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Winter is Coming: A Far Too Early Look at Baseball’s Winter Meetings

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

 

I am a lifelong Seattle Mariners fan. Sound like the beginning of a twelve-step meeting? Well, it’s not … at least not yet anyway. Someday my Mariners fandom might take me down a dark path of self-loathing and depravity, but I’m holding out hope that things improve for us faithful blue and teal before we get there. Now, when you’re a lifelong Mariners fan, you become accustom to some unfortunate realities. One of those realities has historically been baseball ending right around mid-September. I know, I know, it sounds like a low blow, but I bring it up not to say that we haven’t seen some good times, but let’s be real about it. It’s been awhile since the Mariners have been to the postseason and winter is often long and cold for a baseball fan in the Pacific Northwest. 

Every year through the months of October and November, I find myself scouring the internet for information about my favorite local team. A trade rumor, a blog entry speculating on offseason moves.  Just anything to get me my Mariners fix (wow, maybe I do need a twelve-step program).

It’s during those dark days when there’s seemingly no news to speak of that Baseball’s Winter Meetings shine to me like a beacon of hope.  A ray of light in the darkness of December, reminding us that spring is right around the corner. The smell of freshly cut grass, the feeling of sunshine on our faces, and the dull thud of a baseball hitting a well-worn catcher’s mitt, are all right around the corner! 
If you think I’m insane for being gleefully excited for baseball’s annual offseason hotel party, know that most of my friends completely agree with you. But, here’s a little context.

In 1876, the National Baseball League began the tradition of holding their offseason meetings in December. The Winter Meetings, as we know them today, consist of a few days in mid-December every year when representatives from all thirty Major League teams and all one-hundred and sixty Minor League affiliates congregate in a single hotel/resort and discuss all things baseball. In the days before the internet, this meant a bunch of old baseball curmudgeons sitting around a hotel lobby smoking cigars and talking shop. More recently most of the action seemingly happens via emails and texts from private suites, where front-office elite can sign free agents and trade players, far from the eager eye of the media.  

In past years, the Winter Meetings have been the setting of top free agent signings, six-team trades that alter the future of multiple organizations, and marquee players with tears of joy in their eye announce deals that will change the fate of their families for generations to come. And for a few days in December, hardcore baseball fans and journalists around the country hit refresh on their Twitter feeds every five minutes, waiting for a Christmas present from their favorite team to come early.

In 1992, the San Francisco Giants signed first-time free agent Barry Bonds. Greg Maddux signed with the Atlanta Braves and David Cone with the Kansas City Royals. The Boston Red Sox signed Andre Dawson and the Toronto Blue Jays picked up Paul Molitor in hopes of defending their title. That’s a whole lot of sports history made in one weekend if you think for a moment about the respective outcomes of those moves.

In 2011, the Los Angeles Angels signed Albert Pujols, perhaps the most loved athlete in St. Louis since Stan Musial, stealing him away from the World Series winning Cardinals. And last year, at the 2014 Winter Meetings, these guys all changed teams:

  • Miguel Montero

  • Brandon Moss
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • Howie Kendrick
  • Dee Gordon
  • Yoenis Cespedes
  • Rick Porcello
  • Justin Masterson
  • Mat Latos
  • Kendrys Morales
  • Matt Kemp
  • Jimmy Rollins
  • Jon Lester
  • Jason Hammels
  • Clint Barmes
  • Will Meyers
  • Justin Upton 

 

I’m leaving out at least a dozen or so names, but you see my point. The Winter Meetings are an oasis in the middle of our baseball drought. The NFL and NBA hold their amateur drafts during the offseason, but with Major League Baseball’s draft being held during the early months of the regular season and consisting of forty grueling rounds, it just doesn’t hold the luster or casual fan appeal of other professional drafts. 

So, the Winter Meetings are a baseball enthusiast’s offseason happy place, and this year the Mariners will likely be looking to make a lot of changes … which is my happy, happy place. 

With Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez all under contract for the next few years, new General Manager Jerry Dipoto has said he’ll look to build around that group. Hopefully, this means the team won’t be looking to rebuild so much as they will look to fill the holes they have in the outfield, the rotation and potentially behind the plate. 

Despite suggesting he’s not looking to rebuild, it seems almost everything in the organization is being gone over with a fine-toothed comb. Mr. Dipoto has been with the club less than a month and has been doing some serious house cleaning. Last week, manager Lloyd McClendon was relieved of his position and since then most of McClendon’s coaching staff have been dismissed as well (Edgar Martinez and Chris Woodward being the only two invited back in their respective roles).

The word around Seattle is that he very well may fire or reassign everyone in the organization not wearing a glove or holding a bat … It’s quickly becoming apparent that the former Angels’ GM has an idea of what he wants to do and who he wants to do it with, and so far, all indicators point to a lot of new faces coming to the Mariners.

So, I’m betting that this is going to be a very interesting winter for Mariners fans. A couple of weeks from now, after the Fall Classic has come and gone and the boys of summer have cleared out their lockers for the year, I’ll be ready for a break from winter. And ready to talk a little baseball.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time

Hank Stern ranks his top twelve favorite sports films. 

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#8 The Longest Yard

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#7 Slap Shot

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#5 Seabiscuit

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#3 Hoosiers

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#2 Bull Durham

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