Saturday, December 30, 2006

Management of Broadcast News by Baseball:
Chip Mahaney's Insights  

When I do Management by Baseball speaking engagements, I get broad variety of audience reception. A lot of people come into the talk presuming it's all about entertainment -- that they won't get any meat. Others are just plain cynical. Most come with open minds. After a lot of trying to recognize patterns about who just "gets it", while I always have attendees who do and add to my knowledge, too, I have come to the conclusion that the highest concentration of people who "get it" quickly are those who already work in industries where The Talent Is The Product.

In my book tour, I did a couple of those traditional radio tours, and the Harper Collins publicist & my partners at Bolde PR snared me cool television spots, as well. Both radio and television management really get Management by Baseball, so it was a lot of fun, because they saw the parallels between broadcast and baseball very quickly, the most obvious intersection being The Talent Is The Product. It's not the quality of the individual on-air talent that establishes a likely performance baseline, though like the starting rotation, that's truly vital. There is the entire team of people behind the scenes, and their ability to be both artistic/creative and operationally capable sequentially and sometimes simultaneously is the make or break factor. Everybody gets to have a little ego, but it's a rare team that can afford any of the individuals to have too much.

So it's no surprise to me that Smartbusy.TV, an interesting new blog by Chip Mahaney has a entry where he gets it -- and more.

Mahaney is managing editor for news at Dallas metro's Channel 4, KDFW. His blog entry, "Management by Baseball", and how it's so much like TV news, didn't merely draw the parallels I already knew, but added some I should have seen. Go read it -- I won't steal his thunder, except for one t-clap that is especially vital, another critical correlate for those who are likely to get it.

That's the necessity of both rigorous, watertight planning and the concurrent understanding that improvisation and instant innovation will be inevitable. Like a baseball manager, the news team has to make a game plan informed with data and hunch. Like a baseball manager, for example Mike Scioscia who stated he made a couple of hundred decisions during each game, the broadcast news team will cut and fill, stretch and tighten to adapt immediately before and during the broadcast to adjust for breaking news or, more frequently, availability of material from affiliates or their own crews in the field who may or may not get what the team is hoping for.

I really appreciate Chip Mahaney's observations, and welcome this site's addition to blogotopia. I hope he comes back with more MBB insights as they crop up for him, but even if he doesn't, I think he's going to be very worthwhile reading.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Feed-bag: Changing Back to Short. Comments?  

Back when I started RSS feeds, I opted for short (benefit: less volume to a reader and someone would be exposed to the entire essay only if he chose to), but I was talked into switching to full (benefit: save a click when interested).
     I'm doing an experiment, switching back to short. If you are an occasional or frequent reader of this blog and you have an opinion on full v. short, send me a message at the contact address.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The 7'-Tall Pitcher: When Whatever Makes You Stronger Kills You  

In the earlier part of this millennium, I did a lot of process-redesign work, and it never ceased to amaze me how frequently intelligent managers fell into an intensification pattern as a reactive, twitch response. 

Intensification is the choice of amplifying what you're already doing that seems to have short term advantages. This is different from what I call "Nixon Bombing Haiphong", which is redoubling your efforts when your plan isn't working. Intensification is when you do more of what seems to yield immediate gains but those gains in turn undermine the long-term returns. 

Beyond baseball, you frequently see this with pricing. If price cuts generate more volume which produces lower production or distribution costs, then why not cut prices more? If increasing ad buys boosts sales, why not buy more? Well, you may get straight line improvements in net for a little while, but usually the growth flattens, then, if you take it far enough, actually crashes. You can work people 20% more, say 9.6 hour days instead of 8.0 hour days, and get roughly 20% more production out of them and a somewhat diminished cost relative to hiring more staff-- but you won't get 35% more production if you work them 35% more hours...you'll get less productivity that you did at 9.6 hour days.

Most systems crash when subjected to intensification (which is why those elegant Aztec pyramids were designed to optimize their meat-tenderizing attributes -- for prepping cannibal feasts). And we have all been subjected many times to the engineering proofs that the giant ants from the movie "Them!" could never have done the hokey-pokey down the Los Angeles River as shown in the flick because their design wouldn't scale to that size and they would have collapsed from their weight/strength ratio.

