Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos arrives at winter meetings: Griffin
NASHVILLE-The concept of the Baseball Winter Meetings started out as an afterthought, an add-on to the minor-league annual sessions in 1962.
Why not have all the major-league general managers in the middle of the off-season gather together for a week and make some news, make some trades to keep the game in the spotlight and the fanbase interested? Choose a warm weather climate, make some trades, have a few drinks at the lobby bar, make some more trades, abide by some artifical trade deadlines -- ususally it was for a long time midnight on the Friday -- then head home for the Holidays.
Usually the winter meetings were hosted by a minor-league city, but Dallas seems to be in the regular rotation now and Anaheim and even Toronto have played host to the swapfest. The initial concept was good, but somewhere along the line the concept was hijacked.
My first meetings of the 33 that I have attended was as a public relations person working for the Expos in Montreal. The meetings were in Orlando, FL, in 1978. At that debut session, I handled my first trade, my first winter meetings press release. It was December 7 and I was planning on going to Disney World when the call came in from club president John McHale. The Expos had obtained Bill Lee from the Red Sox for infielder Stan Papi. Make the announcement. That taught me that you don't ever make dinner plans when you're attending the winter meetings.
The hijacking of the trade concept of the winter meetings was gradual. It started with free agency becoming a key to building a winner as opposed to trades. The big player agents like Scott Boras and other figured out early on that with every GM being in the same hotel for a week, it made it a lot easier to sell your clients to a captive audience, especially one looking to make moves to impress the fans.
It reached the point in the early '90s where pulling the trigger on trades was waiting until after the big free agents signed their contracts. The agents would be staging their own press conferences in the lobby and stealing all the headlines meant for the baseball executives. Commissioner Bud Selig even cancelled the MLB portion of the meetings in 1993. The agents were part of it, but the pending strike in '94 was another. Also, tragedy struck at the '92 meetings in Louisville when Marlins' president Carl Barger had a massive heart attack in the hotel lobby and died. The meetings were also not held in '94.
Nevertheless, the meetings still hold tremendous appeal for fans. This year it's all about free agents Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, Michael Bourn and others and trades involving Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton, Mets' Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey and Rangers' shortstop Elvis Andrus with other moves lurking.
The big news of the morning of the first day was that Hamilton was at the Opryland Hotel in person, likely to meet with prospective employers face to face and convince them that he's not a risk for 7-10 years and $25 million per season and that Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to have a procedure to repair his damaged hip.
Meanwhile, Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos was arriving on Monday morning for his fourth winter meetings ready to make more moves and pssibly add more salary. Last December in Dallas, he obtained backup catcher Jeff Mathis for lefthander Brad Mills and traded righthander Nestor Molina for closer Sergio Santos. And so it begins.