Breakout! The GM Meetings end without incident

goodfellasFrom the outside it seemed like a blur of three days. All of the general managers of all of the Major League Baseball teams holed up in a hotel near the airport in Chicago very much like Hunter Thompson on the Vegas strip, only many more lawyers and fewer grapefruits.

There, in the heavily fortified compound off the Interstate with free parking, a pool, wireless, a complimentary breakfast, and a quick route to the busiest airport in the country, it sounds like the GMs just had a gabfest. Oh, there surely was plenty of baseball talk, maybe over hand of Texas Hold ‘Em in Epstein’s room where he filled up the tub with ice and loaded it up with a couple of cases of Pabst pounders. Eddie Wade ordered some pizzas. Ruben? Yeah, Ruben was there, too.

He was the quiet one like Ray Liotta in that breakfast scene in Goodfellas, where Scorsese’s mom says, “Whatsa matter Henry, you don’t talk so much.”

Hey, these are baseball men. They live the good life. The really are the Goodfellas.

But aside from a nice hangout at the Hilton with wireless in every room (standard usage fees apply), the GMs really didn’t do all that much in the annual chin wag. Actually, they may have reflected the state of the economy by following up a week at a resort in sunny Dana Point, Calif. by hanging at the Midwest’s version of Northern Jersey. Otherwise, they might have set the table—you know, a handshake here, a the ol’ business card exchange—for the real work that begins once the free agency period opens in earnest next week.

Then it’s off to Indianapolis for the Winter Meetings.

No doubt all the GMs and their staffs will get together to sing this song:

Song completed they’ll go out and spend the working incomes of 10 middle-class families for a guy to pitch the seventh inning.

Hey, these are baseball men. They live the good life. The really are the Goodfellas.

Oh, but that doesn’t mean they came away from Chicago with nothing to show for it. Nope, not at all. Old Ruben sitting quietly in the corner got to present the team’s wants and needs, which are, in order, third base; relief pitching; and a bench piece or two.

He also got to debunk a few rumors as is his wont at such things. In fact, he’s really good at it. Last year at the Winter Meetings at Las Vegas, I had a player tell me point blank and like I was a six-year-old so I could easily understand what he was saying, that he did, in fact, just exit a meeting with management types from the Phillies and was set up to have another one later. When asked how the meeting with the player went, we were told that he did not meet with that player.

It made me feel dumb (well, dumber than usual) until I quickly realized (in the course of 1.5 seconds) what was going on. Technically, no, Ruben did not meet with the player and the term “Phillies” was ambiguous. It was a smoke screen, because really, who cares who Chuck LaMarr talks to?

I grew up around lawyers and know a few of them quite well and they will tell you Ruben was using one of their old lawyering tricks without a J.D.

As an aside, my lawyer friend’s dad (also a lawyer) told me a joke recently:

“What does a lawyer use for birth control?”

Give up…

“His personality.”

But there was a chance for those li’l newshounds out there to chase down so-called rumors that really weren’t rumors to begin with. It was more like a game of whisper down the lane torn from the pages of Hunter Thompson. It’s the stuff we love because if it sticks even for a millisecond, it really doesn’t matter how long it takes to slither down the wall. People like to talk about baseball. This is one of those givens like taxes, death and leaf raking in November.

People really like to talk about baseball.

Only most GMs would prefer it if you didn’t talk about the baseball as it relates to them. They’re funny that way. Kind of ha-ha funny, too.

jeterThough not for the lack of trying, there was some news that came out of the GM meetings from the United Airlines Terminal. For instance, the Gold Glove Awards were announced, which always stirs a debate and gets people worked up over one the more meaningless awards in a veritable trophy shop filled with meaningless awards. People seemed most hot and bothered that MLB coaches and players gave Gold Gloves to Derek Jeter, but not to Chase Utley. That’s fair, I suppose. After all, the best shortstop in the American League plays third base for the New York Yankees, and people in Philadelphia like that Chase Utley dives to catch balls that smoother fielders can scoop up routinely or he falls down to the grass like a inadvertent slip when he has to make a particularly tough throw.

