Perhaps no player not named Pat Burrell has been in the news more since
December of 2002 than “ace in waiting” Kevin Millwood. Blessed with a wonderful right arm, and
represented by sometimes contentious agent, Scott Boras, it was always even
money at best that he would ever pitch at Citizens Bank Park with a Phillie cap
resting on his head.
As any casual follower of the Phillies is aware, the
road to signing “free agent to be” Millwood was always paved with bumps and
grinds.. This writer spent more than one column during the ’03 season talking
about the “line in the sand” between the Phils and their seemingly reluctant
Indeed, when Millwood’s final toss was thrown, not in anger at an
Atlanta Brave batter, but at a fan seated in the box seats at Veterans Stadium
[his glove and not a ball, no less!] many fans bid a sad adieu to him. Truth be told, the weeks immediately
following the toss did not show promise of many happy returns either, as agent
Boras made it clear that Millwood was ready, willing and able to bolt to greener
Given the rumors of an impending 5 year, 75 million dollar deal
offered by Team X, most fans sadly took their pencils and, instead of drawing a
line in the sand, drew a line through Millwood’s name. Not so General Manager Ed Wade, who made
a 3 year, 30 million dollar offer to Boras, and waited for an answer.
This off-season has been a personal triumph for Wade, and no triumph was
greater than the patience he displayed with Millwood. In Rudyard Kipling’s wonderfully prosaic
poem, “If”, he offers this verse, “if you can wait and not be tired by waiting,”
and Wade was nothing if not patient.
Although Boras took more than a week to respond, his eventual “no” to the
offer only strengthened Wade’s resolve.
He quickly went out and acquired another solid starter in the last year
of his contract, lefty Eric Milton of the Minnesota Twins. Wade indicated that if he couldn’t have
one Mill, he would settle for another.
This set in motion the most
amazing of circumstances, which eventually gave Phillie fans the giddiest of
truisms, that two Mills are better than one! Millwood said he might like to stay,
Wade said he might like to pay, and arbitration was not only offered… but
The Phils offer of a 10 million dollar deal seemed an
easy one to beat; after all Millwood made 9.9 million last year and hardly had
the season of a pauper. Although his 14-12 record was hardly cause to put his
picture on the cover of a cereal box, his other numbers still suggested he was
eating the breakfast of champions.
Make no mistake, 222 innings pitched, 5 complete games, 169 strike outs
and a no-hitter tossed in made some highly compelling arguments for Boras at
arbitration time. Thus, Millwood’s
request for 12.5 million seemed a forgone conclusion if [and there is that word
again!] Millwood and Boras chose to take this to the arbitration
Yet the art of compromise was at work here, with Wade hinting at a
future long term deal, and Millwood pledging his love and loyalty to the team,
the city, and the possibilities. With a newfound vigor for exercise and a
workout program in place, Millwood lost 20 pounds over the winter and vowed to
make amends for his forgettable September performance.
This was the art
of compromise, Point A… that Millwood understood his responsibilities to both
himself and his team. This lead to
Point B… Wade’s willingness to not only offer a raise to the 11 million dollar
level, but to offer highly reachable incentives which might push the deal to
Point C may very well have been the most difficult and probably the
murkiest. In the world of Scott
Boras, compromise is not acknowledged and very rarely accepted. Although we may
never know the whole story, Boras’s past may give us an indication of what could
have taken place. It is highly
likely that he encouraged Millwood to go to arbitration, that the 12.5 million
was highly winnable.
In fact, if this is what Boras said, he was probably
correct. However, in the art of
compromise, contentious negotiations give way to respectful dialogue, both
respect for the opponent, and a willingness to achieve longer- range
Had Millwood rejected the Phils offer of 11 million and change, he
would have been sending a not so subtle message that the “free agent” game was
likely to be played again, and with different results next time. He would have been telling the Phils
that he intended to win the 12.5 million in arbitration, pitch as well as an
“ace-in waiting” can pitch, and then take his glove elsewhere next
Instead, Millwood quite possibly overruled Boras’s recommendation
and decided to split the difference at 11 million, with pocket change for good
behavior, as in innings pitched, an All-Star appearance, and maybe post season
play thrown in as an added incentive.
Phillie fans everywhere have reason
to salute this signing. It not only
sends a message that Millwood hopes to be here for the long haul, but it also
indicates that he plans on having a stronger voice in future negotiations with
the Phils. Scott Boras has won many victories in his years as a negotiator of
big league contracts. His deft
skill at getting teams to bid against themselves is legendary.
only study the deals with the Rangers for Alex Rodriguez and the Dodgers for
Kevin Brown to understand that, unbeknownst to the teams, there were no other
bidders at the auction. This paid
off in historic contracts for Rodriguez and Brown, but they soon learned that
money couldn’t buy happiness.
Brown began to wince at the anemic run
support he received in LaLa Land and, in true Wizard of Oz fashion, recited the
phrase, “there’s no place like home” often enough that Eastward bound he
was. Although New York is hardly a
stone’s throw from Georgia, it’s in the same time zone, and Brown is once again
As for A-Rod, his off-again, on-again Beantown trade talks are
off-again… for now. Yet, in a division of heavy weights like Anaheim, Oakland
and Seattle, money not only can’t buy happiness, but it can’t keep a weak team
from finishing fourth. Watch for
A-Rod to resume his wailings again in the fall.
These transpirings have
set an ill wind blowing in the direction of Boras’s clients. Pudge Rodriguez may have received his
four-year deal, but he never envisioned it coming from Detroit, the not so proud
holders of a 119-loss season in 2003.
Realistically, Pudge may help the Bengals win 20 more games, which still
adds up to a cool 99 defeats.
Even Millwood’s pitching buddy, Greg Maddux, has felt the sting of baseball’s new realities, and Boras can longer
charm his former teams-in-arms like the Cards and Dodgers into signing a player
for better than fair market value.
When the dust settles, Maddux will be pitching for far less than the
10-11 million a year that Boras requested.
It is indicative of these
circumstances that Millwood commented that he did not wish to follow in the
footsteps of Maddux and venture into the now unchartered waters of “ the new free agent marketplace.” Again, this can only bode well for the
Phils, always considered a fair club when it came to paying out salaries to
Look for Millwood to eventually sign a new three-year
deal for the “fair market” value of between 35-40 million dollars sometime
before the end of 2004. He has
clearly crossed over the line in the sand and joined fellow teammates Thome,
Burrell, Wolf and Lieberthal in a quest for the gold in ’04.
rather than adversaries, the Philadelphia Phillies and their star righty, Kevin
Millwood, have demonstrated than in sports, as in life, there are many art
forms. The Art of Compromise always
was and remains still, one of the most noble.
Columnist’s Note: I welcome
suggestions, questions and comments. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond! CD
from the Left Coast