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Boras May Explore Japan For Strasburg

Publication Date: 
July 03, 2009
The Washington Post
Dave Sheinin

Professor William B. Gould IV, an expert in sports law, is quoted in The Washington Post in an article about a recently drafted baseball pitcher whose agent is exploring how binding the baseball draft rules are:

The Major League Rules is a sprawling, dense, little-known, 254-page document, periodically updated, that governs the business side of baseball. Among other things, it lays out, in painstaking legalese, the process and guidelines for the sport's annual draft, and in recent years, these sections have provided a road map for a certain notorious agent bent on circumventing the draft itself.

In 1996, agent Scott Boras exploited a loophole to help gain free agency for four draftees who did not receive contract offers from the teams that selected them within 15 days of the draft, as required. A year later, he unsuccessfully attempted to make Philadelphia Phillies draftee J.D. Drew a free agent by taking him to the independent Northern League and thus changing his official status from "amateur" to "professional."

This summer, Boras has another high-profile client, San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg, for whom he would love nothing more than to blow apart baseball's draft system, allowing Strasburg to be compensated in line with his talent -- his asking price is believed to be around $50 million -- as opposed to within the parameters of the current system, in which no player has ever received more than $10.5 million.

Even before talks began with the Washington Nationals, who made Strasburg the first overall pick June 9, Boras was dropping hints privately that he is preparing to explore a new frontier in his ongoing draft-busting crusade: Japan.

Such a ploy, were Boras to go in that direction, could involve a variety of issues, from the complex relationship between Major League Baseball and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, the residency requirements of both countries and, of course, the Major League Rules.

... according to William B. Gould IV, a Stanford law professor and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, if the handbook isn't distributed to the agents or players -- and an MLB spokesman said it is not -- Boras could claim "it isn't binding or relevant to the [residency] rule."