Which brings us to Johnny "Whiz" Gee. Well, not exactly. But we'll get to him in a second. Because Baseball Prospectus' David Laurila had a brain-candy interview with minor-league pitcher Craig Breslow (it's here, but you need to be registered to read it, including the section I'll quote below, courtesy of BP). And Breslow, who has a degree in either molecular biophysics or biochem, asserted a thesis about why pitchers could throw 200+ pitches per game and thrive back in the 1950s and 1960s, but not now. Breslow's thesis is about intensification, and I'll add to his pitch after the call-out.

Laurila: If Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal can combine to throw over 400 pitches in a game, why can’t today’s pitchers do the same? Shouldn't advancements in training and sports medicine make it easier to throw a lot of innings?

Breslow: This is obviously a heated debate. Unequivocally, the pitchers of earlier eras threw more, far more, than today's pitchers do. I think that the effects of the advancements in sports medicine and training are somewhat ambivalent. On one hand, pitchers are bigger, stronger, and throwing harder than ever before. However, for this reason, I think they are putting increased strain on the body as well. Perhaps because of strength training and an increased understanding of the anatomical demands of pitching, I can throw 90 miles per hour today, but along with that comes the stress, torque, and wear of a 90 mile per hour fastball. Additionally, I think that kids are pitching, not throwing, more at an earlier age, and athletes are specializing in one sport at an earlier age -- two factors that could lead to injuries.

Breslow's view is that the very processes that make higher velocity possible trigger more stress on the body. I always thought Mark McGwire's career appeared to be shortened by injuries he suffered as a result of building up muscle that overwhelmed other kinds of tissues you can build up (tendons, bones, cartilage) as much through work outs and dietary supplements. Strength disproportionately applied undermines structural integrity.

Breslow's insight suggests the possibility that while you can study and optimize mechanics so that you can throw at higher speeds, the methods for building up structural integrity a lot more to account for the extra force may not exist yet.

To that, I add the passion for tall pitchers. Height contributes to the downward angle a pitch gets thrown on, so, logically, a 6'8" pitcher should be able to get more angle and throw faster with the same effort or the same speed with less effort. Logical, but not a strong enough tendency to make up for, I suspect, associated health problems. For every Randy Johnson or Don Drysdale who has a great career relatively free of injuries, there are a handful of Johnny Gees, Eric Hillmans and Jeff Judens who either get broken or can't keep their mechanics precise enough to succeed.

Like the giant formic acid belchers in "Them!", growing organisms arithmetically requires a steeper growth in strength. The passion for stronger, bigger, more precisely-trained players may be a self-limiting move beyond a certain point.

What methods and practices have you seen at work that work well, get pursued as though they can continue with a straight-line increase and yield, only to stutter or crater? How readily can managers at your shop shift to another set of tactics, and how much resistance do they face when they try?

I thought so.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Mad Mavens Make Mark Masticating Money Matters: MLB As Perfect Market  

Money and the practice of using it in organizational operations is overvalued -- managers tend to spend too much time focusing on it both in daily work and as one of many important tools that shape our means and ends.

I'm not suggesting managers ignore it. I think that in an unpredictable and apparently chaotic world, too many people embrace money because it's measurable (unless Arthur Andersen gets their mitts on it). And so, given our national obsession over money and its movement, and given that the concept of free markets is a faith with more adherents than any other denomination in the U.S., it's shocking that so many people were shocked at the post-World Series surge in the salaries of players being signed.

They felt teams were spending "too much" money, some argued there was across the board overpayment. Others, like the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea, argue salaries for top tier players weren't "too much" but that those for ordinary contributors were. He was so torqued about it, he suggested (perhaps only hyperbolically) the owners should engage in collusion to dampen salaries.

It is, of course, sort of naïve to sit outside an almost perfect model of a "market" and snipe at it because conditions make investment choices rise or fall sharply. Sometimes when I'm giving a presentation or workshop, people will ask why I think baseball embodies an almost perfect representation of a market model against which to test theories about investment. They also ask why baseball instead of football or basketball. Here are a few of the key points I cite:

  • It's a closed system.
  • The surest path to success is to deploy a successful product (winning is, in the general case, the most effective way to icnrease team revenues).
  • Information is as close to perfectly available as it is in any line of endeavor.
  • Change is implicit to the system -- on the field and off it -- and so states are rarely steady, and
  • There are no Soviet-style salary caps as there are in football or basketball.

Anyway, Shea's whingeing was among the most intelligently argued. Abridged, his 12/10 essay highlighted these points.

