Postcard #3 from the GM Winter Meetings
For many of you following
the A’s negotiations with agent Don Nomura,
who represented Japanese All-Star pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, our announcement released late last night should not have come as much
of a surprise. As our local media–as
well as dozens of reporters for national and Tokyo outlets in his homeland–had
chronicled during the exclusive 30-day negotiating period, prospects for
signing the Rakuten right-hander were in doubt from the early going.
That said, I do believe both Mr. Nomura and
the A’s brain trust headed by Billy Beane and David Forst,
made every effort to close the gap and reach an agreement. I know this does not appease
many of you fans who are hoping Oakland becomes a player on the free agent or
trade market this winter. My response to
you is this: First, don’t forget we have
already upgraded ourselves with the acquisition of outfielder David DeJesus, someone who was heavily pursued by several teams last
year prior to the trading deadline until a thumb injury ended his season. Second, the A’s still have currency to invest
in new players, whether they come via the free agent market or trades. Certainly, the mega deals struck by Jason Werth and Adrian Gonzalez, both way north of $100
million, does not help the A’s or any small market team’s cause, but that’s not
to say there are not deals out there to be made for legitimate
middle-of-the-order hitters. Third, let
me remind all of us that it is only Dec. 8.
There’s a lot of territory to cover between now and the season, so let’s
try to be patient and see what develops in the coming months. Clearly, Billy and David have identified
their needs, and I can attest from first-hand knowledge that they are burning
the midnight oil in attempts to add critical pieces to our 2011 team.
One of the warmer moments of
this year’s Winter Meetings happened this morning, when Commissioner Bud Selig paid tribute to four legendary managers, who retired
after this past season. Joe Torre, Lou
Pinella and Cito Gaston were present at the media conference here, but
Braves’ executive John Schuerholz had to pinch-hit
Cox, who missed the festivities due to a
family medical emergency. I was in the
audience, along with many other baseball people who wanted to pay their
respects to four men who have meant so much to this game. It was truly a unique press conference,
really more of a coronation than an interrogation by the media corps. I give credit to the Commissioner and League
PR man Pat Courtney for providing this platform for a newsworthy event.
From my past years in the NFL, I always
marveled at how the late, great Pete Rozelle
would always have news in his back pocket whenever needed at these annual media
events. A former PR director himself,
Rozelle knew full well that you needed to “feed the beast” because if
journalists spend the money to cover the meetings, their bosses expect
news. By adding these staged events, it
just helps media justify the expense whether there a many signings or trades
that happen to hit during the meetings or not.
In listening to the three managers in attendance, it struck me how much
they had in common beyond career victories and championships.
One of the common threads was their love for
the game. Torre shared how to him,
“baseball is always brand new. I still
get goose bumps when a game is played.”
After spending some years in the sport, I think I understand what he’s
saying. And of the great ones I’ve known
or observed, they all brought energy, passion and yes, love, for the game every
day of their lives. Rickey Henderson,
Willie Mays, Dennis Eckersley, Reggie Jackson all had that same trait.
One of the trademark scenes
in our league PR Meetings each year is when you notice certain team’s PR staffs
absent during presentations. Normally, I
can tell you which clubs are about to make news announcements based on who’s
missing at their seats. This morning, Jay Alves of the Colorado Rockies was absent. I thought maybe he had just had a long night
celebrating after being named this year’s recipient of the Robert Fishel Award,
which honors a member of the MLB public relations fraternity for a lifetime of
exemplary service. Jay once sat in my
seat with the Athletics during the Haas Family Era, and it was great to see him
get the award and even more impressive to see how humble Jay was and how he
thanked so many people in his life. Some
had Oakland A’s connections, including current A’s Director of Team Travel Mickey Morabito and former club mainstays, Hall of Fame broadcaster Lon Simmons and marketing executive Andy Dolich.
his acceptance speech at the PR reception last night by illustrating the wide
range of experiences and responsibilities that go with his job as a baseball PR
man. First, he comically recalled the
time when the team brought a real elephant
on the Coliseum field as a pre-game promotion.
“Before long, I noticed that the elephant was taking his trunk and
sucking up huge grass divots. The media
wanted to know why there were so many extra ‘on-deck circles’ near the A’s
dugout!” Then Jay, on a more somber
note, told us how the family of Keli McGregor
asked him to write his eulogy when the Rockies’ president suddenly died in a Salt Lake City hotel room
last April. The obvious disparity between
these light and heavy moments did demonstrate, however, just how wide
the scope of our jobs is.
So, when I saw
Jay absent this morning, I thought either he was out late last night, or like
many PR people, he was back in his hotel room preparing a press release to
announce a trade or free agent signing.
Then when I went on line during our meeting break, I read on MLB.com
that Alves’ manager Jim Tracy had collapsed near
hotel elevators around 1 a.m. this morning, and was now resting comfortable at
a nearby Orlando
hospital. Jay, along with former A’s
star infielder (and now Rockies’ coach) Carney Lansford, had been with Tracy
when it occurred. And it was Jay who
would serve the normal PR function hours later when he served as a spokesperson
about the incident. Thankfully, it
will be okay. And for Alves, he can mark
it up as yet another unique experience in this crazy profession.