POSTCARD #4 FROM THE BASEBALL WINTER MEETINGS
Another slow day in Winter
Paradise. Snowflakes aside, not much to
report here in Indy. We finished up the
league PR Meetings this morning, mostly concentrating on the explosion of
social media and how baseball can best integrate its communications efforts
with the Facebooks and Twitters of the world.
At noon, the annual Managers Luncheon was held at the Marriott, an event
solely held for the benefit of sports writers covering the Winter Meetings. There’s a half-hour reception, followed by an
informal 90-minute lunch and Q&A session.
Each major league manager is placed at a round table and media join
in. Bob Geren hosted our A’s media, Joe Stiglich of the Contra
Costa Times/Oakland Tribune, John Shea of
the San Francisco Chronicle and Tom Singer of MLB.com (filling
in for the departed Mychael Urban). I
had to chuckle a bit, however, when five Japanese media joined our table. Clearly, an unfounded rumor that the A’s are
interested in a certain pinned-striped free agent from the Pacific
Rim had rattled a few cages.
What I have found over the years is this: if there are no real stories to report,
rumors start to surface with great regularity.
But no harm, no foul. Geren was
his usual gracious self, engaging in conversation with the Asian journalists,
asking them questions about professional baseball in Japan
and where they are stationed in the U.S.
About a dozen of the club PR
directors met with MLB President Bob DuPuy
yesterday afternoon. It’s always good to
hear his perspective on things and also appreciate the fact he asks us for our
opinions. Offering a big-picture view,
he said he was very pleased with this past baseball season, particularly since
it started with less than ideal conditions.
There were the concerns associated with a sagging economy. Then the A-Rod revelations during spring training followed, along with the
early-season suspension of Manny Ramirez. But as those steroid-related stories began to
fade, baseball fans seemed to turn their attention away from that issue,
perhaps confident that baseball, indeed, was restoring its reputation through a
serious drug testing program that even penalized some of the superstars of the
game. Add the amazingly smooth launch of
MLB Network, a World Baseball Classic that drew more fans than the Winter
Olympics, President Obama’s visit during the All-Star Game in St. Louis, and exciting playoff races, and
the sport gained tremendous momentum heading into the postseason. And that momentum continued throughout the
division and league championship series, thanks to good baseball and several
large markets represented, so it was no wonder TV ratings and public interest
were well above normal in 2009. While
it’s hard for us A’s fans to swallow, there’s no question the vaunted Yankees
winning the World Series only added to the overall national interest of Major
League Baseball this year.
Final observations and notes from the Winter
Meetings: First, for those of you just dying for my restaurant
review of St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, the legendary eatery in downtown Indianapolis, let me put
my food critic hat on. I would rate St.
Elmo’s among the better steak houses I have ever eaten at, certainly comparable
to Bern’s in Tampa,
Peter Luger’s in Brooklyn, Morton’s in Chicago
or Manny’s in Minneapolis. I ordered the bone-in ribeye, which was truly
big league. It was recommended I also try their famous
shrimp cocktail, which was very good.
However, the horseradish in the cocktail sauce was almost nuclear.
I still wonder if it destroyed some of my nose membranes. Of course, the real fun at the Winter
Meetings is you are apt to run into other baseball people at such
restaurants. There was a contingent from
the Cardinals there. I had to give a
double-take when I saw Tony LaRussa
there. Tony is well known for his
vegetarian views, so a beef haven like St. Elmo’s wasn’t exactly the obvious
place I expected to see the Cardinal skipper.
When we returned to the hotel, the lobby was still buzzing. Ironically, most of the conversation was not
about trades or player rumors, but centered on Peter Gammons’ surprise move from ESPN to the MLB Network, which
was announced yesterday. Of course,
we’re thrilled to add the Hall of Fame writer to our network lineup. If you want to talk “ball,” what could be
greater than a panel that includes Gammons, Bob Costas and Tom Verducci?
Billy Beane held his final session with the Bay Area
media this afternoon, moment before he was to catch a flight back to the Bay
Area. He acknowledged that he and David
Forst had had additional meetings and phone conversations with player agents,
mostly just kicking the tires to see which free agents might be available. But basically Billy reiterated his earlier
contention, that the Winter Meetings are good for setting perimeters and
gathering information, but player deals are much more likely to crystallize
once GMs return their offices. In other
words, my bone-in ribeye very well might have been the highlight of the
Meetings. But next time, I think I’ll
pass on the shrimp cocktail.