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.

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.