December 5, 2012
Minor League Baseball's Promotion Problem
The Winter Meetings—or rather, “Winter” Meetings; it was about 75 degrees here in Music City on Monday—are where everybody goes to make major-league deals and do major-league things. Peter Gammons is here, apparently towing multiple clones of himself who allow him to be shaking hands simultaneously in different locations around the Gaylord Opryland Gullywhumpus. Ken Rosenthal looks nervous all the time, and slightly paranoid. Actually, just about everyone looks a little paranoid. And I keep running into the same people I know. This is a small world in a big place.
Guys not in the majors are here trying mightily to get in, somehow, anywhere in the machinery of the business. From the size of the place to the teeming thousands to the millionaires to the bright lights, this is without a doubt the big time, the Show, the major leagues.
But you know what? The minor leagues organize the Winter Meetings. Or rather, The Minor Leagues. So I found out from Steve Densa, Executive Director of Communications of Minor League Baseball (MiLB), when I went to him to get my media pass. Or rather, “media pass.”
Major League Baseball gives out a limited number of MLB-approved passes to each outlet, and there are more BP writers here in Nashville than BP passes (we’re a more-for-your-money kind of org; we put a lot of guys on base). So I arranged a pass from the MiLB office through the Durham Bulls, the team I cover—but the thing attached to the lanyard isn’t a pass in the same way as an MLB pass is. I can get into some rooms with it, but not the media workroom even though my pass says “Adam Sobsey, Media” on it, and MLB has made sure I can’t get in by posting a vicious Cerberus at the three-door entrance. Yes, the Media Room is the Underworld, full of spirits (Joe Torre) and shadows (press conference table under lights) and secrets (who signed whom for how much?), and I want in. I am the opposite of the Groucho Marx thing about not wanting to be part of a club that would have me as a member.
Well, actually, there’s plenty to absorb and enjoy here in this Taj Mahal of Tacky outside the rooms I can’t get into (look, Jim Leyritz!). In fact the issue of access, exclusivity, and aspiration—all the things (plus money) that define the difference between the minors and the majors—is appropriately front-and-center against the unseen minor-league machinery that’s running this show, or rather, Show. For every Angel Pagan signing, there are countless creatures trying to crab and claw their way into (or back into) the game—even if it means starting in the minors.
According to Densa, once MiLB and MLB agree each year on a site for the Winter Meetings—it wasn’t all that long ago that the two organizations, perplexingly, met separately—it’s MiLB that handles most of the planning details. Yes, MLB holds sway and pulls rank wherever appropriate—its needs are the top priority—but that also includes pulling out from wherever it has no interest.