POSTCARDS FROM THE BASEBALL WINTER MEETINGS

No one can say Major League
Baseball is spending money like a drunken fool in these challenging economic
times.  All you have to do is check my
travel itinerary to this week’s Winter Meetings to prove that point.  Back in my NFL days as a team PR executive,
no one blinked when we spent a full week at a resort hotel in some warm, exotic
locale like Miami or Laguna Beach. 
But now, as I write this on board a flight with our GM Billy Beane and equipment manager Steve Vucinich,
I’m headed to America’s heartland–Indianapolis, Indiana, where the three of us will
share a cab ride to the downtown Marriott later this evening. 


One thing many of you may not know is
Baseball’s Winter Meetings are predominantly an annual gathering for minor
league personnel.  The Major League
contingent is probably less than 30% of the hundreds of people who attend the
event, which probably explains why the meetings are held in places like Indy, Louisville or other minor
league cities.  And while Major League
GMs like Billy seem to dominate the daily media coverage at the Winter Meetings
each year, there is a veritable cross section of professional baseball
represented at these annual conclaves. 
Beyond team and league personnel on both the major and minor league
levels, you will see hordes of sportswriters and electronic media at the
meetings–including broadcast partners MLB Network, ESPN, ESPN Radio and
Sirius/XM Radio–as well as player agents, equipment vendors and  job seekers. 


I’m anxious to see what the layout of the Marriott is, as how functional
the meetings will be is directly related to such things.  Some past meetings have been held at the
Opryland Hotel in Nashville,
where the rooms are nice but the lobby configuration is a nightmare.  There is
no lobby, just various identical quadrants filled with indoor trees and
shrubbery which made it really difficult to find people you may want to meet
with.   You needed a compass just to take the right elevator to your room!  So, ideally, the Marriott has a spacious main
lobby, and all the meeting rooms are conveniently located within one end of the
hotel. 

 

As the A’s public relations
director, my week will consist of league PR Meetings in the mornings, assisting
Bay Area writers–such as the San
Francisco Chronicle’s
John Shea and the Bay
Area News Group’s
Joe Stiglich–who are on site covering the event, pitching
stories to national media like Sports
Illustrated
, ESPN and USA Today, and attending a MLB subcommittee
meeting. 


I am particularly looking
forward to a Communications Meeting chaired by MLB President Bob DuPuy on
Tuesday, as he never sugar-coats issues that challenge baseball yet he is a
very logical and pragmatic thinker who understands what drives our
business.  There will also be some
evening social functions, including the A’s Organizational Reception for all
major and minor league personnel Tuesday night and perhaps a night out with the
media at a local restaurant–I have had St. Elmo’s Steakhouse on my “bucket
list” for many years and hope to finally eat there on this trip–and later in
the week, I will cover the Rule 5 Draft in the event we select a player like we
did last hear (Ben Copeland). 

 

Each evening around 6 p.m.,
Billy will host our Bay Area media in his hotel suite, giving the reporters an
opportunity to ask questions for the stories they will write later that
evening.  I refer to this as “The Media
Dance,” as more times than not, there simply is no hard news to report.  So, the writers and Billy engage in a
conversation of hypotheticals.  “If
another team were to offer you a deal that involved a slugging first baseman,
would you be willing to give up some of your best pitching prospects?,” a
reporter might ask.  Then Billy, being
the good soldier, would try his best to give an honest quote without really
saying a whole lot.  “Well, John, we are
always willing to listen.  However, it
would have to be an impact player who has a long-term future with us, not
merely a rental player.”  And so it will
go.  Probably the highlight of most
session is the round of beers Billy usually offers all of us in
attendance.  No guarantees here, as my
time schedule can go sideways in a New York second if we happen to make news
with a player acquisition, but my intentions here in Indianapolis will be to
file a short blog daily, sharing observations and information that hopefully
you will find of interest. 


Stay tuned…

1 Comment

Bob,

I love this behind the scenes look from you on what the Winter Meetings are all about. I am looking forward to your updates from Indianapolis. Thanks for being willing to write.

Tell Vucinich to look into those weird energy “bands/bracelets” all the Yankees seemed to be wearing in the postseason. Maybe the team can add these to the budget if no free agents become available!

Here is my wish list: Garrett Anderson to the A’s to form a platoon with Hairston!

Have a great week.

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