Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Stephen Strasburg Whirlwind

RT Staff Note: This article is courtesy of the Washington Post and gives our readers a glimpse of he complexities of a pro contract negotiation. Listen to what Scott Boras has to say...You may have to read his comments a few times before you truly understand what he is saying, if you don't understand the post grad speak of a marketing/attorney savant like Boras. High profile signings are in a different stratosphere than the everyday 10th round and up variety. Enjoy!

At 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon, with the temperature at 92 degrees, Stephen Strasburg had his introductory "news conference," which was open to the public and included fireworks, a jersey presentation (an extra layer for him to wear!) and a VIP seating area where Ted Lerner sat with his wife. Strasburg, agent Scott Boras, new GM Mike Rizzo and team President Stan Kasten sat on a stage erected along the third base line. At one point, Rizzo said, "As we've said before, we don't expect Stephen to be the savior of this franchise."


Somehow, I don't remember a news conference featuring fireworks for Ross Detwiler.

Anyway, about an hour after the public presser ended, a smaller group of media members met more informally with Strasburg and Boras. A transcript follows.

A few comments first.

* Strasburg is well-trained to say the right things. He has been, shall we say, corporately "Borased." When he's asked about how he'll spent his money, for instance, he replies, "I haven't really thought about that. You know, I'm still just soaking it all in."

* Boras's answers might be a bit jumbled, but that's the way he really talks. "Comparability." "Risk characterization." "Commoditization." All vintage Boras.



[That's an oxymoron, by the way.]

Q: What has this day been like for you so far?

Oh, it's been pretty wild. Coming into that locker room, I've never seen anything like it. You get a chance to meet all the players you see on TV. It's a pretty tremendous feeling, and I'm really excited to get my career started and hopefully be playing up here with these guys sometime soon.

Q: How would you describe your personality?

I'm pretty laid-back. I consider myself to be a humble person. I try to manage the highs and the lows and not get too greedy out there, because I've learned in playing baseball that if you think you're the greatest, then it's gonna humble you real quick. I just try to go out there every day to improve something in my game that will help the team win.

Q: Anything important about the number 37?

I came in my freshman year and just, being a freshman, they gave me number 40. Then this catcher wanted number 40, and he was number 37, so I was like, all right, here ya go. So I got 37 from then on.

Q: Do you want to keep it?

I'm not a big superstitions guy. I pitched with number 29 in the Olympics, I wore number 37 at [San Diego] State. It doesn't really matter what jersey you wear as long as you go out there and do your thing.

Q: How much did Tony Gwynn help you the last few years?

He's just been a tremendous mentor as far as kind of preparing me for what's involved in the pro game. I guess I have to experience it first-hand, but it's extremely different from college baseball. You know, just the way his professional approach, going in day after day -- just the way he would coach our hitters and manage the game, it kind of just goes to show that you really have to step back and manage your highs and your lows and focus that you have an entire season. You can't really worry about the home run you just gave up or the loss you just had. You really have to focus on your next start or your next pitch.

Q: You described yourself as a structured person.

Absolutely. In high school I was a starter and then I went in my freshman year at State and was the closer after a few games. That was kind of where I learned to be ready on the fly, never knowing when I was gonna go in. But I kind of reinvented starting after that and I kind of realized there is a big routine you have to follow as far as conditioning, preparing for an outing. Make sure that your arm and your mental focus is 100 percent when the game starts.

Q: Is that your personality away from the baseball as well?

Oh, absolutely. I like to know what's going on with my life.

Q: You admitted when you got to SDSU that you needed to get in better shape. What did that teach you about yourself?

You know, it just goes to show that I was a lot tougher mentally than what I thought at the time. So, it just goes to show that if I want something really bad I just have to put my mind to it and work as hard as I can.

Q: You have been cognizant of trying to stay grounded. But how difficult is it when everything in your life seems to be working against that?

Well, I have always tried to be myself and I'm going to continue to do that. Just because a few dollar signs have been thrown in front of me doesn't mean I'm going to change who I am as a person. You know, that's something that my mom and dad raised me up on -- to always be true to yourself and to just be a good person.

Q: Did you think once you were drafted you would sign with this team?

You know what, when I got drafted number one overall I was just thinking, "Wow, so much happened in just a few years." I was just so thankful that day that they selected me. And then I put it in Scott Boras's hands to go out there and fight for me, and he did a great job for me, and at the same time I was extremely excited to play.

Q: At the time, what did you know about this franchise? And what have you learned since?

I never really followed any Major League Baseball as far as this year and the year before because obviously there was a lot of hype saying, like, "Who's gonna finish in last place and get the number one pick"? And that was something I had no control over and I didn't want to focus on at the time; still don't. But from what I've heard and can see here, there's a lot of history within this organization, maybe not current, but it definitely has the making of becoming a big-time organization in the major leagues that will win a lot of ballgames.

Q: Over the last two months, did you see things here that made you think, "Okay, this is a team I do want to be a part of"?

