Friday, December 11, 2009

Why is MLB at the Winter Meetings?

I've just returned to Lansing from the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis.  I think this article by ESPN's Keith Law illustrates well what a lot of people thought of the meetings being held in Indy.  As a whole, it was a pretty good location, much better than past locations for the meetings... with the exception of the weather.  It was frigid and windy and snowy, a much better place to be inside than outside.

That said, these are concerns voiced by others.  The weather didn't hamper my travel, and so I was quite content.  I received a pair of tours of the beautiful Lucas Oil Stadium, one on Monday (thanks to my friend Tim Calderwood via his friend and Colts employee Jeff Brown) and then another one at the concluding gala on Wednesday night.  I also meeting new people and catching up with familiar faces throughout the goings-on, whether co-workers from seasons past or friends from prior Winter Meetings.

The truest thing noted by Keith in his article is this:  "MLB's winter meetings are actually not MLB's affair, at least not in name. Minor League Baseball sets them up and uses them to hold meetings but also to attract vendors and hold a large job fair.

He's right.  All of Minor League Baseball has a chance to attend seminars and meetings and conferences, for one thing.  Major League Baseball has no need for that; it just held its annual General Manager Meetings a couple of weeks earlier.  Here are the other top two aspects of the Winter Meetings:

1) The Trade Show, home of the venders --- concessionaires, bat manufacturers, trading card folks, scoreboard designers, fireworks operators, clothing hawkers, and everything else that could possibly be connected with baseball.  Do you want to hire someone to make you a mascot suit?  You find them here.  Do you want to hire Jake the Diamond Dog or Myron Noodleman to perform at your stadium?  Jake and Myron are here.  Want to get something huge and inflatable for the kids area at the stadium?  It's here.

2)  The Job Fair, home of assorted resume-stocked people -- mostly early-20s, white, male, and in a suit -- all looking to get a job in baseball.  On Sunday, all of these people are nervous.  On Monday, all of these people are bored.  On Tuesday, all of these people are depressed.  There are always fewer job openings than they hoped for and even fewer of those openings are filled by the end of the Winter Meetings.  It took me three Job Fairs to learn the best way for a broadcaster to find a job was by stopping team executives in the hallway and talking to them, rather than putting a resume into a box and waiting at a table in the "workroom" for hour upon hour.  Now I make time to hang out at the Job Fair and try to offer optimism and confidence to the souls waiting in limbo there.

Both of those, the Trade Show and the Job Fair, can be done entirely without Major League Baseball.  In fact, there's no need for the MLB to be at the Winter Meetings at all, especially with how easily technology can connect people over vast distances these days.  Rule 5 Draft?  No need to be there in person.  Trade talks?  No need to be there in person.Drinking the night away with old and new buddies?  Ah, there's the reason to be at the Winter Meetings in person.  And that's it.

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