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.

Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph: “We suck”

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As I mentioned in the recaps this morning, Baltimore lost its 107th game last night, tying its 1988 mark for the most losses in Orioles history. They will certainly break that record and will almost certainly blast by the all-time franchise loss record of 111, set by the 1939 St. Louis Browns. That team only played a 154-game schedule so the O’s likely won’t be the worst team in the franchise’s 118-season history by winning percentage, but it’ll be close enough.

Over at The Athletic Dan Connolly reports that one Oriole, catcher Caleb Joseph, is well aware of how bad the Orioles are and he is not mincing words about it:

“I’m not a loser. So, to be associated with that severity of losing is embarrassing. It’s shameful really . . . I don’t blame [fans] at all [for not attending games]. We suck.”

That last bit was in response to Matt Olson of the Athletics coming up to him before a recent game, noticing how many empty seats there were in Camden Yards and asking Joseph if it was always like that. Let that sink in: a player for the Oakland Athletics who, year after year, have some of the worst attendance in baseball, is shocked at how poorly Baltimore is drawing.

As for Joseph, he spends a lot of time talking about how the attitude is all wrong with the Orioles, how there does not seem to be any accountability and how things weren’t like that when he came up back when the Orioles were winning. Which, well, yeah.

Baseball players often attribute winning and losing to whatever attitude is prevailing around the clubhouse. Maybe that’s true on greatly underachieving teams or borderline teams that aren’t catching the breaks, but it seems far more likely that winning makes teams happy and instills camaraderie while losing makes teams sad and makes people look inward. Players tend to get the causation wrong about all of that because, I suspect, they don’t want to admit that they’re not as talented as the competition so it has to come down to some motivational or mental defect. Which, if that makes a player feel better, fine, but these O’s weren’t going to win many games even if they came in with smiles on their faces while singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” out of their rear ends every day. They just aren’t good.

Whatever you think of all of that, one thing is clear: the O’s need to clean house in a major, major way.