Phillies

Phillies set to renew 'interesting' relationship with super-agent Scott Boras

Phillies set to renew 'interesting' relationship with super-agent Scott Boras

The Phillies will renew what has been at times a trying, but always interesting, relationship with baseball's most powerful agent when club leaders travel to Las Vegas on Saturday.

Somewhere in that desert town of bright lights and big shows, Phillies officials will sit across from Bryce Harper, one of the two megastars on this winter's free-agent market. The other, of course, is Manny Machado, a player the Phillies have already visited with and are actively trying to sign.

The Phillies' interest in Harper is real, but for months it has been clear that Machado is the team's priority. It is unlikely the team would sign both players and club president Andy MacPhail indicated as much back in October. If Machado signs elsewhere, the Phillies' interest in Harper could swell, hence Saturday's meeting with the player in Las Vegas. It will be the first time Phillies officials have met with Harper. They have already had several ground-laying conversations with Harper's super-agent, Scott Boras.

The current Phillies front office knows Boras well, having hammered out a deal with him for Jake Arrieta last year.

But Boras' relationship with the franchise goes back farther than that and it hasn't always been smooth sailing. Working out a deal for first-rounder Carlton Loewer in 1994 was easy, but it was a different story just a few years later when the two sides could not come to an agreement for No. 2 overall pick J.D. Drew and he re-entered the draft after a year of acrimonious negotiations that included Boras appearing via satellite from California on our very own sports network and getting into a testy verbal joust with Curt Schilling, who was then still a Phillie and sticking up for his team.

The Phillies had only limited dealings with Boras for a while after L'Affaire Drew. Things got a little sticky in the fall of 2011 when the two sides were moving toward a contract extension for free agent Ryan Madson before the Phillies quickly pivoted and signed Jonathan Papelbon. Boras was none too happy with the Phillies, but he didn't hold a grudge. He never does. He didn't become the game's most powerful agent by closing doors on potential landing spots for his guys. Heck, he even put on a happy face during the Drew saga and negotiated a one-year deal with the Phils for infielder Mark Lewis in December 1997.

The dust from the Drew situation has long settled and the days when Boras was likened in Philadelphia to the Big Bad Wolf have faded. Even Boras jokes about that. A former minor-league infielder, he recently told of how his affiliation with the Phillies went back to his teen years when he played on a scout team in the Sacramento area run by Eddie Bockman, the legendary former Phillies scout who signed Larry Bowa, Bob Boone and John Vukovich.

"So I wore a Phillie uniform every winter when I had the privilege of playing in that program," Boras said. "I love the Philadelphia fans, I love their intensity. I love how they treat the game of baseball. So I have nothing but brotherly love for the city of Philadelphia."

Does Harper feel the same way?

There have been reports that he does not. That's one of the topics Phillies officials will drill into during their meeting. 

Where once there were few, Boras' stable is now loaded with clients who are Phillies. Arrieta, Nick Williams and Vince Velasquez are all Boras men. Late last summer, Boras snagged Rhys Hoskins as a client. Boras reps Sixto Sanchez, the team's top pitching prospect, Cole Irvin, the organization's minor-league pitcher of the year in 2018, and Cornelius Randolph, the team's top pick in the 2015 draft.

Maybe he'll soon represent another Phillie in Harper. Or maybe the Phillies will get Machado instead. If that happens, Boras won't hold a grudge. He will look for the next match with the team. Mike Moustakas? Dallas Keuchel? Those are his guys, too, and they are still out there and the Phils have had considered both.

Managing partner John Middleton will lead the Phillies contingent to Vegas on Saturday. You know Boras has to be elated about that. Middleton and Boras have some similarities. Both are extremely competitive and want to win. And both are wildly successful businessmen. Boras has long preferred to sit at a negotiating table with the people who own teams. It's almost as if he sees them as equals speaking a shared language. He likes to sell owners on the overall impact that a superstar like Harper will have on an organization, from wins on the field to revenues and franchise values that are generated by those wins.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall Saturday in Vegas.

It will surely be an interesting show.

It always is with Scott Boras and the Phillies.

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Forgotten Phillies opening day starters of the last 30 years

Forgotten Phillies opening day starters of the last 30 years

Steve Carlton, Terry Mulholland, Curt Schilling, Roy Halladay. There are certain eras of Phillies baseball over the last 40 years when you knew who was going to have the honor of being named opening day starter before spring training even started. This year, Aaron Nola was poised to take the ball for his third straight opening-day start. 

Since Carlton’s incredible run of starting 14 out of 15 openers, there have been 15 pitchers tabbed to start the season off for the Phillies but not all were household names. Here’s a look back at some of the pitchers you may have forgotten got the nod in Game 1 of 162.

2005-06: Jon Lieber

Lieber had a couple of pretty good seasons with the Cubs early in the 2000s, was an All-Star in ’01 when he won 20 games and started three straight Opening Days for them. But after having Tommy John surgery, he signed with the Yankees, missed all of ’03 and then bounced back with a solid 2004, good enough for the Phillies to sign him.

