Dark Shadows Circling
So baseball’s winter meetings came and went, like an empty passenger train in the dead of night. The darkness of the platform descended upon by-standers like a black, silent shroud. The dimly lit interior revealed nothing. Nothing but shadows stealthily stalking… circling… lurking.
Did anyone notice?
Were they perhaps overshadowed by the heart-stopping spectacle up in Cooperstown?
There the Veterans Committee, Baseball’s feckless answer to Britain’s House of Lords, “vigorously debated” (in the words of the Hall of Fame’s Chairman of the Board, Jane Forbes Clark,) whether or not various and sundry umpires, managers, executives (but no actual players), belonged in the Hall of Fame.
Despite an impassioned speech by Tom Seaver advocating in favor of Union Boss Marvin Miller (whose efforts helped end baseball’s bondage system in 1975 with the birth of free agency), Miller was not selected by the essentially arch-conservative committee.
Instead, the American journalistic world was stopped dead in its collective slippers the following morning by the earth-shattering announcement that former manager Whitey Herzog, who won one World Championship in his career, and retired umpire Doug Harvey, who threw Herzog out of more games than any other umpire, were to be enshrined in The Hall.
Did anyone notice?
How could the Winter Meetings compete with that? Well, the answer, of course, is that they didn’t even try. The baseball executives ate food, made lots of phone calls, went out for a smoke, and accomplished almost nothing of value.
Unless, of course, you view the signings of Chone Figgins (Mariners), and Rich Harden (Rangers) as Page One news.
Yes, it’s true there was the near-blockbuster three-way trade involving OF Granderson (to Yanks), SP Jackson (to Arizona) and SP Scherzer (to Detroit.)
In the long run, this trade could prove significant to any of the three teams involved, but, as Economist John Maynard Keynes once famously said, “In the long run, we are all dead.” Or, at the very least, we’ve turned the channel.
Oh, yes, and Kevin Millwood was exiled from Texas to Baltimore, Rafael Soriano was traded from Atlanta to Tampa Bay, and Houston burned 20 mill to sign Brandon Lyon to do something in the bullpen, together with infielder Pedro Feliz, who just might be one of the top 30 third basemen in the majors.
Free agent pitchers Randy Wolf and Brad Penny were signed by Milwaukee and St. Louis, respectively, proving once again that unless your arm falls off, you are pretty much guaranteed a huge pay day from desperate G.M.’s.
If all of this reminds you of one of those dates you went on a long time ago that you now feel embarrassed about, well, that is how one would expect the executives of MLB to feel about these winter meetings.
If MLB was represented by a serious, professional advertising agency, the first thing this agency would do is burn any public record of these meetings having taken place.
Baseball survives as a classic example of an entire entity that is not able to see the proverbial forest for the trees. In fact, they have a hard enough time even deciding what a tree actually is, or how much to sign one for to play outfield.
Where is the commissioner in all of this? Isn’t Herr Bud Selig the de facto CEO of MLB as a single, functioning entity? If so, isn’t there something he can do to aggressively, creatively remind people that baseball is simply too important to be left to the owners and the players?
That baseball is too interconnected with our country’s history and, perhaps, to its future, to allow it to become so banal and inconsequential?
That baseball is simply too damn great to be ignored, that it should be restored to its proper place of prestige in our National Daily Dialogue?
The proud black engine rumbles forth, through dark tunnels, past prairies and plains, over the hilly back-country of America. But the engineer is nowhere to be found, and the conductor is having himself a good laugh over a card game in the dining car. The landscape passes him by, unnoticed, unremarked upon.
Darkness surrounds the engine as it speeds along the ancient track, on to a destination unknown.