A Q&A with Agent David Sloane of Taurus Sports Associates for Rivals.com TeamOneBaseball.com

DR:  There isn't a category on the Job Preference questionnaires you see as a student for "agent".  But you've been a sports agent for virtually your entire professional life.  How did it happen?

I was intending to become a lawyer. I was saved from that "fate worse than death" literally by accident. On August 16, 1973 I was in a car wreck, and as a result of the injuries I sustained in the accident I received $53,000 from the insurance company for the driver of the car I was riding in. That was the maximum amount payable under the terms of the policy which the insurance comany settled for without a single hearing, deposition, trial or anything other than my lawyer filing the lawsuit. I had become friends with the son of his partner and, out of curiosity, asked him how much time his Dad's firm had in my case. He told me that the lawyer, his secretary, paralegal and investigator combined had spent less than 10 hours of time. For their 10 hours they got half as much money as I got for 10 weeks in the hospital and injuries that have impacted my life EVERY day. That totally soured me on the idea of becoming a lawyer.

I had a friend at ASU who was a basketball player by the name of James Brown.  He got  declared ineligible for not going to class. He asked if there was anything I could do to help him get into pro  ball, and I was crazy enough to think I could pull it off. I started writing letters to every team in the NBA & ABA. Eventually, James introduced me to another player, Mike Hopwood, and I was able to get both of them invitations to Rookie camp with the Virginia Squires in the ABA . Neither of them made it but I became interested in pursuing things further. Two of my roommates at ASU, Gary Atwell and Dale Hrovat had played on the baseball team, and after they signed to play pro ball I was introduced to some of their teammates in the minor leagues, and was fortunate to acquire some of those players as clients. The rest as they say is history.

DR:  Over the last year, your two most noteworthy negotiations have probably been the ground breaking contract for Blue Jays first baseman Carlos Delgado, and the quick and by current standards friendly deal with Angels #1 draft pick Joe Torres.  Tell us a bit about each negotiation

With Carlos, the foundation for his present contract took place last year. At that time we were uncertain about the ownership and direction of the Blue Jays.  I negotiated a 3-year, 36 million dollar deal that gave Carlos the right after the first season to demand a trade as well as a no-trade for the entire 3 years. This was the first time ANYONE  in baseball had ever gotten a deal like that.

This season, once  it became apparent that the team was going to be sold to a Canadian company, Rogers Communications, we felt that the committment  to making the Jays a winning organization was such that in August I approached Gord Ash, the Jays GM, regarding the idea of extending Carlos' contract beyond the two years remaining, and he agreed that it was a good idea for all concerned. In September, I flew back to Toronto and met With Gord and the new Jays CEO Paul Godfrey to discuss some ideas about a contract. We continued our talks for the next few weeks and were able to arrive at a deal shortly after the end of the season.

In regard to Joe Torres' contract, from the first discussion I had with Joe and his family, everyone agreed that it was very important for Joe to start his career as soon as possible, provided he was drafted by a team with a good Player Development program.  The Angels have improved their development program quite a bit recently particularly in regard to pitching. With Bill Stoneman and Donny Rowland as GM and Scouting Director we felt they will continue to produce good players, so it was a matter of working out a contract that was reasonable for Joe's position in the draft and get him playing ASAP.

There is no question that we could have held him out and gotten more money.  But for a player like Joe who is very advanced for his age - both on and off the field - we felt he had a chance to put himself in a position to move VERY quickly through the Minors if he got off to a good start-- including the opportunity to play a full season of Rookie ball which may enable him to skip low "A" ball entirely and start next year in the California League rather than the Midwest League putting him that much closer to the Majors. That was worth sacrificing a few dollars.

In addition, I've never believed that it was a good idea for a player to begin his career by antagonizing the people who will be responsible for promoting him through the early stages of his career. You have to balance the few dollars you may gain by  holding out against what a player can make by getting to the Majors even one year sooner than might otherwise happen if he holds out.

DR:  With the proliferation of agents in the baseball industry (not surprisingly coinciding with the explosion in salaries and signing bonuses), there are more and more agencies with literally up to 12-15 "agents" working for them.   Yet you have almost stubbornly remained a single shop operator completely on your own.   Why is this and what are the advantages and disadvantages to a player from your type of representation?

I have done business with many different types of big companies and I've always felt like a number instead of a name to them. I have set my practice up to handle things the way I like to be treated which is on  a "one to one"  personal level. I feel a lot more comfortable when I call someone if they really know who I am and that it not be just from referring to notes in a file.

That is how I work with the players I represent.  I've promised every player that I have ever recruited  that I will be THE ONLY person to handle the part of their career that I'm given responsibility for. Not a secretary, assistant, intern, gofer etc. I believe that should have tremendous value to anyone, and if a particular player can't see the value in it then I'm probably not the right agent for them.

