Here's the deal in a nutshell: over the last few weeks a big bidding war emerged for Furcal. The Braves, Dodgers, Giants, and Athletics all were at one point reported to be "closing in" on a deal with him. Throughout this process, media reports were flying fast and furious (even more than usual in situations like this) about how close this or that team was to a deal. Indications are that Furcal's agent, Paul Kinzer and the Wasserman Media Group, were the ones spreading those stories (which of course would make sense since it was in their interests to feed the bidding war frenzy).
In the final hours, it came down to the Braves and the Dodgers. At some point in the negotiation, Kinzer asked for an offer sheet to get the Braves' deal on paper. If the reporting is accurate, the Braves were offering something on the order of 3 years and $30 million with a team option for a fourth year for another $10 million. According to Braves execs Frank Wren and John Schuerholz, they thought this meant they had a deal. According to Kinzer, he says that Furcal wanted to sleep on it.
About a day later, Furcal signed with the Dodgers for a contract worth about $3 million more than the Braves offered.
That's when Schuerholz and Wren went ape. Wren said:
When they request a term sheet, it’s so we could finish the deal. We sent it so they could see exactly what we agreed to. Ninety-eight times out of 100 they sign it and send it back. Once in a while they might ask ‘can you clarify this or that?’ I’ve never seen this happen. Once they request the term sheet, the deal is done. You don’t request a term sheet when you’re still talking.And Schuerholz really went off the deep end:
Having been in this business for 40-some years, I’ve never seen anybody treated like that. The Atlanta Braves will no longer do business with that company — ever. I told [agent] Arn Tellem that we can’t trust them to be honest and forthright. I told him that in all my years, I’ve never seen any [agency] act in such a despicable manner. It was disgusting and unprofessional. We’re a proud organization and we won’t allow ourselves to be treated that way. I advised Arn Tellem that whatever players he represents, just scratch us off the list. Take the name of the Atlanta Braves off their speed dial. They can deal with the other 29 clubs and we’ll deal with the other hundred agents.Wow, now that's tough talk. Yunel Escobar and Peter Moylan are both Wasserman clients, so I guess they're available now, right? As a point of pride, they've gotta be banished from Turner Field, if not the entire city of Atlanta. Agents are a pretty slimy bunch in general, but these guys must be really bad right?
I don't see it. Let's assume that everything that Schuerholz and Wren say is correct. Their "grievance" is that Tellem and Kinzer first leaked too much to the press and then when given an offer sheet turned around and used it as a prop in their negotiations with the Dodgers.
And this is disgusting why? Isn't it the agent's job to get the best possible deal for his player? So he used the Braves. Too bad. It's business. The Braves could have offered more, but they didn't. These are gajillionaires running a multi-gajillion-dollar monopolistic titan of a business, and they're somehow confused about the fact that you don't have a deal until the papers are signed?
Puh-leeeeeeze. As far as I'm concerned, Kinzer and Tellem did what any reasonably savvy negotiator would do, while the Braves are acting like they woke up with a horse's head in their bed. All this stuff now from the Braves about how they will boycott the agency (they already have a similar lame threat aimed at Boras) is no different than when my 13-month-old screams her head off demanding cookies for dinner.
Keep in mind a few things. Baseball player salaries amount to barely half of all the revenue MLB takes in. Baseball players get a smaller share of their sport's revenue than football, hockey, or basketball players do. The rest goes into the pockets of the monopolist owners who didn't do a damn thing to create the value of their product. The last owner who can say he did that was Branch Rickey. These days, being an MLB owner means you were politically connected enough to be on the receiving end of the corporate equivalent of Richard J. Daley-style patronage and kick-backs.
I don't want to single out the Braves, because this could be any owner in baseball having the same temper tantrum. Major league owners and execs (Kasten foremost) are people who think it's perfectly fair that they get to force players to play for whatever team the owners decide and pay them literally whatever salary they feel like for their entire time in the minors and at least their first three full season in the majors. And, they have the nerve to claim that this deal is still not fair to them because players still have the gall to try to negotiate signing bonuses when they're drafted. So now these wannabe plantation bosses think they're entitled to a "hard slot" system so they can pay whatever they want in draft bonuses.
Heck, why stop there? Why not just ban the draft bonuses altogether? Better yet, the team can just eliminate all monetary compensation and have the teams live in little team-run compounds where the team would provide all their food and other necessities in kind. It worked just fine for Chicago meat packers and West Virginia coal miners 100 years ago, so why not baseball players today?
I say good for Furcal. Good for Tellem and Kinzer. This is undoubtedly Furcal's last big chance for a payday, and if by playing the Braves for stooges he got another $3 mil for himself and his family, I say more power to him. The next time the Braves need a player and want to negotiate with Wasserman, I hope Tellem and Kinzer tell them to go suck a Dodger Dog.