Scott Boras: Shutdown on mark

Updated: September 9, 2012, 2:12 PM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN.com

Scott Boras, the agent for Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg, wholeheartedly agrees with the team's choice to shut down Strasburg at 159 1/3 innings.

But he claims he was strictly a bystander when the Nationals decided to officially pull the plug on Strasburg for 2012.

Amid speculation that he has been heavily involved in the team's handling of Strasburg, Boras said his role consisted of discussing the Nationals' long-term plans for Strasburg when the pitcher signed a $15.1 million contract as the top pick in the 2009 draft and sharing information his firm gathered in the aftermath of Strasburg's 2010 Tommy John surgery.

When it came time for the Nationals to make the final call on Strasburg, Boras said he deferred to the judgment of general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson.

"Before players are under contract, I have a matter of control,'' Boras told ESPN.com. "I'll ask a team, 'How much is he going to pitch? What's your plan for him?' That type of thing. But once he's under contract, I don't say a word.

"Do you think Mike Rizzo's personality is attuned to having someone call him and tell him what to do with his particular team? Come on. Certainly, I try to give teams insights and information. But when you're not there every day, how can you make these calls? It's not my place or anybody's place unless you're there. A manager has a job. A general manager has a job, and that's what they should do. They make these decisions. I don't.''

Boras' role came under increased scrutiny after an Aug. 17 Washington Post interview in which he detailed his discussions with Rizzo over how the team would proceed with Strasburg after his surgery. Boras was quoted using the phrase, "This is how Mike Rizzo and I built this team.''

One national baseball columnist subsequently referred to Boras as "the Nationals' self-appointed co-GM,'' and the quote was a prominent topic of discussion in front offices throughout the game. An American League general manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he thought the comment was "kind of belittling'' to Rizzo and his baseball operations staff.

"Mike Rizzo and his scouting people are very respected in the game,'' said a major league scout. "Then you read an article like that, and it's a slight to their efforts and the things they've been able to do there.''

Besides Strasburg, Boras represents Nationals outfielders Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, second baseman Danny Espinosa, reliever Mike Gonzalez and minor league prospects Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin. Boras also negotiated a one-year, $11 million contract for free agent pitcher Edwin Jackson with Washington in February, but Jackson recently left the Boras agency for the Legacy Sports group.

Rizzo, who has maintained from the outset that he made the call on Strasburg, said Boras' firm has no more sway than any other agency with clients on the Washington roster. He said he took no offense over Boras' recent newspaper quote.

"I wasn't upset about it,'' Rizzo said. "I figured it was either taken out of context or there was a mistake or it was misunderstood or misrepresented. If (Boras) did say that, it was a laughable assertion that he would have that much input on what we're trying to do. Anybody who knows me well obviously laughed about it, too.''

Mike Wise, who wrote the initial column for The Post, recently wrote a follow-up piece in which he defended the Nationals' decision to shut down Strasburg and further explained the controversial Boras quote.

"I don't think he was trying to take credit for the team,'' Wise said. "I think he was saying, 'If Mike Rizzo didn't see things the way I saw them in regards to the longevity of a pitcher's career -- any pitcher -- and I found that out about him when I met him, I probably wouldn't do business with him as much as I do with other guys.' "

Boras, nevertheless, has been a staunch advocate of the Nationals' decision to closely monitor Strasburg's innings. During recent media interviews, he has expounded on the dangers of teams subjecting pitchers to heavy workloads in their early 20s. Boras also said the Nationals ran the risk of not being able to collect insurance on Strasburg if he continued to pitch against medical advice and suffered another injury.

"I hear people say I'm reserving Stephen Strasburg so I can make more money off him,'' Boras said. "Well, I guess in the end, that's true. But the reality of it is, when Stras has a longer and greater career, we all benefit. But the benefit is more so to the game, because every time Stephen Strasburg takes the mound, we all stop and look.''

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer

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