Greetings from the last day of the Winter Meetings

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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 …

Carlos Gomez questions Collin McHugh’s manhood after benches-clearing incident on Monday

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Tempers flared between the Astros and Rangers on Monday in Arlington. In the bottom of the second inning, Astros starter Collin McHugh threw a first-pitch fastball inside to Rangers outfielder Carlos Gomez. Gomez didn’t like it, so he stared at McHugh for a few seconds. Gomez fouled off the next pitch and jawed at McHugh before taking a few steps towards the mound. McHugh came in and the benches emptied. Fortunately, order was quickly restored and both teams were issued warnings.

The Astros and Rangers had a benches-clearing incident earlier this season as well. In a game in Houston on May 1, Astros starter Lance McCullers threw inside to Mike Napoli, which caused the benches to spill out onto the field. McHugh also hit Gomez with a first pitch fastball in the second inning on August 31 and Mike Fiers did the same in the second inning on August 12. As a result, Gomez thinks the Astros have it out for him. Via Levi Weaver of WFAA Sports:

Gomez referenced manhood a couple different times, saying, “I’m a man and I’m responsible.” Referring to McHugh, Gomez said, “he’s not man enough to tell me [that he’s going to hit me] face-to-face.” He continued, “So if you’re a real man, you tell me to my face, not send me a message.”

Per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart and Sam Butler, McHugh said after the game:

The second pitch, he took a big swing and fouled it off and took about five steps out toward the mound, looking me straight in the eye. I just asked him if we had a problem. It was a rhetorical question because, clearly, he’s got a problem with me. I don’t exactly know what it is, but whatever the case, he came out and I asked him what the issue was and he said, ‘Yeah, I got a problem with you.’ That was it. Everybody else was out there by that point in time. The game goes on. I don’t want to spend any more mental effort thinking about Carlos Gomez.

The series resumes on Tuesday night as Dallas Keuchel will oppose Cole Hamels. It will be interesting to see if the drama bleeds over into this one.

Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the nachos guy from yesterday’s game

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In the bottom of the second inning of Monday night’s game at Busch Stadium, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell dove into the stands down the left field line in an attempt to catch a foul ball. A Cardinals fan holding a tray of nachos was in Russell’s path and had his tasty treat knocked onto the dirt in front of the stands. Russell did the fan a solid, though, bringing him a new tray of nachos and posed for a selfie. The fan was also later seen taking selfies with other fans.

That peeved Cubs starter Jon Lester, who started Monday’s game. Via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Great effort,” pitcher Jon Lester said. “But I don’t understand the other stuff.

“A guy fell into him and got nacho cheese on his arm and now he’s taking pictures and signing autographs. It shows you where our society’s at right now with all that stuff.”

It wasn’t like Lester had a poor outing and that’s why he was salty. The lefty yielded just one run on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts over six innings. Lester just, uh, hates selfies, I guess? I’m also not sure how the whole scenario is a reflection of American society, unless he means that people can turn a disappointing situation into a fun and heartwarming situation.

At least Russell and Cubs manager Joe Maddon had a good sense of humor about it. Maddon said the whole thing was “pretty entertaining.” Russell said, “You don’t get between a man and his nachos.”