You know, I went into it, I was gonna be given an opportunity to play the game that I love and I just knew that if given the opportinty I was gonna do it. It doesn't really matter which team I go with. It will be just amazing to see you've played major league baseball, and to possibly be able to do this with the Washington Nationals was just a dream come true.

Q: Stephen, are you gonna have any time to yourself this weekend, and if so, anything in particular you want to do?

Ahh, you know, they have a pretty big itinerary for me, so I'm just kind of following them around. But I'm loving this. This stadium is amazing, absolutely amazing. The only other stadium I've been in is Petco (as far as being in locker rooms, etc.), but this is just incredible. Hopefully I'll be able to call this home sometime soon.

Q: College kid, making a lot of money. Anything now that you really want to buy or do?

I haven't really thought about that. You know, I'm still just soaking it all in. I want to go accomplish what I want to accomplish. As long as you take care of your money and don't blow it all you should be okay financially.

Q: Do you feel like all the attention you got junior year and the practice you got trying to still be a teammate among 25 other guys might help you now, where you're walking in as a rookie but still making more money than most of these guys?

I mean, yeah, in a way, but I kind of experienced that -- probably not to the magnitude that I'm going into -- but with the Olympic team, they were like, "Who's this college kid?" You know, all these guys are professionals. Some of them went in the first round. Some of them are salty minor league veterans. It was a great mix, and I learned a lot from it. Just goes to show that as long as you let your playing do the talking and just listen and don't try to step on anybody's feet you'll fit in just time.

Q: Scott, there have been obviously a ton of number one picks and a ton of people who've entered their careers with big contracts, but not many with this much scrutiny. What advice would you give a really high-profile client who's beginning his career?

BORAS: Well I think when you're talking about professional athletes it really, sometimes, these occurrences -- it's the same advice. The piece of paper, the contract, the checks, all those elements have really nothing to do with your teammates, your performance, your attitude. It's about the opportunity to perform. I think what got Stephen to this point -- the great thing about his negotiation, there was a great fluidness to it. Frankly, it was not a negotiation that was in any way, there was no acrimony. Rizz evaluated Stephen very much along the same lines I did. We realized he had extraordinary abilities physically, but we also realized he would have the ability -- both intellectually and in what his goals are as an athlete -- to handle what comes with what his talents bring. And that includes all the elements of association with contract.

Q: What do you think the biggest adjustment will be now, pitching-wise?

STRASBURG: I think the big thing that I'm gonna have to work on is just making sure that I'm ready physically to endure a 162-game season plus playoffs. You know, pitching every five days instead of once a week. That's gonna be the big thing that I'm gonna have to work on. You know, I'm gonna have to hit the gym really hard and get my arm used to pitching every five days. From there on, I just gotta go out there and do my thing and help my team win ballgames.

Q: Scott, how much did your relationship with Rizzo help in the process to sign Stephen?

BORAS: Well, we had a challenge before us because we had a similar evaluation on the baseball side but we had a new market to look at, because markets are often driven by two things. One is revenues and the other one is talent. And so in going through that process, it was one that really began for me with the Washington franchise -- I had an opportunity to meet with Ted and Mark frankly a great deal in the Teixeira negotiations. Of all the baseball teams I've deal with over the years, it is a family business. And that means good and sometimes bad. It means they're accountable, and they're people. I knew when Stephen's season was over and Ted and Mark got a chance to meet Stephen, they would understand a little bit more about this opportunity. Because there is a separation between elite players who are coming to a baseball team, whether it be through rarely the draft and often international markets and sometimes through free agency -- and the draft is normally associated with risk characterization.... It was a difficult process for all of us because the comparability was off the charts. And that part of it makes the negotiation, I think, more relative to a market side than an evaluation side. That was the most difficult part of it. Mike -- he communicated well. He's a good voice for his ownership. And also, having a history with Mike, he knows all the legal parameters we have to go through... so it resulted in, I think, a very fluid [negotiation].

Q: Stephen, I'm sure you've heard a lot of people mention the history of number one draft picks, especially pitchers. Do you think that all pertains to you, and what do you make of that history?

BORAS: If I may interrupt. When a journalist talks about number one draft picks, you're including high school and college players. The repertoire for college players is extraordinarily high for success. For high school, it's not. So I think you have to differentiate... and also understand that in prior drafts, other than in this year and the last couple years, the number one draft pick was not necessarily the best player. Probably for a good 15-year period the best player in the draft was rarely the top pick because of signability. So when we talk about success ratios I think we have to factor that in.

Q: Okay, so directly, Stephen -- do you think there's anything standing in the way of you being really, really successful?

STRASBURG: I don't know. I can't predict the future. I just have to go out there and do my thing day to day and get better. You know, God has a special plan for you and if he wants me to be extremely successful in the big leagues than I am. If he has another plan for me, it will show itself in the long run.

By Chico Harlan | August 21, 2009; 6:02 PM ET

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