Monday, January 02, 2006

Life of the Party

When super agent Scott Boras was invited to dinner at Rangers owner Tom Hicks' sprawling Texas mansion to discuss the potential signing of free agent pitcher Kevin Millwood, Boras knew he would have to keep his 6-foot-6 host distracted.

A couple of dull moments, and Hicks might remember the 2001 deal with Boras' last client, Chan Ho Park, who signed for $62 million and nearly destroyed his franchise.

The effervescent agent quickly shifted his personality into high gear: After presenting Hicks with an exploding cigar, he catapaulted several pieces of silverware into Hicks' drinking glass. Boras tried the old "pull-my-finger" joke, then he reached inside his $350 silk shirt and made farting noises in his armpit. And he kept pace with Hicks' every move, both of them coating each serving of the lavish eight-course meal with a half inch of ketchup.

Finally Boras drew a moustache on an oil painting of Tom Hicks' mother, and when he saw that wide, dull smile creep across the lumbering team owner's face once again, he moved in for the kill.

Using an effective yet brilliantly simple ruse, he warned Hicks his shoe was untied, even though Hicks was wearing cowboy boots, and when Hicks bent down to check, Boras quickly emptied two packets of "happy powder" into the big Texan's after-dinner mint julep.

At the end of the evening when the jovial Hicks knocked Boras' glasses off with a powerful slap across the top of the agent's back, Chan Ho Park was but a dim memory and Boras had signed Millwood to a potential five-year deal worth more than $60 million.

And it was all achieved with Hicks bidding against himself for a 31-year-old pitcher who hasn't won as many as 17 games since 2002, hasn't pitched as many as 200 innings since 2003, has for the previous three years been unable to get anything better than a one-year contact from anybody, was shown the door in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Cleveland, missed more than two months with an inflamed labrum five years ago, missed a month two years ago with a strained ligament and tendon, and only won nine games last year for the Indians, who had him under contract for a mere $3 million annual base.

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