Mad money  -- John Shea -- SF Chronicle, December 10

Bring back collusion. It might be the only way to put the clamps on baseball owners. It's illegal, but some fans might think the money teams are throwing at so-so players is a crime, too. {SNIP}

The most outrageous activity at the winter meetings involved teams' continued willingness to pay non-star players superstar money. Especially starting pitchers. {SNIP}

Before the winter meetings, the Phillies gave Adam Eaton three years for $24.5 million, significantly upping the market for middle-of-the-rotation pitchers, who now are paid like aces. Eaton has a 4.40 career ERA, and last season it was 5.12 when he went 7-4 in 13 starts for Texas.

Suddenly, agents clearly had the upper hand. With Eaton setting the pace and only Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt listed at the upper tier of starters, lesser pitchers became more valuable. At the meetings, the Cubs gave Ted Lilly four years and $40 million, and the suddenly generous Royals gave Gil Meche (11-8 last season) five years and $55 million.

Lilly, maybe. Though he's a .504 career pitcher (59-58), he is left-handed and won 15 games last season. But Meche? Five years? If Meche deserves five, Zito deserves 10. In the next five years, if Meche repeats his production from the past five years, he'll average nine wins a season. With the Royals, that might be stretching it. Meche never threw 200 innings in a season, and he averaged fewer than six innings per start last season. And four walks per nine innings. He's nothing special, but he gets $11 million annually. {SNIP}

This year's attendance was a record 76 million and revenues topped $5 billion, thanks in large part to record-breaking broadcast contracts and new internet ventures becoming gold mines. Team values averaged $376 million, Forbes estimated a year ago, and profiting owners signed off on a new labor agreement two months before the deadline.

Now they're willing to pay top dollar for not-so-top talent. {SNIP}

More overspending is coming. Jason Marquis (6.02 ERA, a league-high 35 homers allowed for the Cardinals, who left him off the World Series roster) just agreed to a three-year, $21 million deal with the Cubs, and Jeff Suppan, Miguel Batista and Tomo Ohka should be next. Mark Mulder, coming off shoulder surgery, might not be healthy until midseason, but that won't stop a team from writing an enormous check.

Schmidt benefited from the mayhem and joined the Dodgers for three years and $47 million, and Andy Pettitte (coming off a 14-13 season) cashed in on a one-year deal for $16 million with the Yankees. Zito might be making a million bucks for every day he watches the market from afar.{SNIP}

Owners make more money. Players make more money. And haven't you heard? Ticket prices are way up, too.

Salaries are up, but are they "too much"? Uh, no. They're more than we're used to. Expectations we "too low", much as most operations beyond baseball chose to believe oil prices would stay below $50/bbl after the occupation of Iraq. (I do have to push back on Shea's ticket prices assertion, by the way; I'll gather data and post on that later -- he may be right, but I think he's not, and that ticket prices are not up more than inflation).

Imagine an auction where the average past price for the objects was $100. People come to the auction with a fixed amount of money. What gets bid as a norm?

Now imagine the same situation, but every bidder who attends gets given an extra $15 as they enter the door, like the infusion of revenues baseball teams got since the last free agent bidding period. Now what gets bid as a norm? Of course.

Roll in the eternal competitiveness of baseball teams and the fairly open reporting/information around salaries, and the market becomes fairly efficient overall. (How efficient? How about seven different Champions in the last seven years?) Since players make the most difference to the success of teams (in wins and money, among other measures), most of the windfall (perhaps all) will get plowed back into talent acquisition. Many teams with a need to win now (terrible ones like the embarrassing KC Royals, as well as packaged-to-be-sold ones like the Chicago Cubs, as well as relentlessly urgent ones like the Red Sox) may try to pour more into picking up major leaguers and their salaries, while others with less urgency might shift more pelf to scouting and development. But either way, the Talent Is The Product, so the incremental income will most likely go to Talent. 

When Wins/Payroll$ is the factor that brings fans to the stadia and their ears to radio broadcasts and to stores to buy logowear, teams will trend that way.

Put more money in a closed system where the competitors truly want to win, investors invest more. Simply paying cash dividends to the owners won't increase competitiveness.

This errant mismatch of expectations and changed circumstances is a bane to change-resistant management groups beyond baseball. I already cited the widely-held (and clearly infeasible) delusion that oil prices would stay below $50. But beyond Southwest Airlines and Halliburton, I haven't heard of any big businesses that bet heavily on rising fuel prices after the occupation.

