Bonds has become the prototypical Gilbert client: fabulously rich and enormously pampered. Gilbert dotes on his clients like a father, often insisting that they stay at his suburban Los Angeles mansion when they are in town. His players have official Beverly Hills Sports Council gear, including leather jackets and garment bags. His firm has booked clients on The Arsenio Hall Show and VH-1 and in feature films. He still brags about the financial success of Canseco's 900 telephone line ("If you want to know why I had that gun in the car...."), though it was a public relations bomb that only underscored Canseco's reputation as a self-centered problem child. If his clients are going to rank with the best in the game, Gilbert doesn't hesitate to make sure they know it.
About 50 miles south of Gilbert's operation, Boras sits at the desk in his office in Newport Beach. "I am not a salesman," he says. Boras also played minor league ball for four years, with the St. Louis Cardinal and Chicago Cub organizations between 1974 and '77, and he too has an aquarium in his office. The similarities between the two agents end right there.
"I'm not the kind of guy to provide a chauffeur," says Boras. "I don't cater. I give clients a legal service. My business is not sales or patty-caking my clients. I'm not a schmoozer. I don't have pictures on my wall of players I represent. We try to run our practice like a law firm."
Boras, 40, earned a doctorate in industrial pharmacy at the University of the Pacific in 1977. He wrote his thesis on an antacid tablet he developed. In the off-season during his baseball career, he attended McGeorge School of Law at the suggestion of a professor who told Boras that law was the best avenue to take if he wanted to become the president of a pharmaceutical company. In 1982, Boras found a job with a law firm in Chicago while representing infielder Mike Fischlin and pitcher Bill Caudill in his spare time. In three years he was working on his own as a full-time agent.
"Around '82, when he first came on the scene, he was something of a schlemiel," one agent says. "Then all of a sudden he burst back on the scene."
Beginning in 1988, Boras, who also charges a 5% fee, began his own streak (box, above), annually breaking the signing-bonus record for draft picks. From Andy Benes in '88 ($247,500) to Ben McDonald in '89 ($350,000) to Todd Van Poppel in '90 ($500,000) to Brien Taylor in '91 ($1.55 million), Boras kept pushing the envelope—not to mention the patience of baseball executives—with his threats of returning his clients to school, threats he made good on in several cases. He has become such a pariah that teams sometimes won't draft a player if they know he is represented by Boras, which may explain why standout catcher Charles Johnson of the University of Miami was only the 28th selection in last year's draft. "If you have a case where two players are similar and one of them is represented by someone who engages in warfare, you'll go with the other guy," Reinsdorf says.
Boras has tried to counteract such tactics by keeping his client list confidential before the draft. "I went back to my hometown [Elk Grove, Calif.] for a Little League banquet recently, and they introduced me as, 'And now the guy who makes people crazy...,' " says Boras. "I have general managers who tell me, 'We don't mind what you do to us on the major league level, but don't mess with the draft.' The very reason I'm doing it is I want them to change the system."
Boras says he wants high school players excluded from the draft, except for the five or six best players. This, he claims, would encourage the others to continue their education, which, at the same time, would strengthen college baseball.
Meanwhile, Boras gives plenty of headaches to the owners on behalf of the 35 or so major league players he represents. He relishes the courtroomlike challenge of arbitration hearings, having taken 10 of his 39 eligible cases (26%) to hearings over the past two years. (The arbitrator ruled in his clients' favor in six of the 10 cases.) In that same time, non-Boras clients accounted for 28 hearings out of the other 236 filings (12%).
"I know there's not a lot of affection held for Scott Boras, who makes baseball players multimillionaires," says Boras. "I'm in a position where I must take the heat. But my identity should reside in my players' wallets."