Ten lessons learned while becoming a fixture in the lobby of the Indianapolis Marriott ...
1. You folks are impatient. If I had a nickel for every time someone in our Winter Meetings Tracker asked me to check Omar Minaya's room to see if he was still alive, I would have had enough money to buy a battering ram to knock down his door and find out.
That type of finger-drumming wasn't only limited to Mets fans in what turned out to a pretty uneventful convention for baseball's GMs and agents. Cubs fans wanted to know rightthisminute if Milton Bradley(notes) had been shipped away; Blue Jays fans yearned to hear of the expected haul for Roy Halladay(notes); Phillies fans kept inquiring what their team was doing to regain the Commissioner's Trophy. There's nothing wrong with a lot of passion and early winter interest in the game, but this observation leads me into my next point ...
2. No one should worry about the slow trickle of news. Major League Baseball and associated media (guilty as charged) has hyped the winter meetings into a major event, but the reality is that it's not the ultimate proving ground for free agency and the trading season. Those tests come when everyone returns to their respective offices and considers all of the meetings and discussions they've had with suite visitors over a four-day period. It's gravy if a team completes a good deal at the meetings, but it's not as if all of the rosters freeze and no other changes can be made at the stroke of midnight on Thursday.
3. Well, except for Cubs and Dodgers fans. Jim Hendry's quest to wake up from his Milton Bradley nightmare didn't happen in Indianapolis and if ever there were a place to talk another GM into assuming the problem — all at a low, low price! — the winter meetings would have been it. Shedding the malcontent is going to be exceptionally difficult and the Cubs' hot-stove season will only get colder and colder as the drama wears on. As for the Dodgers, GM Ned Colletti appeared to be the most inactive of any big-market head honcho and his position will be hamstrung by the ongoing War of the Roses-type saga between the McCourts. Luckily for Ned, it's Lakers season.
4. This was the year Twitter changed the game. As I wrote on Tuesday, it wasn't possible to walk more than five feet without seeing someone hit 'end' on their iPhone before quickly heading into Tweetie to instantly disseminate the information. The result was the winter meetings news cycle leaping from occasional blog posts that might stand for a few hours into 140-character bits that might stand for only a few minutes. Whether or not this will turn out to be a good thing for the winter meetings remains to be seen, but the transformation of previously tech-scared writers was fascinating to watch.
5. Every father should insist their kid pitch in Little League. It's not an original revelation to say that pitching is at a premium in the bigs or that it doesn't take much for GMs to dole out wads of cash for a hurler who might turn out to be a target for abuse the following season. But after seeing dump trucks full of money delivered to the likes of Brandon Lyon(notes), Brad Penny(notes), Randy Wolf(notes) and others, I'm again amazed at how much money teams have to wager on the risk of gaining a consistent staff presence.
6. I wouldn't want to be Alex Anthopoulos. The new Jays GM is charged with getting a huge return for one of the most popular players in franchise history and the pressure to do so must be immense. He's a bit handicapped by the previous inactivity from J.P. Ricciardi, but there will be no excuses. He has to get a few future stars in exchange for his ace or else he'll never get a fair shake in Toronto. Throw in the fact that the Yankees and Boston might be the only teams able to put together a package of talent (as well as afford a new contract for Halladay) and the spotlight shines even brighter.
7. These meetings are less fun when the Yankees are World Champs. Over the past few years, it became a fun game in itself to watch the Yankees frantically go after the best players on the market, only to see their millions fall short in the postseason the following season. But now that the Yanks are back on top, the dread that they're making all the right moves and cornering all the right players for another extended title run has returned.
8. MLB Trade Rumors is a behemoth. I've never met Tim Dierkes in person and I'm assuming he might just be an all-knowing spirit with access to a military-level RSS reader. For another winter, Dierkes and his crew became the de-facto scorekeepers of scoops and the one place that all other writers checked to see that they weren't getting beat. I have no idea how they keep track of it all, I'm just smart enough to not try and beat them at their own game for four days.
(Props are also due to Craig Calcaterra, the lawyer-turned-NBC Sports blogger who made his debut at these winter meetings with a performance so strong I had to introduce myself with a pat on the back to make sure he wasn't battery-powered. Sorry, Craig.)
9. Still, we wouldn't be anywhere without shoe-leather journalism. We have access to more information about the winter meetings than ever before and I think sometimes we consumers can take it for granted. But every tidbit you tear through was the result of a dedicated reporter burning the midnight oil in the lobby and gleaning information from sources they've cultivated over many years and even decades. There is no blogging without that type of effort — some reporters stay up to 3 a.m. just to catch a GM for confirmation — and we'd all be in a spot of trouble if they went away.
10. Indianapolis wasn't so bad. A lot of reporters complained about coming to Indy and I was inclined to agree with them any time a cold gust of air rushed through the lobby doors. But the truth is that these meetings are the same no matter where they take place — though it was nice to play blackjack during last year's downtime in Vegas — and one media workroom is another media workroom is another media workroom. I wouldn't want to stay in Indy ... but it's not a bad place to talk a little baseball.
• Coming up, the 10 top deals made in Indy