The War Of Words Continues

By Dejan Kovacevic
Updated: September 1, 2008

Pedro Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez

PITTSBURGH — Scott Boras, agent for Pirates first-round draft pick Pedro Alvarez, took exception to team president Frank Coonelly’s remark in the Post-Gazette Sunday that Boras was responsible for bringing the Kansas City Royals into their dispute.

Coonelly’s charge was that, if Boras had not petitioned the Major League Baseball Players Assocation to file a grievance alleging contract agreements were completed after the midnight Aug. 15 deadline, MLB would not have ordered the Royals to remove their first-round pick, Eric Hosmer, another Boras client, from game action until the matter is settled, thus placing Hosmer’s $6 million contract in jeopardy.

“Mr. Coonelly is fully aware of the grievance procedure,” Boras said last night by phone from California. “For him to suggest that a representative of a player has any control over the actions of the union in filing a grievance with the commissioner’s office is patently absurd.”

MLB’s stance in the Sept. 10 arbitration hearing will be that Hosmer’s agreement was completed after Alvarez. Thus, they will argue that the Pirates, with Coonelly having worked for MLB for a decade, were not granted a special favor with an extension past midnight.

MLB allowed the Royals to sign Hosmer — just as it approved Alvarez’s contract — and bring him to Kansas City for a news conference, then to assign him to Class A Idaho Falls. He played two games there until MLB, on Aug. 27, the same day the union filed its grievance, ordered Hosmer out of action.

Boras informed the union hours after the deadline of what he saw as a violation by the Pirates, but he did not do so in Hosmer’s case because of his stance that the Kansas City deal was reached before the deadline.

The union’s position will be that MLB officials kept the Royals on hold on the phone, then waited until the Pirates were done to get back to them, just so another team would follow the Pirates and quash the perception of a special favor.

“Mr. Coonelly is fully aware that a certified agent has the duty to notify the union of major rules violations by a club,” Boras said. “What action the union takes following a grievance is totally within its purvey. And the violations that have been reported have related to the conduct of the Pittsburgh Pirates only.”

MLB’s position will be that the Royals’ extension was as legitimate as the Pirates’.

No result right away

The Pirates do not expect to receive a ruling until two to three weeks after the hearing, general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday, so it could be late September or even October.

In the meantime, the team expects to have no contact with Alvarez, who is believed to have been advised by Boras not to speak — to the media or the Pirates — until after a decision.

“He’s being very well protected right now,” Huntington said of Alvarez.

Huntington expressed optimism about the case, saying the Pirates feel “pretty strongly, based on the information we’re getting from MLB, from Frank and based on precedent.”

Does Huntington feel as if Alvarez has gone back on his word after verbally agreeing to his $6 million contract?

“The reality is, this is a 21-year-old, and this is a very powerful agent who is able to exert his influence over established major league players. We have to keep that in mind, too.”

Boras’ stance is that, because Alvarez’s agreement came after midnight, he could not — and cannot — sign any such contract.