The quiet man: Josh Hamilton's agent
Here's how Michael Moye will get Hamilton's contract done: without fanfare
Josh Hamilton's free agency provides all the necessary ingredients for a compelling Hot Stove drama. He's a former No. 1 draft pick and recovering addict who found salvation through the Lord and emerged as an All-Star at 27 and a Most Valuable Player award at 29. After finding a home in Arlington, Texas, Hamilton might or might not be chasing a nine-figure deal out of town. His personal struggles and tale of redemption are compelling enough that Casey Affleck, Ben's younger brother, recently signed on to write and direct a movie based on his life.
If there's a cameo in the film for Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye isn't the least bit intrigued over who might be cast in the role.
"I won't be in the movie," Moye says.
Behind every $100 million free agent, there's a smart, savvy representative working the phones and sorting through offers for the best financial and personal fit. Some agents are just more conspicuous than others. While Scott Boras is guaranteed to hold a media session at the winter meetings in Nashville next week to wax eloquent on the merits of Michael Bourn and Rafael Soriano, Moye will do the legwork for this winter's most prominent commodity out of the limelight. Even if he appears in the hallways en route to a meeting, a lot of people carrying notebooks and digital recorders won't recognize him.
After more than 25 years in the business, Moye prefers it this way. It's one of the enduring lessons he learned from his professional mentor, the late Robert Fraley.
"We're not the stars," Moye says. "Our clients are the stars, and it's in their best interests for us to stay in the background and treat them the way an attorney is supposed to treat clients in the legal industry -- with extreme confidentiality. It's not a Josh issue. It's a firm policy."
If Hamilton's free-agent courtship period seems strangely buzz-free -- with relatively little talk about his "wish list" or the pecking order of potential suitors -- the Moye Sports Associates firm is partly to thank (or blame). The next bread crumb that Moye drops with a hint about Hamilton's long-term destination will be the first.
So who, exactly, is the soft-spoken man behind the curtain in the Josh Hamilton negotiations? Moye, 55, is a Georgia native, Georgia Tech alumnus and Emory University Law School graduate who specialized in tax law before gravitating to the sports agent business. He met his first client, former Minnesota Twins shortstop Greg Gagne, at a conference for Christian athletes in 1986, and spent several years working for a big firm in Florida before striking out on his own in 1993.
Over the years, Moye and partners Scott Sanderson and Bill Rose have developed a niche in baseball circles for their emphasis on family and their appeal to players with strong faiths. But Moye said the perception that his firm caters exclusively to Christian athletes is inaccurate. He also takes issue with the notion that a devout Christian, such as himself, is out of his element in the down-and-dirty sports agent world.
"Early in my career I heard people say, 'You're too nice to be a sports agent,' and it would really get under my skin," Moye says. "There's this incorrect belief that if you have strong faith, you're going to be weak or ineffective at earthly things. I think nothing could be further from the truth."
Moye Sports Associates represents a relatively-small-yet-accomplished stable of players that includes Todd Helton, Lance Berkman, Josh Beckett, Jim Johnson, Jeremy Affeldt, Chris Capuano, David Murphy, Gavin Floyd and 2012 perfect game author Phil Humber, among others. Affeldt recently signed a three-year, $18 million deal to stay with the San Francisco Giants; and Berkman, a free agent this winter, has expressed interest in returning to his old haunts in Houston.
The firm's retired clients include Trot Nixon, Todd Hollandsworth and Frank Thomas, although Moye's association with the Big Hurt didn't turn out quite so well. In 2001, Thomas boycotted spring training for six days in protest over his contract status, and Moye and Sanderson issued a statement to explain why they were stepping aside as his representatives.
"From the beginning of our involvement with Frank this offseason, we have consistently advised him to honor his contract, perform to the best of his abilities on the field and address any issues he might have with the White Sox privately," Moye's group said at the time. "Based on recent discussions with Frank, we have concluded that we have divergent views on certain principles that we believe are fundamental in the representation of our clients. In light of this, we no longer feel that we are the right firm to represent Frank. We have resigned. We wish Frank nothing but the best."
