Winter Meetings

2013 Baseball Winter Meetings held at the Dolphin Resort in Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Among other things, there was also a job fair and trade show, an important time of year for many in the industry who are looking for advancement. It runs from Monday morning to early Thursday afternoon and its usually set in a different city every year. Headlining Monday morning was the news that Pitcher Roy Halladay would retire. There was also a press conference to announce the Hall of Fame induction of Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, and Tony La Russa, a combined 93 years of managerial experience. They were elected by a special “Expansion Era Committee.”

Bobby Cox played a couple of years for the New York Yankees as a backup infielder. He found his real calling while managing in the Yankees minor league system and in Venezuela. He was a first base coach for the 1977 World Champion New York Yankees. That all set the tables for his first MLB Manager job in 1978 with the Atlanta Braves. 32 years later he would lead his teams to 16 Division Titles, 5 Pennants, and 1 World Championship.

Joe Torre was a player for 18 years and was an All-Star, a Gold Glove, an MVP, & a Batting Champion. But, never anything in the post season. He actually started managing as a player manager for the New York Mets in 1977. Ironically, his second manager job was to replace a fired Bobby Cox with the Atlanta Braves. 28 years later he would lead his teams to 13 Division Titles, 6 Pennants, and 4 World Championships. His legendary run with the New Yankees gave him something he never had as a player.

Tony La Russa played between 1962 and 1977. I good part of that time was spent in the minors as he injured his shoulder early on while playing a game of softball. His last Major League appearance was one game in Chicago with the Cubs in 1973, where he scored a run. His first Manager job was also in Chicago with the White Sox in 1979. 33 years later, he led all organizations he managed to the post season with 12 Division Titles, 6 Pennants, and 3 World Championships.

 There were also wild card births that all three managers took advantage of in post season competition. The expansion era of baseball is marked from 1973 to present. And, when you talk about the changes of the games since, it’s impossible to leave these three names out of the conversation. Frank Thomas, Greg Maddox, and Tom Glavine were added to this Hall of Fame Class of 2014 a couple of weeks later (January of 2014) through the regular ballot voting.

A buzz was in the air from the schedule of events and the big names in baseball roaming around. Owners, front office executives, general managers, and coaches from all 30 MLB teams were all on hand here. You know you’re at the epicenter when you see baseball insiders John Heyman and Ken Rosenthal zipping through the hallways of the lobby.

CBS Sports Writer Mike Axisa reported the deals listed below on Wednesday December 11, 2013.

Extensions

  • Pirates: Signed RHP Charlie Morton to a three-year, $21 million extension. The contract includes a $9.5 million club option for a fourth year.

Signings

  • Mariners: Agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million with 1B/OF Corey Hart. He can earn another $8 million or so in incentives.
  • Mets: Agreed to terms with RHP Bartolo Colon. It’s a two year $20 million deal.
  • Pirates: Agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million with RHP Edinson Volquez, adding to their pitching depth.

Trades

  • Astros: Acquired RHP Anthony Bass and either a player to be named later or cash from the Padres for a player to be named later or cash, the team announced.
  • Mariners: Acquired 1B/OF Logan Morrison from the Marlins for RHP Carter Capps.
  • Nationals: Acquired LHP Jerry Blevins from the Athletics for minor league OF Billy Burns.
  • Yankees: Acquired minor league RHP Kyle Haynes from the Pirates as the player to be named later in last week’s Chris Stewart trade, the team announced.

Overall, this was a relatively quiet meeting of the minds, nothing earth shattering or game changing. Yahoo Sports reported on a fight in the parking lot outside between a couple of agents that got into a scuffle over a player, one accusing the other of stealing a prospect. A small 22 second video clip from the phone of an witness showed the two taking their swings. It briefly went viral but was not enough to identify them. According to witnesses, one even threatened to burn the other’s house down. With a slow week came a side-story with more excitement on the parking lot outside then in the hotel reservations.

Last of the Legends

The 2013 Joe DiMaggio Legends Game at the Old Fort Lauderdale Stadium. It’s the 25th annual event at the park where the New York Yankees reported for Spring Training between 1962 and 1995. Joe DiMaggio retired from Baseball in 1951. That was the only year when the New York Yankees ventured west to Phoenix, Arizona. Besides that, Joe DiMaggio reported to Spring Training in St. Petersburg for most of his career. But, the “Yankee Clipper” is a pillar of what it means to be a Yankee. His name represents a huge legacy, on and of any field in America. The event was one of the designated meetings places for “SABR DAY,” a national event held annually by Society of American Baseball Researchers (SABR). There were more legends and the day was not long enough to find them all. The actual list of invitees were inaccurate, only tentative. Here were some of the Legends on hand.

  • Andre Dawson
  • Bill “Spaceman” Lee
  • Bert Campineras
  • Jay Johnstone
  • Art Shamsky
  • Cookie Rojas
  • Ed Kranepool
  • Jackie Hernandez
  • Tommy Davis
  • Warren Cromartie
  • Orlando Cepeda
  • Rico Carty
  • Jose Cardenal
  • Willie Horton
  • Orestes Destrade
  • Wayne Garrett
  • Fred Cambria
  • Alex Arias
  • Bruce Aven
  • Rich Nye
  • Anthony Telford
  • Dennis Rasmussan
  • Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd
  • Ron Swoboda
  • Tony Taylor
  • Jeff Conine
  • Ricky Bones

The game was held on Saturday January 26, 2013; a surreal day. Being in the midst of so many legends from the past, they were players that I grew up watching on “NBC Game of the Week.” It was and honor to spend time with them, to listen to their stories, to laugh at their jokes, and to confirm that they weren’t just fictional characters next to my comic books. They carried on at a slower pace, but I still saw them in all their glory; free standing titans. Aside from the players, Ron Harper (Chicago Bulls legend and Michael Jordan teammate) was in uniform and played along with other local celebrities. Even the grand daughter of Joe DiMaggio was on hand to watch the game.

The Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation supports Memorial Healthcare Systems serving residents in south Florida, the most diverse group of board-certified pediatric specialists in the region. Today, the new Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital has 226 beds. This game has been a part of the fund raising effort to benefit a wide scope of healthcare services and programs for children. Just the night before, Frank Sacco, CEO of the Memorial Healthcare System, announced that this annual game would be played for the last time, to the surprise of 500 attendees. Apparently, they let out a collective sigh in the room, the same sigh that was heard in the ball park when the news came through the intercom. No particular reason was made. It appeared to be an executive decision.

On a possible related story, a small row of half dozen seats collapsed when the rivets gave way while people were sitting on them. This was literally within 20 feet of where i was sitting. Fortunately, the row of seats only dropped a foot from where it was fastened. Needless to say, it created a bit of a distraction when police officers came to the scene to make sure everyone was fine; workers quickly removed the now lose furniture piece to an undisclosed area, before I had a chance to volunteer and take them home. Just kidding, concern for liability was in the air and there was no chance they would donate the evidence. In general, the park looked weathered and in dire need for improvement. Maybe that played a factor to the surprising news. The annual dinner, which can generate $350,000 a year for the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Memorial Hospital, has continued without the game.