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 …

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.