Baseball executives, writers, pundits and hangers-on are gathered in Orlando, Florida through Thursday to schmooze, drink, trade, sign free agents, and drink some more.
Fun, right? Maybe, but according to Paul Sullivan in the Tribune, the two Chicago general managers think the Winter Meetings could be an anachronism:
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer agreed that modern technology has lessened the impact of the Winter Meetings, which used to be one of the most important parts of the offseason for baseball executives and media alike. Now teams and agents trade info with each other through texts, e-mails and phone calls, so the need to actually talk in person with another human being is somewhat redundant. Hahn said he got more work done Sunday in Chicago than Monday at the Winter Meetings.
Hahn and Hoyer have a point. It seems much more importance is placed on these meetings by writers and broadcasters who have a central place where they can meet and talk to all of baseball's top execs. There's something to be said about being able to meet face-to-face rather than constant electronic communication, but Hoyer made this valid point:
Hoyer pointed to Twitter and the Internet as affecting both the GM Meetings and the Winter Meetings. "They lack a little bit of what they did in the past because we always were on the phone and text," he said. "You know so much more on Twitter or the Internet. We comment all the time it used to be you almost have team road trips to other teams. You have 3-4 people go to another team. You’d sit down and talk for half hour or 45 minutes. And it almost was like an etiquette that surrounded it. "Now, when we do those meetings, it sounds like out of place and times. We just don’t do that stuff anymore. It’s done on the phone. The meetings have changed, not for the worse. I miss when those things happened. Now, because communication is easier, we’re less excited about it."
The Winter Meetings seem less about making big deals, too. There has already been one major trade -- the swap of Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder -- and a big-time signing (Robinson Cano) before this conclave even got started. And the reason for that is, clearly, the ease of modern communication.
The meetings are still useful for people looking for jobs in baseball; as you can see by this schedule of events (link opens .pdf), there's a job fair that's part of the meetings, awards ceremonies and other events related to the business of baseball and it's a chance for all kinds of people interested in baseball to meet face-to-face.
They've already scheduled locations for the Winter Meetings for the next two years -- next December in San Diego, and December 2015 in Nashville (and they will, presumably, select a 2016 site later this week, as they have been choosing the venue three years in advance). But I think Hahn and Hoyer are probably correct -- at some point, baseball people might decide it's not worth the expense to take their operations somewhere for a week in December, and they can allocate the resources elsewhere.
Unless they all just enjoy having a baseball party in a warm-weather (OK, so Nashville isn't always warm in December) location in the winter. There is something to be said for that.