Sunday was a memorable day around the country as the fallen Iraqi President, Saddam Hussien was captured by American troops. But if the news barely penetrated the insulated world of the baseball winter meetings–at least as I experienced it–it did provide a framework to encapsulate the day in our memories for a long time. Everything seemed heightened, lifted.
Jay Jaffe and I got a late start, and after a thoroughly mediocre brunch in the French Quarter, we arrived at the Marriott and found the Baseball Prospectus guys. At first they busted my chops in good humor for making like a ghost on Saturday. I spent most of that first day milling around on my own, but it certainly wasn’t done at the expense of the Prospectus guys; I simply wanted to get the chance to meet as many people as I could dolo.
Jay and I joined Ryan Wilkens and Chaim Bloom of Prospectus around a table in the center area of the hotel lobby. Joe Sheehan and Will Carroll buzzed in and out as they worked the room. Nate Silver, also of Prospectus, eventually joined us, as did Tim Marchman of The New York Sun, and Jeff Silver, erstwhile front office analyst for the Reds (Tim, Jeff and Joe are all New York natives). After spending the first full day at the meetings scrambling to meet newspaper men, engaging in brief, often distracted conversation, I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon in the company of these guys, and had a terrific time.
The reason it was so rewarding was because we just sat around and talked baseball all day. Just what the doctor ordered, thank you very much. And let me tell you something, if I felt lifted it was because of the quality of the conversation. The common bond the guys I mentioned above all share is that they are all stunningly bright, and shamlessly enthusiastic about the game, its history, and its future. You could even say that they are part of the future. I would not be surprised to see Bloom, Wilkens or either of the Silvers–not to mention Joe and Will—working inside the game in five years time.
Tim, Jay and I spent several hours wanding around the French Quarter, and we were joined by Jeff for a bite to eat at the Acme clam house. By the end of the night, I was losing my voice. It was like having been at an all-day concert. I was exhausted but exhilerated as well.
By the time we left on Monday afternoon, several more deals went down of course. We were all together on Sunday afternoon when Bloom informed us that Tejada was going to the Birds. We first heard it as six years, $65 million; while we were at dinner, whenever there was a lull in the conversation, someone would blurt out, “Six, sixty-five.” (We later discovered it was actually six years for $72 million.) And when we returned to the hotel, the latest was that the Orioles were working on signing Vlad Guerrero and either Pudge Rodriguez or Javier Lopez. Hey now. As Theo Epstein mentioned later on, you can label the east the “AL Beast” once again.
While the A Rod deal to Boston was not done over the weekend, most of the guys that I spoke with anticipate that it’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when. Don’t fret Red Sox Nation, you will be enjoying the holiday season plenty.
In all, the weekend was a success. One of my brother’s oldest friends lives in New Orleans, and I got a chance to hang out with her on Saturday. She showed me around the town and gave me insights into the city that I would not have gotten otherwise. And though I felt ready to leave after Saturday night, the time I spent in the company of the Prospectus guys as well as Jeff Silver, Tim Marchman and Jay Jaffe on Sunday was the highlight of the trip.
Oh, and to show what a mensch Jay is, our connection flight from Atlanta back to New York was delayed five hours (10:00) and Jay offered to let me take the final seat on a stand-by flight on at 6:00 (I had to be up early this morning for work, and Jay didn’t). We thought we would both make it on, but there was only one seat left. I walked into my apartment in the Bronx twenty minutes before Jay’s flight left Atlanta. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the gesture. It was the icing on the gravy, and capped a great adventure. I’m glad I was able to share it with Jay, and I feel fortunate to have met and rapped with so many interesting and warmly disposed professional baseball men.