Thursday, December 07, 2006

Winter Meetings are winding down

ORLANDO – Baseball’s winter meetings are closing down. I’m sitting in the spot previously occupied by ESPN’s set. They vacated the area last night. I’m about 20 feet from the Christmas tree that yesterday served as their back drop. is still broadcasting from across the room. Looks like XM satellite radio is starting to break down their set. Maybe can do a netcast next year in Nashville.

It’s a cloudy day in Orlando and despite being in the center of the magic kingdom, the hotel feels a bit dreary.

The big news fluttering through the media is that the Cardinals are reportedly interest in talking with the Huge Headed One. Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols in the same lineup? Chris Carpenter could win 30 games.

The other big news of the day was the Rule V draft. None of the players from my book, The Funniest Thing I’ve Ever Seen: More than 100 crazy stories from minor league baseball, switched teams.

The biggest name to move was troubled Tampa farmhand Josh Hamilton, who was selected by the Cubs and traded to the Reds. Hamilton was the first overall pick in the 1999 amateur draft by Tampa. Since then, then five-tool outfielder has injured his back in a car accident, reportedly became addicted to cocaine and alcohol, and was suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s substance abuse policy. Hopefully a change of scenery will allow him a fresh start.

Also, just saw a report that Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty is not interested in Bonds. Still a fun rumor.

Going to head on over to the set before heading back down to the lobby. I’ll post a full wrap up of the meetings tomorrow.


Winter meeting trade show free-for-all

NOTE: This post originally appeated on Dec. 6. Technical issues forced this re-post.

Closing day for the trade show portion of the winter meetings is a treasure hunter’s delight. I spent most of Wednesday on the show floor looking for the next big promotional giveaway - a feature story will be posted in the coming days on

The trade show contains everything you’d need to start a baseball team – from turf to bleachers to scoreboards to concessions to promotional giveaways. There were even some minor league players in the booths. Any company that has even a remote baseball inclination is there showing their wears.

They bring all their cool stuff to Orlando, but many don’t want the hassle of taking it home, so the final hours of the show turn into one big giveaway. Bobbleheads were being snapped up faster than they could nod yes. The New Era baseball cap rack was nearly picked clean. Various minor league front office personnel were running around grabbing anything with a cool logo on it.

Ran into one job seeker who I’d talked with a couple times during the show who said this was the best day of his life. Earlier in the day he’d received a job offer with the Texas Rangers ticket office and now he was walking the trade show floor with an Oakland A’s trash basket filled with mini baseball bats, pennants and hats.

The show is noticeably thinning out. While more deals were made today than on the first couple of days, the lobby isn’t nearly as crowded. Didn’t get to see Bonds, but did talk with ESPN’s Steve Phillips.

The former big league-GM-turned-analyst said he enjoys the winter meetings more as a commentator because there isn’t as pressure to make a big splash. That was before he got the on-camera brush off from Bonds. Can’t wait to see him again to ask whether he’s changed his mind.

More soon.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Baseball's Winter Meetings Day 1: Gammons owns the lobby - repost

NOTE: This post was originally published on Dec. 5.

ORLANDO – Baseball’s Winter Meetings really get interesting when the day’s scheduled events conclude and everyone heads to the lobby for cocktails and conversation.
loves the odd mix. Jim Leyland spent about an hour being congratulated by seemingly everyone in baseball for leading the Tigers run to the World Series. Agents were everywhere, many of them shadowed by their free agents – a la Jerry Maguire.

The best dressed people at Baseball’s Winter Meetings are the unemployed. Nearly 500 young, jobless baseball hopefuls show up at the Baseball Winter Meetings in their new suits, hoping to land front office jobs with minor league teams.

The most amazing guy to watch, though, is Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe and ESPN reporter owns the Baseball Winter Meetings. The lobby is Gammons’ domain. He can’t walk five feet without an agent, reporter, general manager or fan stopping him to talk.

Still, the winter meetings are not his favorite time of the year.

“It doesn’t beat the World Series or Spring Training,” Gammons told me shortly after one of his updates for ESPNNews.

The Winter Meetings continue to grow and Gammons says the expansion has taken away some of the fun.

“It’s getting out of control because there are too many people and the general managers don’t come out to the lobby,” he said. “They just sit in their room. It’s too big. You don’t talk about the game anywhere near as much as you used to.”

That’s it for day one. I’m heading to the convention floor for tomorrow’s updates. As always, any new updates will be posted immediately.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oddly-dressed bobbleheads, Gammons, Veeck and more

ORLANDO - Day one of baseball’s winter meetings. In a morning session designed to stimulate minor league promotional ideas, the Eastern League’s Trenton Thunder announced a new twist on bobbleheads.

Starting this summer they are going to distribute bobbleheads featuring the likeness of major leaguers who played for their competitors.

When the Thunder hosts the Binghamton Mets on June 5th, the first 2,000 fans will receive a David Wright figure dressed in a Binghamton uniform. On June 17, fans will receive Ryan Howard bobblehead dolls. Howard will be depicted wearing a Reading Phillies uniform.

“In our market in Trenton, between Philly and New York, we’re right there embedded with Yankees fans, Mets fans and Phillies fans,” Trenton’s Brad Taylor said. “A couple people thought it was kinda funny that we’re giving away something with someone else’s name on it, but that went away in two seconds.”

Most sessions seemed to break for lunch early, leaving a who’s who of baseball front offices wandering the lobby. Had lunch at a table next to Peter Gammons. He looks great. Steve Phillips just walked by with a TV crew. Already bumped into favorite Mike Veeck twice.

The convention floor opens in a few hours. Can’t wait to see the new promotional stuff.