Somewhere hidden beneath the sticks of dynamite, giant rubber bands, and huge boulders in Dan Lozano’s car trunk there is probably an ACME brand “Sports Agent In-A-Box” kit. He probably has the at-home version as well. Judging by recent events, he’s probably dog-eared several pages in the chapter on “Conquering the Baseball World One Firstbaseman At-A-Time”. Maybe he’s simply memorized it. Although I haven’t ordered the kit for myself, I’ve been making uneducated guesses about the contents for some time now. With the help of an unnamed source who is close to a person who happens to work with a woman who lives next to the cousin of a neighbor of the guy who works the evening shift at a restaurant where Lozano frequently doesn’t eat lunch, I have some insight into the ACME “Sports Agent In-A-Box” kit contents.
- Detailed instructions on how to abandon leave your employer of 22 years behind just in time to set up shop on your own right before some of your biggest clients are due for HUGE paydays. Yep, he took Pujols, Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins, Dallas Braden, Joey Votto, Orlando Cabrera, J. C. Romero, and a good bit of the Beverly Hills Sports Council staff right along with him. Clever and subtle. [/sarcasm font]
- Package of “Hello My Name is NOT Scott Boras” name tags (quantity 100).
- Bluetooth handsfree headsets of various shapes and sizes that are programmed to blink even when you are not actually receiving a call in order to make you appear busier than you really are.
- Spare cell phones pre-programmed with contact lists for clients, major league front office points of contact, legal teams, bail bondsmen in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, 911, and the nearest Jimmy Johns.
- Index cards and cheat sheets with prepackaged quotes and one-liners for moments when quick thinking may be necessary, yet difficult. Examples include favorites like “Nobody puts Votto in a corner!”, “I’m only one mang.”, “We win as a team, and lose as team, except when my supporting cast just doesn’t support my cast.”, and “There is no ‘I’ in team, but there is one in ‘WIN’ but not in ‘GOAT’”. The index cards are specially designed not to chafe the inside pockets of really expensive suits.
- Exquisitely fine pens specially designed to be carried in the pocket of very expensive dress shirts without staining the pocket. Actually, the pens don’t even work, and they carry nothing of use. Come to think of it, they have a lot in common with some agents.
- Pamphlets that explain how to collect additional players when possible. Lozano just added Nick Swisher to his “stable”. After all, it’s not collusion if they all have the same agent, right?
It’s a fairly large box, so I’m sure that there is a lot more to the kit than what I’ve listed, but I’ll add more details as more information comes available from my trustworthy sources. The important thing is that another unnamed source who is “close to the situation” and is “familiar with some of the relevant details” tipped me off about one of the really subtle negotiating tactics in use from the beginning of this mess. This one actually dates back to at least last year.
Lozano wanted to send a message to the other 29 MLB teams that Albert would become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2011 season (technically 5 days after the World Series or something like that). Anyhoo, he needed a vehicle for delivering that message, and it’s considered bad form (and against league rules) to announce something like that to the world. So, how did he manage to send his message? Smoke signals? Tin cans with string? Nope. He convinced Albert that it would be a good idea to set some nonsensical, arbitrary deadline for concluding negotiations for prior to the beginning of the season. Better yet, the reason cited is that Albert doesn’t want the contract talk to become distracting. Right. That’s good, because his impending free agency won’t hang over the Cardinals like a little black rain cloud hanging over Winnie the Pooh. Good plan……if you’re also investing in oceanfront property in Arizona as well. If you aren’t and happen to have a shred of common sense, you know that the contract extension talk will be like a fog that will cover the team like a blanket all year. It’s a dirty feeling that cannot be washed off…kind of like that feeling you get after eating something with a spork.
Why set the deadline at the beginning of spring training? Why not? That gives the other 29 MLB teams as much time as possible to put together contingency plans for bidding on Albert. Remember, it only takes 2 teams to create a bidding war, and Lozano knew the demand would be there. He just had to make sure that the marketplace was aware that the supply would be there. To do that, he simply had to alert the potential buyers with a clever ploy. Voila! “Nonsensical Deadline, Transparent Posturing, Can’t Wait for Free Agent Bonanza, Wonder Twin Powers Activate” plan is a go!
His job is made even easier by the fact that the negotiations with the Cardinals are being kept quiet. If they are still in the bidding at the end of the year, he’s got a really good fallback plan and a baseline offer that a competing club would probably have to top by a reasonable amount to secure AP’s services. Not bad. So, let’s recap this whole thing.
- Lozano and Mozeliak sit down for a brief chat after the 2010 season – Dan has Mo at “10 year extension”
- Lozano orders kit from ACME
- Lozano hatches plan to take over the world. Plan looks similar to Gaga in her egg at Grammy awards, but the plan is far less scary.
- Lozano convinces Albert that negotiations cloud mind, make slugger weak. Focus, Albertson. Wipe on, wipe off.
- Much posturing ensues
- A deadline is set, although nobody really knows the actual date of the deadline at first. “Spring training” could mean lots of things.
- Clarification is made regarding deadline
- Some national media people with deadlines proclaim the end of the world.
- Nostradamus followers find lost quatrain and connect it to APocalypse2011, Albertageddon, or whatever it’s called now.
- More posturing and non-talk about nothing
It’s interesting to note that when Lozano talks, he actually talks about saying nothing. He’s really very good about talking about nothing and making talking about saying nothing seem very, very important. Likewise, John Mozeliak has followed the same path and has made an art of saying little about talking about saying nothing. He actually does say a little more about saying nothing, but he’s saying even less when he’s saying nothing about nothing. It’s frightfully amazing how much both can say without saying anything about what they are asked to talk about.
In the end, it seems that this whole thing is simply headed where it was really headed all along. Free agency. Perhaps the spectacle is best suited for prime time television or maybe Christie’s famous auction house. Better yet, MLB, ESPN, FoxSports, and OWN can simulcast from all the various MLB “war rooms” while each team prepares to submit offers. If that’s the case, then I can only hope that it’s not about the highest bid but about the best one. Maybe other teams can offer a few more dollars, lower state income taxes, or a better propaganda department bigger marketing budget, but St. Louis offers continuity, icon status, and brand loyalty.
TIDBITS: For the record, I think it’s shortsighted and silly to avoid negotiations during the season. If you can’t work while discussing a change in your employment status or compensation, then you need lessons in compartmentalizing or multitasking.
Like it? Wish you had ordered something like a falling piano from ACME? Follow gr33nazn on Twitter, and maybe we can get a group discount!