The Winter Meetings in full swing in Nashville, Tennessee and the baseball world is buzzing. What is mostly a job fair at its heart, all the best and brightest baseball minds gather to talk shop, renew acquaintances and generally busy themselves with all manner of hot stove nonsense. Some work gets done, agents work the room, reporters press the flesh and twitter lights up like a Christmas tree any time anybody says or does anything.
It can be a little confusing and a lot daunting at times. The Wall of Noise emanating from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel screamsg into your ears and eyes without much a filter. It is important to parse the information as best you can, sifting out the crap in search of the precious nuggets of truth. Let Getting Blanked be your guide to the 2012 Baseball Winter Meetings: Because Every Group Hug Needs a Logo.
Tweets About the Hotel
The venue for this year’s Winter Meetings is everything awful about everything, if the steady stream of complaints is to be believed. The Gaylord Opryland hotel is a planet of nondescript rooms surrounding bland conference floor space. Media rooms and spotty wifi coldspots mixed with high traffic carpeting and soul-destroying mall food.
The geography of the hotel is sure to provide the greatest beef, as writers trudge backing and forth from the conference space to their hotel room gives ample whiny tweet time. As annoying as this might be, use it as a great time to thin your “following” herd a little. Ken Rosenthal has no time to tweet petty beefs about the accommodations? Why? HE’S OUT THERE BREAKING NEWS, BERNSTEIN. NOT SNAPPING TWITPICS OF GARISH HOTEL EXCESSES. Enjoy your watery coffee and cram it.
Everyone Is In On Everything
Breathless reports of Team X being “in on” Player Y are the most common form of Winter Meeting detritus. “The Mariners are in on everyone!” “The Red Sox are in on This Famous Guy Who Wants Lots of Money!” Not that there isn’t truth to some of the reports but beware the eternal battle between wheat and chaff.
Some teams are truly in pursuit of all the top free agents. Others are not. Your favorite team`s brain trust is working the phones, crunching the numbers and so on and so forth. Every crazy proposal your message board friends cook up has already been considered, measured, and floated in meeting. Yup, even that one. It`s their job, people. No stone goes unturned.
All His Suits are Torn, All His Bets are Hedged
Player X is attracting a lot of attention from teams in need of _______ help. His general manager remains extremely reluctant to move him of course. Lather, rinse, repeat. Obvious trade targets might be moved but THEN AGAIN, perhaps they will not.
Borrow from the realm of the possible and take a quick peek into the world of the entirely possible, come up with something doable but not likely and: boom. Rumor successfully mongered and in the bar in time for Monday Night Football. Nobody keeps score so even if you’re way way off, the newspaper gets its column inches and the precious retweets are acquired. Everybody wins.
The Boras/Heyman Unholy Alliance
If you aren’t familiar with the whole “Jon Heyman as Scott Boras’ Mouthpiece” thing, I welcome you to Getting Blanked! I hope you enjoy your first visit. In a nutshell: Jon Heyman is notorious for seeming to write/speak only the interests of those under the flag of Superagent Scott Boras.
Because Heyman is notoriously “brash” and “appears unlikable in every way”, he catches a lot of crap about his dalliances with the dark lord of the four percent commission. If we’re being honest, most of the crap he catches is more about jealousy than anything else. Most people, myself included, would perform unspeakable acts for someone like Boras feeding them information.
As long as you can avoid picturing Scott Boras pulling the strings like a puppeteer when reading Heyman’s tweets, you just might get a scoop. While not the exclusive property of Heyman, Scott Boras’ media scrum is the stuff of legend, as he expounds on all manner while surveying his kingdom. Especially with Michael Bourn still out there, a key member of Boras’ stable, Boras and Heyman are two to watch this week.
Building a Mystery Team
“Mystery team” humor is played out and done to death, as the device is as soul-deadening as any at this time of year. Right up until the point where the Mystery Team emerges to sign away one of the big free agents. It doesn’t happen often enough to justify the giggling when the first writer floats it in a tweet or column, frankly.
Does the free agent process benefit from the veil of secrecy for which some teams strive? Some GMs believe so, claiming they lose leverage when all potential signings know exactly how much and how long they might be willing to go with certain other players.
On the other hand, so often the “usual suspects” are just cover. When Prince Fielder took his turn in the free agency pool last year, he was attached to everyone from the Orioles to the Rangers. Or not the Tigers, the team he eventually signed with.
Even to the teams involved, there are mystery teams. Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told Boston radio station WEEI that he had “no idea” the Red Sox were so close to signing Mike Napoli. Jack Z and his Mariners were thought to be hotly pursuing the former Rangers and Angels backstop.
Suddenly Napoli signs with the Red Sox, much to the assumed chagrin of a GM probably trying to save his job. Even when the choices seem pretty cut and dried, these deals come together so quickly that even those involved until the eleventh hour can get left in the dust.
The Winter Meetings tap is difficult to turn off. So many agendas, so many slaves to so many masters can make the experience bewildering for the honest fan who just wants to see his team get better. The wishcasting/rosterbatory instincts get the better of us, turning innocent rumblings into elaborate multi-team deals which end up with YOUR team getting Giancarlo Stanton while only giving up your setup guy and fourth-best prospect.
That is not reality but, then again, neither is the Winter Meeting universe. In a world where Scott Boras is king, there can be only madness, suffering, and yachts. Lots of yachts.