The most comfortable projection for change is a smooth, slow evolutionary direction -- but it's not the most likely. Mass broadcast media such as television & radio have built up models in top of assumptions of continued attention, even as they were fading. They are doing a better job of planning now, but they suffered a long disconnect between their expectations and the shift of the market.

In a competitive endeavor, managers have to step away from the way they feel about money and focus on it as a tool among others.  I know and have worked a lot with managers who won't pay a staffer more than they themselves are getting paid...on principle. They just won't do it, even if the situation calls for it, and emotional block to success. Baseball, of course, doesn't mess with that. Most players make more than most managers or GMs, and even some owners. That's the effect of a pretty efficient market on salaries. The reporters hate it...the older ones can remember when player salaries were pretty much in line with top reporter/columnist salaries (and I think this in part fuels the media frenzy over player salaries -- certainly the canard Shea rolls out about ticket prices doesn't effect him since he is unlikely to buy many tickets himself). Beyond baseball, in the truly capitalist part fo the economy, privately owned entrepreneurial organizations, it's pretty common for some of the staff to take home more than the owner (in part the owner is building equity, which staff doesn't get, as in baseball). 

But to Shea and his less rational supporters I say: Sometimes prices aren't "too high"; it's that sometimes expectations are "too low" relative to a shifted market.

NOTE: This is an elaboration of a small point I made within a multi-writer effort for Maury Brown's project, "What's Right and Wrong with Major League Baseball", which is seriously worth reading in its entirety.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

BOSOX UPDATE: Trilateral Negotiation Has Higher Difficulty Rating  

The premise I wrote about Joe Sheehan over at Baseball Prospectus taking -- that the Boston Red Sox were decommissioning the normal player-agent negotiation pattern in the Daisuke Matsuzaka signing effort by pitting the pitcher's agent and the pitcher's Japan Pacific League team (Seibu Lions) against each other to shrink the cost of the deal -- got a probably confirmation today in the Gordon Eads story for the Boston Globe.

Matsuzaka's agent is Scott Boras, and Boras is a master of negotiation, especially in (1) understanding that getting more for the current client increases the market value of clients (and the value of his fixed percentage on contracts), (2) that not making a deal today may result in a higher total return later, and (3) that bringing negotiations to a close when they can't be taken up again for a long time, an apparently suicidal tactic, establishes your determination/zealotry/Kissinger-style-maniac and therefore makes potential antagonists understand how dangerous you are and ergo why they should submit to you.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that Boras is not folding, but apparently playing this hand he was dealt by arguing to bring the negotiation to a close without the Red Sox signing the pitcher, his argument being the pitcher can go back to Japan and play for the Lions for two years and get a much bigger payday playing the in U.S. then. But Eads points out another vector in the negotiations: Japanese fans.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With a week to go before the clock strikes midnight on the Red Sox' quest to sign Daisuke Matsuzaka, perhaps it should not surprise anyone that the Sox are feeling their chances of landing Dice-K are more than a bit dicey.

While general manager Theo Epstein maintains his posture of no public discourse on the state of negotiations, there is increasing anxiety on Yawkey Way that Matsuzaka's agent, Scott Boras, is posing an unreasonable, and immovable, obstacle to their bid to add Matsuzaka to their pitching staff.

According to sources with direct access to the Sox' view, there is an increasing feeling that Boras is setting the stage, both privately and publicly, that there is not going to be a deal. "Unless he's being less than honest," one source said, "there isn't going to be a deal."


The Sox' fear? That Boras persuades Matsuzaka it's in his best interests in the long term to return to Japan for two more years, become an unrestricted free agent, then command perhaps an unprecedented payday without having to share a cent with Seibu. Those concerns were heightened by comments such as this Boras made here Tuesday night: "Matsuzaka has a dream to pitch in the major leagues and he is going to fulfill that dream," Boras said. "The time frame of it, I can't exactly predict."

