POSTCARDS FROM THE 2011 WINTER MEETINGS #4

The scene yesterday in the Chantilly West Ballroom at the Winter Meetings would be one of the greatest fantasies a baseball fan could ever have.  Each year, all 30 Major League managers gather for a special reception and lunch with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Standing within a couple thousand square feet are the Who’s Who of big league skippers.  Joe Madden, sporting a pair of his distinctive eyewear and a slick sports coat, is at one end of the room, sharing an anecdote or two with a national baseball writer.  A’s manager Bob Melvin, certainly no stranger to this annual event, having experienced two previous managerial stints with Milwaukee and Arizona, is surrounded by two other Northern California-born managers in Cincinnati’s Dusty Baker and Dale Sveum, the new field general of the Chicago Cubs. 

Over at the drink line is former Yankee great Don Mattingly, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager, talking to an old friend, Buck Showalter, the Baltimore Orioles’ skipper.  And, of course, there’s the man in perpetual motion, new Marlins’ manager Ozzie Guillen, who has already generated as much buzz for the re-born Miami franchise as the signing of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buerhle during these meetings.  Even for someone as jaded as me, who has worked in professional sports for three decades, I find the managers luncheon to be a true spectacle.  Where else can you find 30 high-profile leaders in one location outside of a NATO or U.S.-European Union Summit? 

Yesterday reminded me of the first time I had the privilege to attend a private dinner in Cooperstown, hosted by Jane Forbes Clark, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was held prior to the induction ceremonies that particular weekend.  It was a wonderful affair, and like any life-long baseball fan, I felt like the proverbial kid in the candy store.  All of my childhood heroes had come to life, with Hall of Famers standing in the buffet line ahead and behind me.  It was baseball’s version of the movie Night at the Museum.  Former stars tended to flock together by team.  There at one table were former Baltimore Orioles, including Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer.  Meanwhile, I was in the food line discussing entrée choices with Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez of the Big Red Machine.  Sometimes we take things for granted, but when you are dropped in the middle of living and breathing Hall of Famers, you quickly realize this is a pretty fun gig.  

As for A’s Assistant GM David Forst, subbing for Billy Beane with the Bay Area journalists, he seemed to have a little fun himself in bantering back and forth.  Only the past few hours, Twitter posts were coming in at a dizzying pace, noting multiple teams that allegedly have shown interest in some of the A’s top pitchers.  Forst would not confirm any specifics, but he did acknowledge there was significant interest shown by teams he or Billy had spoken with earlier in the day.  While David said, point blank, that there would be no deals consummated last night, he did say they have a better idea of the current landscape than they did when they arrived in Dallas Sunday.

This morning, us remaining A’s staff members attended the Rule 5 Draft, and will soon board flights and be on our way home. Thanks for following our blog this week.  I hope it gave you some insight on the proceedings.  Pitchers and catchers report to Phoenix in 41 days.  The season nears.

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