This article was written by Luca Rossi
This article was published in Baseball’s Business: The Winter Meetings: 1958-2016
The 2013 Baseball Winter Meetings were held December 9-12 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, in Orlando, Florida. The meetings came only 40 days after the Boston Red Sox’ Koji Uehara pitched a perfect ninth inning in Game Six of the World Series, striking out Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals for the final out of the Series as the Red Sox beat the Cardinals and won the World Series for the first time since 1918.
Along with the traditional business activities (seminars and workshops) and social events, the meetings included the Baseball Trade Show, the 20th edition of the PBEO Job Fair, and the Women in Baseball Leadership Event, held for the sixth consecutive year, created as a networking opportunity for women employed directly in baseball and to promote more gender balance in the game.1
Issues on the agenda and opening remarks
On December 9, MiLB President and CEO Pat O’Conner opened the meetings with some reflections on the state of the game and the business of baseball.2
O’Conner, elected for his second term in 2011, declared the year to have been successful in spite of a slight decrease in attendance at both minor- and major-league levels. (In minor-league games attendance was recorded above the 48 million mark, while at the major-league level over 74 million tickets were sold, the sixth highest of all time.3) Despite an unfavorable economic climate, attendance decreased by only 1.1 percent as more than 122 million fans attended professional baseball games during the 2013 regular season.
O’Conner focused on the difficult commercial environment, especially for small businesses, which represent the large majority of ballclubs in America. “Unlike any other time in our history,” he said, “we must deal with troubling issues on a daily basis” as the clubs deal “with increasing costs, mounting frustration of a national health-care system undergoing a historical change” (with its own consequences on player contracts), safety concerns, and antiterrorism measures that impacted operating costs of ballparks and clubs.4 As a result, the 2013 meeting agenda was focusing more than ever on business seminars and workshops dealing with the above-mentioned issues.
The agenda also emphasized the great contribution of technology to the game as MLB and MiLB platforms were proving to be very successful at offering fan engagement and at the same time providing a growing source of revenues. It is perhaps worthy of note that for the first time the Winter Meetings had its own app for those attending the events.
“Has any edition of the winter meetings ever been overshadowed by the week before the winter meetings?” With this question, ESPN’s Jayson Stark opened his meetings preview column.5
Between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon, only hours before the meetings actually started, there were signings or agreements involving players Joe Nathan, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, Justin Morneau, Scott Kazmir, and Ryan Vogelsong, in addition to seven trades involving 25 other players. And that does not include a nontender day that released 43 more free agents.
Among the most significant free agents still unsigned at the time were right-handed pitchers Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Ervin Santana; outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, and infielder-DH Kendrys Morales, all of whom had to wait until after the conclusion of the meetings to find new employers.6 Trade talks involving the likes of David Price, Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Kemp also failed to materialize at the meetings despite strong rumors in the previous weeks.
Possibly the only “big-name” player to sign during the week of the meetings was former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon, who agreed to a two-year, $20 million contract with the New York Mets. