December 7, 2011
Winter Meetings Dispatch: The Social Ramble Ain't Restful, with Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols, Huston Street
Overture: as I look over at the MLB network set on my left, I see that Peter Gammons has moved over to make room for Harold Reynolds. No matter how far you run, Peter, you cannot get away.
As Satchel Paige noted, the social ramble ain't restful. If the purpose of these meetings is for general managers to meet and make deals, they fail woefully. There is also a great deal of redundancy in the media coverage: the same stories echo and repeat and there is no utility to it. Realistically, John Heyman and Ken Rosenthal could be sent here by subscription and the rest of us could stay home and follow them on Twitter.
Intermission: as I type these words, Jose Reyes is being introduced as a member of the Miami Marlins, AKA the Team Nobody Could Love (Because They Don't Deserve It). I had wondered if Reyes would get a haircut for the occasion. A: Are you kidding? The Marlins are the essence of screw-you capitalism. They are far from unique in this, but that doesn't mean I have to like them or fall for the sucker punch that is their current ostentatious build-up, a shopping spree that cannot and will not be sustained. On a pure baseball level, however, I am impressed by their resolve to not be satisfied with Hanley Ramirez's defense at shortstop. I also wonder at the apparent lack of communication with Ramirez, although perhaps that was purposeful.
On a similar note, Jim Bowden just asked Reyes if he had reached out to Ramirez. Reyes: “We have not had time to talk yet.” Jose, when you are about to take someone's job, the classy thing to do is to reach out and give them a heads up, maybe ask them how they might feel about that.
Back to the social ramble: As you can see from the picture at right, the real purpose of these meetings is to forge relationships. The crowd depicted includes writers, broadcasters, job-seekers, scouts, managers, and general managers (the latter two fleetingly for the most part). They are talking, laughing, and drinking—mostly drinking—together, and the connections they forge here will facilitate communication within and around the game for the next year. That is the whole purpose, and has been for as long as baseball has had winter meetings—look at old issues of The Sporting News and you can see these same pictures, albeit on a smaller scale and populated by men now in the Hall of Fame (and, I imagine, a lot fewer women, more's the pity).
Note: John Heyman approacheth. He is tweeting things, resplendent in his spectacles.
Finale: Last night, the Mets picked up two relievers and this morning the Padres acquired Huston Street for a player to be named later, possibly Canal Street or Tenth Avenue. It seems as if when these meetings are not consumed with Albert Pujols—and kids, the impossible has happened, Pujols is now an overrated player—they are obsessed with closers. As I get older, crankier, and ever more attractive, I am becoming increasingly disgusted with the Cult of the Closer. I venerate Mariano Rivera as much as any baseball fan should, but damn it, we're talking about 60 innings a year out of a total of 1450. I don't care how important you think those innings are, that is four percent of the total. Four. Percent. The obsessive focus on the ninth inning is purely psychological; a team can lose games in any other inning, and often do, in part because they're devoting a disproportionate amount of resources to this almost entirely fictional Cadillac role.