I see NO disadvantages to operating in this fashion. All the services which a player may need that can't,  or shouldn't be performed by me can be done by any number of specialists that I have at my disposal for referrals, i.e. financial management services, tax planning & preparation etc. The quality of the services offered by the people that I refer is better than any offered "in house" by anyone else in the business.  It also gives the client  some choice and control as opposed to just accepting whoever the agent has chosen to hire, a decision that may have been made for the agent's benefit rather than the client's

DR:  One problem that I personally ran up against when I was working in a front office was when an agent/agency represented multiple players in an organization.  There would often be a quid pro quo arrangement on players, sort of a "you take care of this guy and we'll make it up to you on this guy."  I know this is part of "doing business" in the real world, but if I was a player I wouldn't be too wild about it.

You may think this is BS but I have NEVER done anything like that and would NEVER do business in that way. I won't sacrifice one player's career for the benefit of another.

DR:  There is obviously a big difference between working in the free agent market with teenagers and their parents versus dealing with established big league players and general managers.  What are some of the challenges inherent in this?

Working with "Draft Choice" players requires a substantial amount of educating everyone concerned as to how the system of protection years, options, service time etc. works. Most players already in pro ball know about these things either by talking to other players or agents. I try to educate people as objectively as possible so as to not set up an "us vs. them" mindset. I see the relationship as a partnership where both sides benefit when the player makes it to the Majors & both sides lose if he doesn't. It's also important to inform them about the realities of the differences between the colleges which may be recruiting them and the differences between college and pro ball which are often overlooked in all the hype surrounding the whole recruiting process.

DR:  Teamonebaseball.com has a large number of readers who are parents and prospects who have yet to go through the draft process.  From your perspective, what advice would you give them?

Be very careful, learn as much as you can by gathering information from whatever informed sources you may have access to. Remember EVERYONE, I repeat EVERYONE  involved in this has something at stake.

The college coach improves his program if you sign with him whether you go to his school or not. I know first hand of schools that signed players they knew would go high in the draft and sign to play pro ball just to get the good publicity from signing them. The Agent makes a commission negotiating your contract and adds you to his roster of clients for the future.  The Major League team adds another prospect to their system. Nobody is in this just for the fun of it, so you need a fair amount of skepticism about everything. To quote Marvin Gaye, "Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear."

DR:  I hate to bring this topic up, but it's something we'll be hearing more and more about over the next 12 months.  What are your thoughts on the possibility of a lockout/strike hitting baseball again before the owners and players sign a new agreement.

There is always the possibility for a work stoppage. I would hope not.

DR:  What was your most memorable negotiation?  The most difficult?

The Delgado negotiations have to be the most memorable because of the ground breaking nature of both the '99 & '00 contracts & the accompanying notice/notoriety/publicity/acclaim. It was particularly gratifying to be able to accomplish everything we did without turning it into the three-ring circus that other negotiations have become lately.

The most difficult? Any which involved Spec Richardson, the GM of the Giants in the late 70's. First of all, the man had a devastating combination of mumbling while chewing on or smoking a cigar to go along with a thick Southern accent so you practically needed someone standing by to translate. Second, he was one of the worst liars it was ever my displeasure to encounter.  I can deal with a lot of things, but liars aren't one of them.

One of my best days of my life was  an arbitration hearing for Johnnie LeMaster in 1981. LeMaster, who the San Francisco fans referred to as Johnnie Disaster, had hit .215 and led the planet in errors that year, and I beat the Giants in arbitration  

For sheer nastiness, Dick Wagner GM of the Reds in the late 70's comes in 1st, and 2nd place isn't even close. I don't think that even his mother liked the man.

Most formidable "opponent" was probably Charlie Finley. He was very smart, very well informed, and it was hard to dispute someone who had won as much as he had with as little money as he had to work with.

DR:  It seems as if most of the agent related scandals, not specifically in baseball, involve handling a player's finances and investments.  Do you handle your players investments and what are your thoughts on agents handling a player's money in general?

The only money belonging to my clients that I touch is the commission checks they send me. I believe that a player should hire a staff of people to work for him as any CEO would do: An agent to negotiate his contracts, a financial adviser to steer him in the right direction on investing his money, and an accountant to help him with tax planning and prepare his tax returns for him. This will enable the player to have a system of "checks and balances" so that no one person has too much power, and all decision making is done by the player.

Otherwise, either the player is asking to have his money stolen or to pay people for the rest of his life to make decisions for him. If you start out  making small decisions, by the time the big decisions are to be made, you should have acquired sufficient experience at decision making to be good enough to do it for yourself. Do you really want to pay an agent for the rest of your life to balance your checkbbook?

DR:  You represent a number of minor league players.  To put it mildly, Major League Baseball has continually neglected and taken advantage of these players.  A first year minor league player makes $850 month during the season and nothing the rest of the year, the same pay scale that existed in 1986.  MLB doesn't care, the Players Union doesn't care, I don't think anyone cares. Your thoughts?

A Minor League Union is great in theory. However, I don't know how you would pull it off. Because of the constantly changing members it would be pretty difficult to get off the ground. Now if you could get Marvin Miller to come out of retirement...

DR:  The perception within baseball is that the Players Union is run pretty much by a couple of the most powerful agents.  Is this an accurate perception?

I invoke my 5th amendment privilege against self incrimination.