ORLANDO, Fla. - Scott Boras had some words for the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, and they were far from kind. And he also backed the Tampa Bay Rays' desire for a new ballpark.
On the third day of the general managers' meetings, the baseball agent with the highest profile stood in the hotel lobby for a question-and-answer session that gathered an amount of media so large that hotel security told him to move to a remote corridor.
Boras wants to goad teams into spending more on free agents. When he focused on the Mets, he pointed out their concentration on captain David Wright and young pitchers such as Matt Harvey — his client — and Zack Wheeler.
"The Mets are like NASA," Boras said. "They have big rockets, a lot of platforms and very few astronauts. Astronauts are hard to find. They've got one guy with the 'Wright' stuff, that's for sure. And they've got a lot of Arm-strongs, too. But they're certainly a club that I'm sure that's in pursuit of a higher level of talent."
Boras has been stepping up his criticism of large-market teams lacking lofty payrolls. Following the collapse of Bernard Madoff Ponzi's scheme, the Mets have cut payroll by about one-third over the past two seasons and were 17th at about $95 million in the latest 2013 figures.
"I think the ability to spend and actually spending are two different things. And that's only for the Mets to diagnose," Boras said. "Certainly their franchise value has gone through the roof — they're well over $2 billion. They're a very successfully run business operation. The Mets have the ability to do pretty much what they want to do. But it's hard to find astronauts."
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson responded in a low-key manner: "I don't think his intergalactic metaphor is exactly right."
Asked what was incorrect, Alderson said: "I'm not sure because I've first got to understand it."
The Cubs were 15th in payroll this year at about $101 million. Boras said the Rickets family, which bought the team four years ago, has put too much emphasis on the redevelopment of Wrigley Field and not enough on major league payroll.
"You're developing the infrastructure, but fans don't come to see seats, grass, cement. They come to see players," he said. "They've done a great job in the draft and development and they've got a really good core of young players coming, but it is just not what's expected when you have a (family) buy a major-market club."
Boras compared the Tampa Bay Rays' situation to Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities," saying there was "the one they're in and the one they should be in." The Rays repeatedly have said Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg is inadequate, and they drew a major league-low 1.5 million at home despite reaching the playoffs for the fourth time in six years.
"They need a new ballpark. They need to address that," he said. "But certainly the bell's been answered by the organization as far as putting a product on the field that would normally attract fans."
He joked about the Astros, who traded veterans and cut payroll to around $29 million — $13 million less than any other big league team. Houston went a team-worst 51-111 and the Astros' 324 losses over three years matched the 1917 Philadelphia Athletics for third most in major league history.
"The Astros," he said, "they're like Disneyland. If the kids come, it's a great attraction."