He won that '05 opener for the Phillies and had a pretty good campaign, winning 17 games and leading the NL in starts. He pitched another two unremarkable years for the Phils, going 12-17 with a 4.87 ERA.

2001/02: Omar Daal/Robert Person

Lumping these two together because it was a transition time for the Phillies. In the midst of their seventh straight sub-.500 finish, the Phillies traded ace Curt Schilling in July of 2000 to Arizona for four players, one of which was Daal. The lefty ended up losing 19 games in 2000, one game short of becoming the first pitcher in 20 years to lose 20. But that was good enough to earn (?) him the opening day start in 2001, the first with Larry Bowa as manager. Daal had a better year, going 13-7, but did have a 4.46 ERA.

Person also had a very solid season, going 15-7 with a 4.19 ERA. That got him the start in the 2002 opener, but he never found the same success on the mound as he did in ’01. At the plate, however, he had one of the more memorable days for a Phillies pitcher this century in a June game vs. Montreal. He hit a grand slam and a 3-run homer, going 3 for 4 with seven RBI.

2000: Andy Ashby

Ashby had come up in the Phillies system in the late '80s and actually made his MLB debut for the club in 1991. He was drafted by the Rockies in the expansion draft and ended up in San Diego, where he flourished. He was a two-time all-star, started a couple of openers and helped lead the Padres to the NL title in 1998.

When the Phillies traded three prospects for Ashby before 2000, they thought it gave them a legit 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation to go along with Schilling (who missed the beginning of 2000 due to injury). However, that didn’t work out. After going 4-7 with a 5.68 ERA, Ashby was traded during the All-Star break to the Braves for Bruce Chen.

1996: Sid Fernandez

Did you even remember Sid Fernandez was a Phillie? From 1994 through 1999, Schilling started five of six opening days for the Phils. When he started ’96 on the DL, in stepped Fernandez for the opening day honor. “El Sid” had some really good seasons with the vaunted Mets staff of the '80s, making a couple of All-Star games and helping them win a World Series.

Almost a decade later, he signed with the Phillies for the second half of the ’95 season and did well, posting a 3.34 ERA and going 6-1. He wasn’t as effective in ’96, which basically ended his career (he pitched one game for Houston the next season).

1990: Bruce Ruffin

Remembered more for his Chris Berman-given nickname, Bruce “Two Minutes For” Ruffin’s career started with a bang. He went 9-4 with a 2.46 ERA for the Phillies in 1986. But it kind of went downhill from there. Over the next five years with the club, he never finished above .500 and had only one year with an ERA below 4.00. But he got the opening day start in 1990 because someone had to. Partly because…

1989: Floyd Youmans

Maybe the original “new guy” that got the nod for the Phillies, Floyd Youmans had a promising start to his career in Montreal. He started the opener in ’87 at the age of 23, but injuries and a suspension derailed his time there. Before the 1989 season, the Phillies got him in a trade for Kevin Gross. Youmans started only 10 games for the Phillies in what was his final MLB season.

1987-1988: Shane Rawley

Rawley actually had a few good years with the Phils. He made the All-Star team in 1986 and won 17 games with a 3.54 ERA. In ’85, he won 13 with a 3.31. So when it came time to replace Carlton for Opening Day, the torch was passed to Rawley.

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What an opening weekend this would have been for Phillies

What an opening weekend this would have been for Phillies

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone." — A. Bartlett Giamatti

Of all the quotes about baseball I have read, the beginning of Bart Giamatti's essay "The Green Fields of the Mind" is the one that paints a picture (in oil, of course) of my connection to and love of baseball.

In three sentences we are taken from the renewal of spring to lazy summer afternoons and evenings at the ballpark and finally, to the ache of autumn as the game leaves us for the year.

This year, with fairly little warning, the heartbreak came early. Spring fever actually came with a ... real fever.

We had opening weekend on tap. The Phillies visiting the Miami Marlins. We would take the wraps off a revamped Phillies roster and get a feel for our new set of wheels this season.
What do we have? A team to be truly excited about? Not enough horses? Can Bryce Harper pick up where he left off? Will Jake Arrieta and Rhys Hoskins bounce back?

My watch signals game time.

My phone reminds me, too.

Do the watch and the phone know what they're doing to me?

If you've been a baseball fan since you were a kid, on opening weekend there is a sense of "school's out!" even though you've got two months left. What it is, really, is the promise of summer, laid out in 360 feet of basepath and three acres of the lushest Kentucky Bluegrass you've ever smelled.

As with this opening weekend, the weather is unpredictably tantalizing. Thursday gorgeous, Friday the same, Saturday wet, Sunday back in the drink.

All of that would have been OK. The Marlins play in a dome. The games would be played regardless of weather.

Would have been a good weekend to stay inside.

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