icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Reflections on Baseball's Upcoming Winter Meetings + A Few TCM Tips

I have never sought a job in MLB or MiLB but have been to a few winter meetings, which are slightly mislabeled because they always occur before the

official start of winter on Dec. 21. I was in San Diego in 1984 not long after Calvin Griffith sold the Minnesota Twins to banker Carl Pohlad.


No longer was the franchise in his family that had owned the original Washington Senators since 1919 (patriarch Clark Griffith after managing the New York Highlanders before they became the Yankees, actually arrived in DC as manager in 1912.). In 1984, Calvin, his adopted nephew, looked very relaxed, not worrying about losing his star players to free agency - that had started 8 years earlier - or worrying about extending them and finding their productivity decline.


I commended Griffith on the good work of his franchise's scouts over the years, finding future Hall of Famers like Walter Johnson and Harmon Killebrew and developing other less heralded but genuine major leaguers. He explained one of his secrets of scouting: "We always look in a boy's mouth. If he doesn't take care of his teeth, how will he take care of his arm?" 


In 1992, I was in Louisville when former Pirates president Carl Barger was preparing to take on a similar role in the expansion Florida (now Miami) Marlins. Speaking at an executive session of owners, Barger, who helped keep his home town team in Pittsburgh after the death of longtime owner John K. Galbreath in 1985, warned his colleagues about the rising salaries in baseball.


As reported later, Barger pleaded with them to stop their reckless spending and to consider the needs of the smaller markets. Taking a break from the session, Barger stepped out into a hallway and collapsed from an aneurysm and was dead before he arrived in a hospital.  He was only 58. 

The plight of the smaller markets and also the presence of many owners who do not want to spend money for proven players remains obviously a big issue in baseball. 


Until the end of the twentieth century, the winter meetings were actually organized by the National Association, the minor leagues' ruling body. There was a far more collegial spirit then - the annual award of King of Baseball honored such revered figures as Roland Hemond and Paul Snyder, the lifelong Braves player, developer and scout who passed away on November 30 at the age of 88.    


The Covid pandemic hastened the end of the National Association and now all control is located in MLB commissioner Rob Manfred's office.  There is still lip service given to the importance of player development in every organization, but the win-now pressure from the 24/7/365 media and newbie owners and their analytic-drenched staffs is very hard to resist.


Which brings me to the future of my Orioles. I'm all for building good farm systems and growing the core of your team from within.  Yet I'm holding my breath that the Orioles don't really think that their amorphous title of "Best Minor League System in MLB" leads them to ditch more vital veterans.


It was no surprise that Kyle Gibson, who turned 36 on October 23, will be wearing the uniform of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2024. Though his numbers did not impress the analytic crowd, his ability to change speeds led to his throwing 25 double play grounders, one of the highest rates in the majors. As I wrote here this summer, his understanding of the art of pitching was as good as it gets. 


I repeat it again via my paraphrase.  You have to know when (a) you don't have anything working and find a way to get through a game; or (b) when you have to choose correctly between the pitches that are working on a day when only a couple of them are going well; and perhaps most interestingly, is the almost zen-like or gallows humor-like, (c) you have to know not to blow it when all your pitches are working on that rare day. 


Now there is talk that Baltimore brass are thinking of trading Anthony Santander, their valuable switch-hitting DH and competent right fielder, because he might get as much $13 million through arbitration and will be a free agent at the end of 2024 season. Sure, there are talented Oriole prospects on the doorstep of the majors, including Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser - both of them who got a taste of MLB in 2023. There is also Kyle Stowers who showed some promise in 2022 but 2023 was consumed by injuries. 


I am not the only one in Oriole fandom who would rue the day that "Midnight Tony" (a nicknamed bestowed early in his career as a Rule 5 pickup from Cleveland because he wore sunglasses night and day) is no longer an Oriole. I would buy out at least one of his free agent years coming up after his coming last year of arbitration.  He turned 29 on October 18 so he should be entering his prime years. 


Maybe I'm being too pessimistic (there remains a Masochist Mel alter ego lurking in my marrow!).  Am crossing fingers that general manager Mike Elias makes the right decisions because it seems likely that owner John Angelos doesn't want to invest in his stars. 


I think it is far too early to think about longterm signings of blossoming young stars Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman.  But something more than a one-year commitment to Santander makes a lot of sense to me. 


Be patient, dear readers.  Days will start getting longer around Dec 21 and by Valentine's Day the trucks with baseball equipmentds will have arrived in Florida and Arizona.


Before I close, here are a few TCM movie tips for the first half of December.


The only baseball film of note the first half of this month is Su DEC 10 1130A "Pride of the Yankees" (1942) - preceded oddly by Noir Alley's

    "I Wouldn't Be In Your Shoes" (1948) with Regis Toomey/Elyse Knox


**Every Friday in December will be Cary Grant Night. 

DEC 8  features 4p "Once Upon Hollywood" (1942) Directed by Leo McCarey with Ginger Rogers, Walter Slezak 

  6p "Dream Wife" (1953  dir. Sidney Sheldon - before he became a best-selling novelist - with Deborah Kerr/Walter Pidgeon

  10p "Holiday" (1938) based on Phillip Barry's Broadway play, with Katherine Hepburn


DEC 15-actually early morning Sa Dec 16 two Hitchcock classics 

  2a "Suspicion" (1941) with Joan Fontaine

  4a "North By Northwest" (1959) with Eva Marie Saint/James Masons

 (unfortunately no "Notorious" with Ingrid Bergman all month) 


W DEC 6 is the first of two gifted writer Paddy Chayevsky Nights

  8p the classic "Marty" (1955) with Betsy Blair/Ernest Borgnine

  2a "Middle of the Night" (1959) with Fredric March/Kim Novak


W DEC 13 how about this back-to-back-to-back trio of Chayevsky!

