Thoughts on the Winter Meetings

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Two or three years from now this will all be old hat for me. I’ll be of the Winter Meetings, not merely at them. For now, however, I wish to preserve some observations taken as an outsider to this mad process:

  • The central dynamic of the first day of the meetings was the extreme activity of nothing happening.  Whereas, I’m told, in years past slow news was met with a lot of reporters standing around talking about the lack of news, now it’s met with everyone tweeting about either (a) the lack of news; or (b) the smallest nothing of a rumor in an effort to bootstrap it into something approaching news, usually unsuccessfully.

  • I won’t complain about Twitter’s impact on the meetings itself — it is what it is — but it has the strangest impact on the writers using it.  Mostly I’m struck by how much content and, subsequently, pageviews writers are giving away to Twitter.  Sure, we here at CTB tweet, but not everything and not constantly.  A lot of writers who have primary online outlets, however, are racing to tweet things rather than racing to write even the most basic of blurbs about it on their own websites. Are they “extending their brand,” or are they “robbing their employer of web traffic”?  That’s for the web philosophers to decide, I suppose, but it strikes me that it’s better for me and NBC if you all are reading my b.s. here rather than on Twitter.  Dissenting views appreciated.

  • I’m struggling to think of anywhere I’ve ever been where the male-to-female ratio is so extreme. It’s like Amalie Benjamin and a thousand dudes. 

  • Peter Gammons doesn’t go anywhere without his iPod.

  • Tracy Ringolsby doesn’t go anywhere without his cowboy hat.

  • The Japanese reporters don’t go anywhere without each other. Ever watch the “Planet Earth” documentaries? You know the amazing scenes showing the schools of fish dashing around in perfect unison, darting left and right as if guided by a hive mind?  That’s the Japanese reporters.  They’re mostly interested in where Hideki Matsui is going and they really want to know why anyone would not want to sign Hideki Matsui.

  • I know I shouldn’t be, but I continue to be amazed that I can just leave my laptop in the big press room and no one will mess with it while I’m away.

  • They don’t have coffee in the press room. They have water and soda, but not coffee. I’m guessing the people that run the Starbucks in the hotel lobby have something to do with that.

That’s all I got right now.  We’ll be back at it all day today.  Yesterday we had 50+ posts, and that’s without much of anything happening. Imagine how much we’ll shoot your way in the event some actual news transpires.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.