LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The most exciting moment of the 2013 winter meetings took place in the self-parking lot outside the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel at 12:03 p.m. local time Wednesday. Forget trades, free-agent signings and rumors. Two men tried to beat the crap out of each other, witnesses said, and one of them threatened to burn the other’s house down.
Suffice to say, these will not go down as the most memorable winter meetings, barring a big signing or an out-of-nowhere trade materializing late Wednesday or early Thursday. This was the winter meetings where the two biggest contracts went to a player who wasn’t even a free agent (Charlie Morton’s $21 million extension) and a player who looks like he ate a free agent (Bartolo Colon’s $20 million deal with the New York Mets). Sure, a three-way trade happened, and those are always fun, but sorry, Mark Trumbo and Co., you simply cannot hold a candle to an old-fashioned arson threat.
While it remains unclear who the men were, context clues from two witnesses to the altercation indicated that the fracas, which featured at least one kick, a handful of wild haymakers and intervention from both a local sheriff and hotel security, happened after one player agent accused another of trying to poach a client.
Stay the [expletive] away from my guy!” one man yelled, according to witnesses who described the chaotic – and amusing – scene to Yahoo Sports in exchange for anonymity.
One of the witnesses had pulled into a parking spot at the Dolphin and exited his car to the sound of words being exchanged. A family member suggested he take out his phone and record the incident, and what came of it is a 22-second snippet of a fight that the other witness believes lasted twice as long.
There was lots of yelling and pushing, including the angrier man upping the ante significantly when he said, according to the witnesses, “I’m gonna burn your [expletive] house down!” One of the men, said the witness recording the video, seemed to be apologizing – and then threw a punch to restart the fracas. The video, with the two men fighting in the distance, shows some scrapping, one man throwing a kick and the other winding up for a punch a la Super Macho Man in Mike Tyson’s Punchout.
The tussle continued until a local sheriff, who happened to be roaming through the parking lot, intervened, the witnesses said. After that, hotel employees – including Dolphin director of security Eric Clay, who did not return a message seeking comment from Yahoo Sports – showed up and ended the fight, which left one of the witnesses disappointed.
“It was pathetic,” he told Yahoo Sports. “It was the worst fight I’ve ever seen.”
An apt metaphor, actually, for winter meetings without much action. Yes, Major League Baseball ostensibly banned home-plate collisions, and, sure, the league also reached an agreement that would radically overhaul the posting of Japanese players, and, hey, it showcased instant replay for a number of executives and managers, preparing those inside the game for what is to come.
The hot stove portion of the proceedings, on the other hand, fizzled. Though by the end of the day Wednesday, the industry didn’t mind. The lobby at the Dolphin was abuzz with speculation of who the alleged agents might be. Twitter pulsed awaiting a clip of the fight, obtained by Yahoo Sports. And the boring winter meetings finally had a memorable moment.
And, thankfully, no fires.