Goodbye to the 2009 Winter Meetings

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The roadies are taking the stage, packing it up and tearing it down.
They’re the first to come and last to leave, you know. I can hear the
sound of slamming doors and folding chairs. But when that last laptop’s
been packed away, you know that I still want to, um, tweet.

OK, enough of that. The Winter Meetings are over. Oh, they still may
announce something or other, but most of the writers have left and most
of the teams have too, so I’m going to aim the Honda east and head back
home myself.  If something big goes down yet today, rest assured,
you’ll be in capable hands with Aaron and Matthew.

But before I go, some reflection.  What did we learn at the 2009 Winter
Meetings?  Among many things, I think we learned the following:

  • The Yankees mean business. Not the old win-at-all-costs business, but a
    newer win-at-smart-costs business.  They got Granderson. They got
    Pettitte. They may yet get Halladay. As I type, they’re in the process
    of shoving Johnny Damon’s severe lack of leverage down his throat in
    some suite upstairs.  If the season started tomorrow, they’d be a
    better team than they were last season with a lower payroll.

  • The Mets are sound and fury signifying nothing. All sorts of talk about
    what they might do this week, but nothing happened short of some
    yeah-maybe-we’ll-sign-Molina-eventually garbage.  Sure, in this they
    were no less active than just about every other team, but the Mets
    didn’t do anything to lower expectations, and even said some things
    while here that caused expectations to be raised.  Ultimately that
    neither helps nor harms the ballclub — good moves are moves no matter
    when they come — but a lot of Mets fans are telling me that they feel
    jerked around by the team, and that can’t be good.

  • The Red Sox are taking things slowly.  Unlike the Mets, they have a
    front office that has earned the benefit of the doubt, so to the extent
    they have been less active it’s not too big a deal.  Still, this last
    day Lowell deal is interesting, as it seems to be clearing the decks
    for Adrian Beltre.  Of all of the places Beltre could go Fenway is
    where he’d make the most impact, so if that happens it’s a good thing
    for Boston.

  • I love the Fake Kenny Williams.  I don’t think I’ve mentioned it
    before, but there’s a guy here who looks like a fatter Kenny Williams. 
    Not sure who he is or who he works for, but he has the same haircut and
    same features. Could be his brother. Many of the writers even mistook
    him for Williams for the first day or so.  Some of us saw him talking
    to people in the lobby last night and desperately wished that he was
    spreading false White Sox rumors.  “Well, we’re thinking about
    converting Beckham into a reliever seeing as how valuable they are
    these days.”

  • I love the Japanese media. They’ve inspired me to go to Japan and ask the manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters if he saw Alex Ramirez’s performance in the Japan Series and whether he’d like to have a player like Alex Ramirez on his team.

  • Twitter has transformed this business. I’m new to the business so I
    don’t appreciate the differences, but every last reporter here has
    talked about just how different this all is now that Twitter has been
    adopted by just about everyone.  Last year everyone had to wait until
    MLB Trade Rumors refreshed to see what was going on.  Before then,
    everyone had to wait until the newspaper websites refreshed.  Now? The
    news cycle lasts, oh, about seventeen seconds.

  • Despite this, not too many people really know how to use Twitter yet. 
    The New York Post guys get it. So does Buster Olney and Pete Abraham. 
    For the most part they tweet teasers to their stories with a link to
    their website. So many other reporters, however, tweet their scoops,
    depriving their employers of clicks and allowing others to jump them. 
    A scoop represents a lot of hard work. Why the hell
    do you want to give it away like that?  Here’s a suggestion: find a way to shorten the time it takes to turn reporting into publication — by, say, removing a couple layers of editors you all complain about — and get those scoops onto the homepage faster.  This is not newsprint. You can fix the punctuation later.

  • Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos is Howard Hughes. He stayed in his hotel suite all
    week, probably watching old RKO movies while wearing Kleenex boxes on
    his feet. Hughes had Jane Russel. Anthopoulos has Roy Halladay.

  • The sporting press needs to man-up.  All I heard all week was how cold
    and icky it was here in Indianapolis. And yes, it was cold and icky.
    But they’re the Winter Meetings, dudes. It’s the Hot Stove
    Season. Next year it’s in Disney World. I’m guessing it will be harder
    to sharpen the mind and crank out the product when it’s 70 degrees and
    everyone is drinking banana daiquiris.

  • That said, the sporting press is made up of some really excellent
    people.  You hear a lot about crusty and cranky old baseball writers. Even from me sometimes.  Well, just about every baseball writer who
    matters was here this week, and I didn’t meet too many crusty or cranky
    ones.  Sure, we see the game differently and we write about it
    differently, but they’re all pretty nice guys and gals.  They’ll lend
    you their phone charger if you need it. They’ll shout out the terms to
    a deal you’re writing about so you don’t have to look it up.  Best of
    all, they’ll share war stories with you that are beyond fabulous.  If I
    take issue with sports writers going forward, be clear about one thing:
    I’m hatin’ on their game, not on the player.

With that, I’m outta here.  I’ll be back bright and early tomorrow with a decidedly less cranked-up version of CTB.

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.