  8p "Network" (1976) with Faye Dunaway/Peter Finch/William Holden

  1015p "The Hospital" (1971) Chayevsky's Oscar with George C. Scott/Diana Rigg/many others

  1215a "Americanization of Emily" (1964) with Julie Andrews/James Coburn/James Garner/Melvyn Douglas

  Set before D-Day, with the wonderful Johnny Mandel song "Emily" - sadly, itt didn't qualify for a Best Song Oscar because

  it was never completely performed in film, but an immortal song and a wonderful if biting movie. 


That's all for now - take it easy but take it! 













Post a comment

How Fitting That On October 24, United Nations Day, The Matchup For the 2023 World Series Was Finally Set

During the 11 PM hour on Oct 24th, the Arizona Diamondbacks shocked the world by eliminating the Philadelphia Phillies and setting up an All-Wild Card and All-Expansion Team World Series against the Texas Rangers (a francise born as the second Washington Senators in 1961) starting on Friday Oct 27 at 8p EDT on FOX.


The international trend of today's baseball couldn't have been more on display as the MVPs in each league's Championship Series hail from outside the USA. Rangers' right fielder Adolis Garcia, 30, grew up in Ciego De Avila, Cuba, and the Diamondbacks' switch-hitting second baseman Ketel Marte (Valdez), also 30, comes from Nizao, Dominican Republic. 


Nobody talks about October 24th being United Nations Day any more, but I am old enough to remember United Nations Day being celebrated at my small public school in midtown Manhattan.  We sang "The United Nations March" written by great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich.  It began, "The sun and the stars are all shining," and continued, "A hymn to a new world in birth." 


That age of hope sure didn't last, did it? The UN and the very idea of a UN is in dire straits these days, but I've always believed that a baseball field suggests harmony more than any political structure.  There is a left-center-and-right in both baseball and a legislature, but to hit consistently in the gaps and up the middle remains the best strategy in both our beloved game and politics.  Even though we are not in a pleasant political place these days - to understate our situation I know - I still believe in the analogy.  


So let's now hail some of the young international stars whose talents will be on display in the World Series. The Diamondbacks starting catcher Gabriel Moreno, 23, is from Barquisimeta, Venezuela. He may be the toughest hombre still playing in 2023, surviving many recent injuries, one nearly a concussion, to shine this post-season on both sides of the ball. 


Arizona left fielder Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., 30, is part of the first family of recent Cuban baseball.  Older brother Yuli Gurriel played for last year's Houston World Series winners and this year for the Miami Marlins. The defection of the Gurriels from Cuba earlier this century was a devastating blow to the Cuban National Team. 


What a steal the Diamondbacks pulled off last off-season when they received from Toronto both Gurriel and Moreno in a trade for journeyman outfielder Daulton Varsho.  I understand that the Blue Jays had a backog at catcher but choosing to keep Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen - the latter was hurt for crucial parts of this season - now looks like a serious misjudgment.  


Every successful team has happy stories like this. I'm pretty sure famed Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy was not a baseball fan, but what he said about all happy families are alike and all unhappy families are unhappy in unique ways sure holds for baseball teams.


You cannot talk about the rise of the Diamondbacks - sometimes called Snakes and Serpientes - without mentioning outfielder Corbin Carroll, 23, odds-on favorite to be NL Rookie of the Year.  He comes from Seattle and early on fell in love with Ichiro (Suziki) watching from the upper right field stands the Mariners' great import from Japan.  His game is beginning to remind people of Ichiro's, a deserved compliment.


Here's another happy Arizona story - Merrill Kelly, 35, one of the two aces on the pitching staff along with the much younger Zac Gallen.  Kelly, a native of Houston, spent three years playing baseball in the Korean pro league before Arizona brought him back to the States. 


I've lauded the Orioles' own 35-year-old finesse pitcher Kyle Gibson many times in this blog for explaining pitching very accessibly to the lay person. Merrill Kelly shared similar insights during the NLCS:  "I have to live on the edges [of the strike zone]," he said. "I make a living by having people [batters] make decisions [on what to swing at]."


The Texas Rangers are a less surprising entrant to the World Series because they led the AL West for much of the season until injuries and pitching woes relegated them to a wild card. But like Arizona they had to win the last two games on the road to dethrone the defending world champion Houston Astros.


Adolis Garcia was a no-brainer choice for ALCS MVP with his monster homers and fierce presence. The Rangers have another international presence in center fielder Leody Taveras (Salazar), 25, who hails from Tenares, Dominican Republic.  As a key setup man, they have Aroldis Chapman, 35, the former Yankee southpaw from Holguin, Cuba, who is guaranteed to make life interesting for both sides.   


On paper, the Rangers look deeper on both sides of the ball, but after sweeping the Brewers and Dodgers and eliminating last year's NL champion Phillies in a seven-game thriller, don't count out Arizona.  If they lose this weekend's two games in Dallas, they can easily say, "We've got them where we want

them on." 


That's all for now but here's this weekend's Nor Alley tip - Blake Edwards' "Experiment in Terror" from 1962-63 sometimes called a Hitchcock film that Alfred Hitchcock didn't make.  Lee Remick is stalked by a phone caller (Ross Martin), her sister Stefanie Powers is scared too, and Glenn Ford,

who in real life was a Canadian which may explain his no-nonsense mien, is a policeman trying to help.  The last scene is set in Candlestick Park,

no more spoilers.  Sat Oct 28 at 12M, repeated Su at 10A on TCM.    


Always remember - take it easy but take it,  and stay positive, test negative.  I'm happy to report that I am feeling better but always have masks

handy for outdoor/indoor excursions. 



Post a comment