went in the ninth round," Duquette says.
The Red Sox still offered Teixeira $1.5 million, but Boras advised his client to go to college instead, take some time to mature, get an education, maybe even meet the girl of his dreams. Ever the ideal client, Teixeira turned down the money -- "It was the most I had ever heard of a high school player turning down," says Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall -- and he met an industrial-design major named Leigh Williams at a party his freshman year. Today Teixeira and Leigh are married with two children, Jack Gordan, who is 2, and Addison Leigh, 1.
Teixeira does not like to revisit what went wrong with the Red Sox, lest he alienate a potential suitor. But the experience clearly bound him to Boras and made him somewhat jaded about the business of baseball. He turned down a contract extension from the Braves last spring even though he had gone to college in Atlanta, his wife grew up there and part of him wanted to spend the rest of his career in the city. Teixeira was so popular there that two Auburn students, Tyler Crawford and Andrew Hall, recorded a song in his honor. One verse goes: A side effect is mild hysteria/The medical reason is Mark Teixeira.
It became a YouTube favorite, and Crawford and Hall even got to perform it last summer at Turner Field. Asked how they felt when Teixeira was traded, Hall says, "We know how it goes. The game is a business."
The Orioles and the Nationals are holding out hope that sentiment figures somewhere in Teixeira's current negotiations. He has repeatedly told Boras that he wants to play for a winner and neither the Orioles (with 11 straight losing seasons) nor the Nationals (with 102 losses this year) fit that description. But both teams are expected to bid on Teixeira, right along with the Angels and the Red Sox, and for once, the Orioles and the Nationals might have an advantage over their deep-pocketed rivals. Teixeira grew up in Severna Park, Md., cheering for Ripken and playing on the same fields that Babe Ruth did. He describes himself as an "East Coast person." One Orioles fan has started an online petition bringmarkhome.withthispetition.com to urge the team to sign Teixeira. "Ripken was from Maryland too," Norton says. "If Mark came back here, the reaction would be very similar."
Two of the most formative events of Teixeira's life occurred in Baltimore. When he was a freshman in high school, on the way home from soccer practice one day, his father told him that his mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. And when he was a junior, preparing to play an American Legion baseball game, one of Mark's best friends was killed in a car accident. Nick Liberatore was sitting in the backseat of a car parked on the side of Interstate 95 when a trucker fell asleep at the wheel and plowed into him. Every Wednesday night for the next year Teixeira and his friends went to the Liberatores' house for dinner. After Teixeira signed his first professional contract, with the Rangers in 2001, he asked Mount St. Joseph principal Barry Fitzpatrick how much it would cost to endow a scholarship in Liberatore's name. Fitzpatrick told him he would have to start with $75,000. "Mark took out his checkbook and wrote the check right there," Fitzpatrick says.
Teixeira still funds the Nick Liberatore scholarship program at Mount St. Joseph. His mother, Margy, is now cancer free. His father, John, a former Navy pilot who played high school baseball with Bucky Dent, is healthy too, after he was discovered to have a brain tumor six years ago. Even though the tumor was benign, he lost hearing in his left ear. Boras and Fitzpatrick, two of Teixeira's closest confidantes, believe those brushes with death helped shape Mark's personality. He had to be the one standing perfectly upright while friends and family were being laid low around him.
Boras has warned Teixeira that his career will change drastically the moment he signs his next contract, no matter what team he signs with. He will be scrutinized as never before. Boras likes to say that Teixeira has been hidden, but once a player makes nearly $200 million, it is impossible to hide any longer. Some players need help preparing for their close-up, airbrushing their image for public consumption. But Teixeira requires no such handling. He has kept his back straight and shirt tucked for this very moment.