Pnp Conversations: Winter Meeting Wonderland

Eric: First off, I’d like to wish you a Happy Winter Meetings Day. The winter meetings mark the end of that unsettling post-World Series period and the dawning of the Real Offseason. The Real Offseason consists of speculative tweets and desperate rumor mongering and so much Scott Boras. It is basically the time when everything that’s wrong about baseball and baseball coverage comes to the forefront. Okay fine. I’m not this cranky. I’m just a little tired.

My first season of baseball blogging has left me exhausted. The Dodger ownership situation has left me cynical.  And the sheer amount of information one must consume to stay truly informed has left me overwhelmed. So I ask you Ted, what is a fan to do? Is there such a thing as too much information? Is it better to immerse one’s self in the madness, or to bide one’s time and count the months until pitchers (and poets) and catchers report?

Ted: You know, last offseason I went into it whole hog. It was a conscious decision to do so, and I ended up refreshing MLBTradeRumors.com every five minutes, studying up on arbitration processes and Rule 5 draft minutiae until my eyes watered. And I enjoyed myself, if only because it was an active decision. I dove into the pool of rumor madness. And it left me exhausted. By the time the season came around, I felt too tired for excitement. Following this pseudo-baseball whirling dervish of information was so taxing that the actual baseball season seemed less a relief than it did a continuation of the information torrent.

This offseason, using what I learned from last, I have decided to stick to the major news outlets and enjoy the big stories after they’ve been filtered through the tickers of the major coverage. This is in opposition to the trade rumor angle, in which mentions and possibilities are the currency. It’s a far less concrete baseball milieu, requiring of a lot of energy, the rumor mill, and I’m hoping to store my baseball energies up for when the season comes around, so that baseball will feel like a novelty at that point, rather than a chore.

This is not to say that I’m against the hot stove season. In the words of Maude Lebowski, “it can be a natural, zesty enterprise.” Most especially if you are a Red Sox, Yankees or Angels fan, and even if you’re a mid market fan looking to see who this year’s big pick-up will be. I’m thinking, for example, of Chone Figgins coming to the Mariners, which is one of those really cool moves if, like me, you are in Seattle and hoping they’ll put together an interesting team.

The hot stove season can be a downer, too, if, like me, your team will surely do nothing interesting. I’m thinking, with a blank heart, of the Astros.

Now, you are a political news junkie, and seem to follow that sordid, labyrinthine business with a natural, zesty consistency. Do you feel that MLB trade jibber-jabber is somehow different than that? Are the demands more severe?

Eric: Ted, you are even crazier than i thought. Studying up on arbitration processes? Rule 5? I thought only bloggers who dealt in numbers did stuff like that.  But crazy or not, you pose an interesting question. I am a political news junkie. It’s true. But believe it or not, that feels less insane to me. The MLB trade jibber-jabber is somehow different than that. The demands are more severe.

Allow me to demonstrate some differences between the MLB offseason rumor mill, and the ever-buzzing world of political news.

1. Substance. Huffington Post readers might not be aware of this, but political news actually goes beyond airport bathroom rendezvous, Joe Lieberman sightings, and the Obama girls’ clothes. There are actual substantial — if stodgy and hysterical — debates happening in congress, over actual issues. Bloggy analysis of these issues is more akin to the world of sabermetrics, in that it is ongoing, and has a certain timelessness.

2. There are only two teams! This means that an Arlen Specter trade is likely to be far more significant than, say, Akinori Iwamura for Jesse Chavez.


3. If you’re a cynical person, and it’s hard not to be, than you could argue that politics is the inverse of baseball: long offseason, and short regular season.  This means that things happen much slower. We only get a federal election every two years. THis means lots of time spent positioning, and acquiring the kind of record (or roster) it takes to compete.

4. Baseball owners are much better at working together than politicians.

5. Political news is fueled less by rumor-mongering and savvy positioning, and more by bad-decision-making, name-calling, and cowardice. Unlike baseball, the consequences for corruption are minimal and vague. The world of political news is hazy and ill-defined. The stakes are higher, but the IQs are probably lower.

Anyway, the point is that in politics, election season has that whirling dervish feel to it. But the day-to-day existence is a lot slower, a lot more like baseball’s regular season. It’s less demanding, less surprising, and more substantive.  That said, I don’t have the impulse to refresh the NY Times or TPM one hundred times a day like i do with MLBTradeRumors.com. My views on Afghanistan are not as well-defined as my views on, say, who the Mets should sign to play Left Field.

Is the desire to play armchair GM part of what makes this time of year so compelling? Or is it just the excitement of seeing how baseball’s pieces will fall into place before next season starts? What  makes these winter meetings so…massive?

Ted: I find your informational reply to be enlightening and entertaining, though unfortunately it doesn’t at all increase my interest in politics. I’d rather count Ichiro’s career hits one-by-one than watch more than five minutes of CNBC (does that even still exist?). Observation: in politics, the vote is king; in baseball, votes are reserved for the least crucial moments. Not counting, of course, the one-man vote that is an umpire’s decision.

What makes the winter meetings so interesting is what makes politics so interesting. We are, as media consumers, compelled by the idea of powerful men (it’s a sexist compulsion) in conference rooms hammering things out. Ideally, we’d like to be one of these men, but the only replacement is to follow their each maneuver. Add one or six fantasy baseball teams, and the compulsion is satiated. Speaking only for myself, I don’t really imagine myself in the role per se. I don’t need a second job, and to really understand a big league team, a farm team, waivers, etc., seems like it would be just that, even vicariously.

No, I think we like to watch power plays, and the winter meetings are like the meeting of the five bosses; it’s the world’s epicenter of power, bad golf shirts, and double-talk.

Here’s a semi-related question: would you ever attend the winter meetings? Let’s say it was taking place a half-hour from your residence, in the Holiday Inn-Tacoma. Would you go to there? Why?

Eric: You may not need a second job, but I certainly need a first job (take heed PnP readers, my services are available). For that reason alone, I’d go to the winter meetings. But truthfully, if they were local, I think I’d go out of sheer curiosity. The meetings fascinate me. I love baseball and, despite everything, the baseball media, and would love to see what the wheels look like when they are turning. It’s not often you get to safely watch a Scott Boras hunting in the wild, or a Tommy Lasorda gulping down spaghetti and meatballs. It may be meaningless, it may be sterile, it may even be disheartening. But sure, I’d go.

How about you, fair readers, would you go to the Winter Meetings if given the chance?

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