In the past, Boras has maintained that other posted players should have held out for bigger contracts. Boras has challenged the amateur draft system here, so it's not a stretch to see him challenging the posting system, too. {SNIP}

The flip side of the Sox' fears is this: Matsuzaka is determined to pitch in the major leagues. The prospect of returning to Japan, where he has little left to prove, is an untenable one. Matsuzaka, mindful that home run king Hideki Matsui signed a comparatively modest three-year, $21 million deal just two years ago as an unrestricted free agent, must also deal with the real possibility of being portrayed as unreasonably greedy in his Japan, which remains dazed at the size of the Sox' posting bid and might be dumbfounded if Matsuzaka spurns millions more than he could earn with Seibu.

And Seibu, of course, would much prefer a huge windfall from the Sox than having to return it if Matsuzaka comes back. {SNIP}

Boras apparently isn't measuring the value of this deal by itself but the value it might represent to all his clients (ergo, his relatively fixed percentage of their enlarged take).

Who will blink? I suspect the Red Sox won't. They either get the pitcher they want at the price they're willing to pay, or he is removed from the system. It's not like the competition for a free agent where an agent can play off teams against each other. The math is different -- the Red Sox "loss" does not mean the Yankees' "gain". The pressure on them to close a deal at any price is lowered.

How hard would it be for you to use other interests in a negotiation to reduce the power of your antagonist?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Everything Coulda Been Seibu-ritic: In Which
the Bosox Illustrate a Counter-Intuitive Law of Negotiation  

Most observers who saw the Boston Red Sox bid ~$51 million to Japan' Pacific League Seibu Lions for nothing more than the rights to negotiate with star Lions' pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka (not a penny of that for actual salary, amount to be negotiated) saw madness in their method. The $51 million is about three years pay for a very very highly-paid starter. So on the surface, it was rational to think any deal needed to be very long-term (to amortize that $51 MM over a bunch of seasons. It was also widely assumed that this put Matsuzaka's super-capable agent, the widely-disliked Scott Boras, in the catbird seat -- after all, if a team is paying that much money just for the rights to negotiate, they must think he's worth a ton of currency -- and that means Boras should be able to nail them for a big paycheck for the lad. And the negotiations can't go on for a long time because the deal needs to get resolved soon or else the bid is void: the pitcher returns to the Lions for a lower-than-MLB equivalent salary, the Lions' windfall $51 million returns to the Red Sox, and since no other MLB team can sign the pitcher, Boras comes away with little or nothing.

For the interested+unitiated, details on the mechanics of the process major league teams follow to sign Japanese players is here.

But if Joe Sheehan over at Baseball Prospectus is right (and I suspect he is), the Boston Red Sox offering that off the planet offer for bidding rights is actually a double-edged sword. It's conceivable that the vast amount of bidding-right money is actually forcing the Seibu club to apply pressure on Matsuzaka to take a below-market deal, and I'll explain the mechanics a little later. But it may turn out that a big bid means less money may actually change hands than if the bid had been more "reasonable". Specifics of the posting system play a part, but you may be able to use this technique in your own beyond-baseball negotiations as a buyer, especially when there are more than two alignments in the confab (as with Matsuzaka, Boras, the Lions and the Red Sox, no two of which have identical interests.

Let's start with a rough but widely understandable analogue to the Lions/Red Sox/Matsuzaka/Boras quartet. Let's say you have a cool house in a neighborhood that doesn't have a lot of comparable homes but homes when they do sell go for $175,000 to $300,000. You might be dreaming 300K or even 315K.Your agent thinks it's worth $250,000 and asks $264,500 so there's some negotiation wiggle room. You put it on the market and within a few weeks, you get an offer for $450,000, but only if you close within 30 days. Off the planet. Fifty percent higher than the highest other buyer had paid for a home in your neighborhood. What does it mean for each of the three parties?

For the buyer, there are not any likely competitors.
For the agent, it looks like a quick, easy payday, & she's already counting the cash.
For the seller, it looks like a big payday, & he already counting the cash.

If as a seller, your agent has ice in her veins and you do, too, you know this is a good sign but by no means a winning MegaMillions ticket. Most people don't have ice in their veins, and this is as true in a business-to-business negotiation as it is in a person-to-person or person-to-business transaction.

The buyer is virtually alone now. If a half dozen prospectives had come into the bidding with offers around the asking price (above or below), the agent could have set them against each other. A not uncommon scenario played out in my neighborhood last summer when the winning bidder started below the asking price but ultimately got their house by being $80,000 over the asking price, what was required to "win" the auction-like tussle.