A decade later, Moye, Sanderson and Rose still represent lots of high-profile clients for the long haul. Helton hooked on with Moye in 1995, a few months after signing with Colorado as the eighth pick in the draft out of Tennessee. Moye negotiated a nine-year, $141 million extension for Helton with the Rockies in 2001, and by all accounts, the negotiations left all parties feeling good about themselves.
"He gets stuff done and he gets what you want, but people on both sides feel like they got a good deal in the end," Helton says. "You end up right where you want to be as his client. Mike has a way about him where he doesn't ruffle a lot of feathers along the way."
Colorado general manager Dan O'Dowd, who negotiated that contract for Helton, describes Moye as a "person of high character and integrity."
"He has always been honest and forthright in my dealings with him," O'Dowd said in an email. "He is very bright, prepared and a tough negotiator, but in my dealings he always did what his client wanted to do. I have had some tough situations at times to work through with Mike, but have always found him to be professional and non-emotional in trying to work through the issues."
Moye first displayed his devotion to principles and his social conscience as a teenager and diehard Atlanta Braves fan. On April 8, 1974, Moye's parents were fortunate enough to be in the stands when Hank Aaron hit No. 715 off Al Downing to claim the designation of Home Run King. Young Mike, unfortunately, missed the opportunity to see history in the making because he was on a camping trip with friends. It remains one of his biggest regrets.
Moye, nevertheless, did have a personal stake in Aaron's pursuit of Babe Ruth. Upset over reports that Aaron had received racist hate mail, Moye sent an impassioned letter of support to Hammerin' Hank the winter before No. 715. Several weeks later, Moye received a letter of appreciation from Aaron.
"I told him, 'We love you and we're pulling for you. Don't listen to the haters. They're stupid and in the minority. Go beat the Babe,'" Moye says. "My parents raised me that way. They were very socially just folks. There were a few rednecks out there, and they always get the spotlight. But they were wrong."
As his agency prepares to enter its third decade, Moye is carrying on the legacy of his professional role model. Fraley, who once played quarterback for Bear Bryant at Alabama, was strongly rooted in his Christian faith and represented a wide array of athletes across several sports. His clientele included golfers Paul Azinger and Lee Janzen; NFL coaches Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, Bill Cowher and Dan Reeves; and big leaguers Chipper Jones and Orel Hershiser. In 1999, Fraley and another of his clients, golfer Payne Stewart, were among five people who died in a plane crash in South Dakota. Hershiser delivered one of three eulogies at Fraley's funeral.
As a Christian, Moye aspires to have an impact beyond negotiating multimillion-dollar deals. Last summer, he traveled to the Kenyan island of Mfangano in conjunction with a North Carolina-based church. The group spent 18 days in Africa distributing shoes to orphans, painting a school, visiting hospitals and building huts for displaced widows. Moye also helped train a group of 40 local pastors in "basic Biblical truths" and the concept of living in peace despite philosophical or religious differences.
Moye's expansive world view and sense of fellowship have made a distinct impression on many of his clients. Several years ago, Helton and his wife, Christy, designated Moye as the trustee for their two daughters in their will. Christy Helton said she has come to regard Moye and his wife, Sharon, among the family's closest friends.
"Mike doesn't impose his faith on anyone," Christy says. "He lives his faith. I've never gotten a sermon from Mike, but if I need guidance and I want to ask him something, he's always available to me. I have a wonderful father, but if I wanted to reach out to somebody else, I know I could reach out to Mike.
"If Todd was going to sign his first contract today and we needed someone to go to bat for us, I'm calling in Mike. He's so smart, and I know he's going to guard and protect our interests. But he's also going to fight. I've heard people say, 'I don't know if he's going to be a bulldog.' Well, he is, but he's also not going to brush morals aside."
Josh Hamilton and his wife, Katie, are following a similar path and putting their long-term future in Moye's hands. It's a complex job for an agent, negotiating a deal for a supreme talent with such a checkered personal history. In Moye's case, the results will be readily apparent the moment Hamilton signs the biggest contract of his career. We won't have to wait for the movie to find out the ending of this drama.