Greetings from the last day of the Winter Meetings


We watched and waited yesterday to see if the Mega Deal would go down. We waited to see if Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke would sign anywhere. None of that happened, so we did what everyone else does at the Winter Meetings: we went out. But this was no ordinary outing. This was an Important Mission. Why? Because it involved fine distilled spirits and the making thereof.

In our party: a couple of guys here at the Winter Meetings for the trade show. One is Daniel Cruz of Anchor Brewing and the other is Brian Casterline of B-R Carts and Kiosks, Inc. Daniel is is Anchor’s Marketing Manager and it is his mission to get as many ballparks as possible to carry Anchor’s fine brews. Brian is the managing partner in the design department at B-R, and it is his mission to design and then sell the latest in beer and hot dog carts. If Daniel and Brian are successful in their mission, beer and hot dogs will be delivered unto us more efficiently.

So, what I’m saying here is that Daniel and Brian are doing God’s work.

source:  We met Daniel and Brian through my friend Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated and they, in turn, introduced us to Corsair Distillery. Corsair is a craft distillery here in Nashville, and over the course of the week I’ve managed to try a couple of their products. It’s fine, fine stuff, so when we were given the chance to take a private tour, we jumped on it. Daniel, Brian Jay and I went downtown to the distillery, which is housed in the ancient and beautiful factory that once built the Marathon automobile. It’s a cool and funky space now, with a tap room serving fantastic microbrews and other fun things.  There’s also a cat that prowls the distillery and he is, without a doubt, the luckiest cat in the world.

At the end of the private tour, when we had the chance to taste and then purchase some of those fine products, we  jumped all over that too. I’m taking a couple bottles of their Triple Smoke whiskey home today — think of it as an American version of single malt scotch — and I couldn’t be happier. After that we went to City House (it was actually our second time there this week) and had fantastic noms.

Then it was back to the Opryland for the nightly mingling with the movers and shakers in baseball.  The most interesting person I met last night: Jim Leyritz. Yup. In a bar of all places. But — and this is extremely important given what has happened in his life in recent years — he was not drinking, which was encouraging. He looks good too, and people tell me that he’s taking care of himself. Glad to see him doing well with the second chance he has been given. Less glad that, when I stopped him and told him that his home run in the 1996 World Series friggin’ killed me, he smiled as if he enjoys thinking about that more than anything else in the world. Grumble.

The night wound down with front office executives, agents, managers, some players, vendors from the trade show, some fans and some scribes like me sharing drinks and asking each other how that mega trade is going to work. Who will land Zack Greinke. Whether he will pan out or be a $161 million+ bust. We asked because, really, none of us know those things. The people who do — the general managers and their assistants — are all holed up in hotel suites someplace with their cell phones and laptops and not really mixing with everyone else. Which really means that the Winter Meetings have been turned on their head from what they were 15 or 20 years ago when all of the deals were done in the hotel bar and all of the rest of us were holed up someplace else.

Last day today. The only scheduled thing of note for fans is the Rule 5 draft.  We’ll provide updates of that later. And, obviously, of anything and everything else going down.

For my part, it’s approximately 12 hours until I will be home in my living room and able to try some of that Triple Smoke …

John Lackey to start Game 1 of the NLDS for the Cardinals

John Lackey
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St. Louis has decided on John Lackey as the Game 1 starter in the NLDS versus the winner of tonight’s Wild Card game, manager Mike Matheny announced.

Lackey led the Cardinals in starts (33) and innings (218) this season while posting a 2.77 ERA and 175/53 K/BB ratio with 21 homers allowed.

Carlos Martinez being out for the playoffs with a shoulder injury took a big rotation option away from Matheny, but Lackey has a 3.10 ERA in 43 starts since joining the Cardinals in mid-2014 and also has a 3.08 ERA in 117 career postseason innings.

He’ll face either the Cubs or the Pirates, in St. Louis. No word yet on the order, but Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, and Jaime Garcia figure to follow Lackey in the rotation.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.