But the buyer is virtually alone now. And if the buyer starts playing time and putting on the squeeze, the buyer's and agent's expectations/dreams of a big payday (and the agent's need to make it worthwhile by getting quick closure) forces apart to some degree the commonality of interests between the seller and the agent. If the buyer says after he gets an inspection, "Well, you have to make this improvement," or "You have to give me $20,000 to cover the repair of this", or any one of dozens of ways to shift the loan or ding the seller's margin, he can use the natural anxiety he's created with the massive offer to make the seller anxious and the agent more so. More often than not, the agent pressures the seller on behalf of the buyer's revised offer.

I've actually seen a seller agree to four rounds of "final" multi-thousand dollar requests on a real estate deal before getting the sale done. I have a (mercifully ex-) client who as buyer made an assembly house eat their hearts out six times after making a stunningly generous initial offer. It takes a lot of smudge to darken the stars in the seller's eyes if the offer is big enough.

So this is a little of Sheehan's interesting commentary (to get the :

There wasn’t any movement yesterday, just a bunch of posturing. Amidst that, however, there were some highly amusing sequences. First, there was this in the Boston Herald:

“We have sent a formal offer to Matsuzaka and his agent Scott Boras,” Lucchino said after meeting with attorneys representing the Seibu Lions. “I believe it is fair and comprehensive, and offers a great deal of security and a substantial level of compensation.”
Now, I can’t speak for any of you, but that sure reads to me like, “and nowhere near the market value of top-tier starters.” Four years and $36 million could be security and substantial compensation, and a time zone shy of the going rate for a pitcher of Matsuzaka’s caliber. If you try and offer him Gil Meche/Ted Lilly money, I seriously doubt you’ll be able to bring him in, not when his comps look a lot more like guys getting 5/75 and more. Adam Eaton just signed a three-year deal for $24 million, and he’s never had an ERA below 4.00 or thrown 200 innings in any season. Matsuzaka is, um, better than that.

Of course, if the Sox sign Matsuzaka, they’re on the hook for $51 million over and above whatever they pay him. A 4/36 deal for him is a 4/87 deal for them, and 5/50 is 5/101, and so on. The $51 million isn’t subject to the payroll tax, so that’s a small benefit, but that money is a huge elephant in the room. The point I argued so poorly two weeks ago is this: if the Red Sox try and make that posting fee Matsuzaka’s problem, they’re not going to be able to sign him. He has no reason to care about that money; he’s not going to see any of it. From their standpoint, they have every reason to make it an issue, because if they invest an average of $19 million a year or more in the right-hander, it’s very hard for him to earn that back for them. It’s quite the standoff.

{SNIP -- the rest of the article requires a Baseball Prospectus subscription}

Let me add a note, too, on seller desperation: the Lions' corporate sponsor, the Seibu Railway Co., has been struggling, and the baseball team (not their biggest hassle) loses about $19 million/year, according to a Business Week article by Ian Rowley from last year.

Sheehan makes some solid observations in the rest of the piece.

  • The Lions are over a barrel because they really need/want the cash more than they want/need Matsuzaka, so they are pulled to negotiate for the Red Sox and against the pitcher and his agent. Their interests have been forked.
  • That if the choice for the Lions becomes nothing or, say, $36 million (probably the ceiling of what they would have expected before bids were made), they have every reason to go for less, even if it means subsidizing the pitcher's Red Sox paycheck with a giveback that ends up paying some of his salary.
  • That for the teams the Red Sox outbid, it's angst time because the Red Sox, even with the off the planet bid for the rights to negotiate, may end up getting Matsuzaka at a total cost (bid rights + player contract) that is below what they themselves had budgeted.

He doesn't mention the additional twist of lemon in the espresso: It diminishes the value of the deal to agent Boras, and makes him look less clever than he almost always looks.

A deal like this is almost always a poisoned-well deal for the buyer, one that precludes doing business with the other parties again. It's not the other parties will always refuse, but they will load on lots of overhead in subsequent negotiations t defend themselves against tricks. The assembly house, by the way, did business with my client again, in part because their offshored labor costs were so low, they could make money just be keeping throughput up.

And in the case of the Red Sox, they will probably never deal with Seibu again, and Boras, puckish trickster that he is himself, may be the kind of person who actually finds it cute or admires their acuity. And he certainly won't bite off his nose to spite his face and refuse to do business with the second best-funded team in the majors.

Strange but true: In the end, a bumper bid can be a weapon against the seller.

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