The Ultimate Sports Guide
By Leland Faust
The story you are about to hear is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. (If you are old enough to remember Dragnet, the popular radio show from the 1940s which became a hit TV show in the 1950s, then you will know I have stolen that line.)
Two baseball players, Sam and Frank, high draft picks selected by the same team in the same year, rose through the minor-league system together and became good friends. As luck would have it, both received their first September call-ups to the Show following successful summer seasons at AAA. Both of them had modest stats and on-the-field performances that first September. Even though their first month in the majors was relatively uneventful, obviously they were both thrilled to play on a major-league team and gain valuable experience.
Under the collective bargaining agreement governing major-league baseball, the team had the unilateral power to set Frank’s and Sam’s salaries for the next season. Nevertheless, their agents had to negotiate contracts. Sam’s agent, Mr. Straightforward, was also a rookie at his job. He did his homework and researched what the team had paid its previous year’s September call-ups for their next season. Straightforward determined that the team paid its September call-ups the major-league minimum plus $5,000 for the next season. He asked the team to pay Sam that amount for the following season.
The team negotiator said he would consider the request, talk to the general manager, and then get back to Straightforward. The next day the team’s negotiator called back and said he was rejecting the request to pay the major-league minimum plus $5,000. He said the salary would be major-league minimum plus $10,000. Stunned, Straightforward said he accepted the offer on behalf of Sam. He then asked why the team was willing to pay more than he had requested. The team negotiator then explained the team’s compensation structure for rookies. Sam had appeared in more than 15 major-league games. The team’s policy was to pay those players the major-league minimum plus $10,000. The players who had been called up the year before had played in fewer than 15 major-league games. The team negotiator was not going to punish its top young prospect for his agent’s mistake. Straightforward thanked the team negotiator and then told Sam the truth, explaining why the team would pay more than asked.
Just a little while later, Sam and Frank reported to spring training and shared stories. Frank had been represented by Mr. Flamboyant, one of the biggest agents in baseball. Frank told Sam that he got a great contract considering how little time he had spent in the majors. Flamboyant had told Frank he got this great deal by using all of his juice to extract the last possible dollar from the team. What had Flamboyant negotiated? Major-league minimum plus $10,000. Sam laughed and told Frank the truth of the matter.
Frank, much to his credit, was not amused. He fired Flamboyant and never went back. There was ultimate justice here. Since Frank went on to become a star player with a lengthy career, Flamboyant ultimately lost, big-time.
Flamboyant did not alter his approach in trying to impress clients as a result of this learning opportunity. Flamboyant correctly concluded that most of his clients or potential clients preferred to hear nonsense rather than the truth. A little while later, while recruiting an established major-league player (but not a star), Flamboyant assured him he would arrange for a photo on the cover of GQ magazine. The player fell for that come-on, as they say on the bass fishing circuit, “hook, line and sinker.” But, alas, it’s now about 20 years later and he’s still waiting.