Some last thoughts from the Winter Meetings:
SAN DIEGO – The Winter Meetings have changed following a three-year absence on the baseball calendar.
It used to be that the lobby of the host hotel buzzed with activity for four days. Walking from one end to the other was difficult because of all the baseball people and media members trying to keep up with the latest trade rumors and other types of gossip.
However, the lobby was not nearly as full this week at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. In fact, things were almost earlier quiet compared to other Winter Meetings, which ended Wednesday.
Some of that certainly had to do with so many teams cutting their front office and scouting staffs during the pandemic for economic reasons. These were the first meetings since 2019, three months before COVID-19 shut down the country.
Sadly, some teams have all but eliminated scouts, wrongly believing more can be learned about a player by watching video than seeing him in person.
Even before the pandemic, the meeting had been changing.
It used to be that you could see two general managers talking trade in a corner of the lobby. More than one deal over the years was struck in the hotel bar in plain sight of everyone.
However, GMs and the rest of their front office staffs now sequester themselves in suites and do most of their communication electronically. They rarely leave their rooms unless it is to attend a meeting or leave the hotel for dinner.
That is why Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington couldn’t give an answer when I asked if thought the meetings were different than pre-pandemic.
Cherington wasn’t stonewalling or being difficult. He honestly didn’t know.
“The days of deals over glasses of Scotch at the bar don’t happen as much — and those were good old days,” Cherington said. “We should all agree to go back to that one year and see what happens. It would be fun.”
A whole helluva lot of fun, especially for someone who always enjoys the Winter Meetings. So I’m all for the idea, especially with more joy seemingly being sucked out of the game every year.
REMEMBERING THE OLD REGIME
I had a chance to catch up with former Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle during the meetings. Both are happy and healthy after ugly exits from the organization following a strife-filled 2019 season.
Huntington is now in charge of special projects for the Cleveland Guardians. His chief task presently is redesigning the team’s clubhouse and training facilities at Progressive Field.
Hurdle is a special assistant with the Colorado Rockies. One of his primary duties is visiting each of the organization’s farm clubs and evaluating the talent.
Things ended badly for both in Pittsburgh. However, they combined to end 20 consecutive losing seasons by the Pirates – the longest streak in major North American professional sports history – and lead the franchise to three straight appearances in the National League wild card game from 2013-15.
Huntington and Hurdle won in a nearly impossible situation and Pittsburgh Pirates history will eventually treat them kindly.
It was good to see them.
A BIG STEP FOR PBN
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