Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Winter Meetings: Anaheim Day Deux
2004-12-12 03:28
by alex ciepley

On the second day of the baseball Winter Meetings, I lost my voice. This is, of course, a tragically comic development, since my entire agenda for the weekend is to talk to people. The gal behind the counter in the hotel gift shop was sympathetic to my condition, warning me off one brand of cough drops in favor of another, telling me my first choice "tastes like crap."

I'd like to think that my throaty raspings gave a sexy, Kathleen Turner-esque quality to my mumblings throughout the day, but I'm afraid I spent most of my time freaking out those I was talking with. The leper of the Winter Meetings, that Cub Reporter guy.

One member, Ken Arneson, left for home in the morning, but the Dude from Dodger Thoughts, Jon Weisman, filled the void around lunchtime. Alex Belth asked me in a phone conversation what Jon looked like, and I was stumped for a bit. Belth has such a talent for describing people and casting the actors who would play them, I know I need to put some thought into the matter. Is Nicolas Cage an insult or a compliment? It isn't quite right in either case, but I think Cage would at least be called in to audition for the part of Jon in the A-B movie.

Rich's Weekend Winter Meetings Beat was in full effect again Saturday morning. Fresh off an evening in which he had managed to both raise and lower Scott Boras' ire, Rich was all smiles, eager for another day of baseball highs.

SI's Tom Verducci was apparently a Lederer target, and I joined Rich, Jon, and Verducci in mid-conversation. Verducci has the glow of an athlete, a rare claim among the writers in the room. Steve Finley had the glow when walking through the lobby on Friday night. Matt Williams, standing alone outside the hotel's glass doors, has the glow. Even the old-timers, Lou Piniella and Felipe Alou, have it. Verducci, too -- if you didn't know his gig you might think he was a retired outfielder looking for a job.

Verducci might not have known Rich's gig, either, as Rich directed the conversation towards Verducci's Hall of Fame ballot. I knew there was trouble ahead as soon as Verducci admitted he'll only vote for a couple guys this year, and that some of Rich's favorites weren't among them.

Sandberg? Close but no cigar.

Blyleven? (Now the kicker.) Not even close.

For those who aren't familiar with Rich's player fetishes, Blyleven may top the list. He wrote a beautiful and memorable piece detailing Blyleven's qualifications last year, and I braced myself when hearing Verducci say Blyleven was "never dominant" during his career. Did Rich's hair just stand on end? Dum-dum-dum-dum-dee-du-wah. Here it came: 5th in career strikeouts. 9th in career shutouts. Top 20 in a host of other categories. Was Rich able to convince Verducci of the case for Blyleven, or is Rich himself only the lonely on this one?

The rest of my day is peppered with introductions and chance encounters.

Will Carroll mentioned to me on Friday that you can spot the agents by their watches. I don't wear a watch, so the stereotype holds true for me, at least. The agents in the room do stand out, wristwear or no. Just think, "Jay Mohr", and scan the room, and you'll identify at least a half-dozen.

Oddly enough, Will's agent doesn't fit the description. A friendly guy, yes. But there was that sneaky suspicion that you were, as someone put it, sitting next to a member of the Soprano family. I'm glad I'm not an enemy of Will's, that's for sure.

There were some excited rumblings among the baseball nerds when we found out Voros McCracken was in the house. McCracken's work on the Defense Independent Pitching Statistic (DIPS) brought him some minor celebrity and led to an analyst position with the Red Sox. You might anticipate that such a sudden promotion would lead to some serious head-swelling, but this wasn't the Voros way. McCracken was a modest, curious, and friendly chatterbox. A twenty-something Santa Claus, with no beard, no wrinkles, but a lot of jollies.

And finally, a Cubs connection. Scott Nelson, Director of Baseball Operations for the Cubbies, seemed to be familiar with The Cub Reporter. He also seemed familiar with TCR's occasional criticisms of the moves made by the Cubs' front office.


With slight amusement, Nelson reminded me that front offices had more information than the general public. The implication, of course, being that my thoughts might be a bit different if I had this information. Fair enough. It was clear, however, that his mild scolding was all in fun. And was I really just invited to touch base next time I was at Wrigley Field?

The late hours were a bit of a blur for me, as my cold was once again trying to rain on my parade. Jon, Peter White, Jay Jaffe and I hit Downtown Disney for dinner, hoping to find something exciting for dinner. Thirteen bucks and a mildly edible fried sandwich thing later, I can confirm that we failed.

Back at the bar in the Marriott, and there's Jim Hendry! He's hanging out with Bruce Levine (ESPN 1000) and Tony Pena, but I'm a ragged combination of too worn out and too vocally incapacitated to try to butt in with a business card and introduction. After all, isn't that what tomorrow's for?

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