But no one really seems worked up over the fact that the name TULOWITZKI can’t fit on the little plaque beneath the gold painted glove. Or no one cares that the new trendy stat called UZR, used to reflect defensive prowess, is flawed just like every other baseball stat.

All except for home runs. That one is easy to quantify.

Elsewhere, the GMs decided to table the idea of instant replay because they don’t want to be a sport known for its access reliance on progress, digitalized information or computers.

Hey, just as long as someone closes the retractable roof and shuts down the 10-story HD scoreboard before we leave.

As a final note, I’d like to send out my condolences to the Miller Family, particularly Ben, Allison, Gretchen and Chip. You see, Mrs. Cheryl Miller, the matriarch of the Miller clan on Wheatland Ave. here in Lancaster, Pa., passed away on Tuesday.

I grew up down the street from the Millers and often turned their home into an annex of mine. So did the rest of the kids from the neighborhood where we would take over to watch the big game, fight, movie or just hangout or whatever. Frankly, it says a lot about a family if everyone from the ‘hood wants to hang out at their home. For one it means they probably had a pretty good sense of humor about having a veritable bee hive of kids running in and out, and for another, it means people felt welcomed.

Undoubtedly Mrs. Miller fostered that atmosphere. She loved having her kids around and if they brought their friends or the rest of the block along, too, all the better. Now that I’m damn-near an old man and have my own kids, I’m hoping to one day copy off Mrs. Miller and open up my home and family to whomever my kids drag in from the outside.

Mrs. Miller sure had the kindness and the generosity market cornered in these parts. That’s a trait anyone should want to copy.

So in times like these it’s very difficult not to think about how much fun we had with certain people and feel sad that those we shared those great times with are no longer among us. Mrs. Miller was a tremendous lady who raised some pretty damn good kids, including my friend Ben (probably has been the subject of earlier posts on this site), who just so happens to be the best Phillies fan I know.

I’m not smart enough to know much about praying, religion, philosophy or the afterlife, but I’m going to take a little solace knowing that somewhere Mrs. Miller is surrounded by a whole bunch of people having a really good time.

As in heaven just as on earth, of course.

Seventh inning: Eyre over Madson

MILWAUKEE – Obviously, Milwaukee is filthy with media folks this weekend. Aside from the usual suspects like four writers from The Inquirer and the Daily News apiece and six folks from Comcast SportsNet, a bunch of national types have dropped in to see if the Phillies can get it done.

And since most folks are stuck here all weekend, a bunch are hoping for the Phillies to end it tonight so they can spend a leisurely Sunday writing and hanging out in Chicago, which is about 70-minutes south of Milwaukee.

Another option is the 90-minute drive north to Green Bay to watch the Packers at Lambeau Field.

My choice is Chicago. If the Phillies get this done tonight it might have to make the jaunt down there tonight.

But if the Phillies are going to make it a clean sweep they can’t have innings like the seventh where Carlos Villanueva buzzed through the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 hitters for an easy, 1-2-3 frame.

Meanwhile, Scott Eyre returned to pitch the seventh and gave up J.J. Hardy’s third hit of the game. A sacrifice bunt and an infield single from Craig Counsell put runners on the corners with one out, but manager Charlie Manuel decided to stick with the lefty Eyre to face right-handed hitter Jason Kendall.

Bad move.

Kendall’s single to left made it 4-1 and immediately got J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson up in the Phillies’ bullpen.

But why didn’t Madson start the inning? After all, Eyre is mostly a situational lefty these days and the Brewers had two straight right-handed hitters up to start the inning, followed by lefty Counsell and another righty, Kendall.

Madson quickly got out of the inning, but now the Phillies are six outs away from making us all stay in Milwaukee and show up at the ballpark for breakfast tomorrow morning.

End of 7: Brewers 4, Phillies 1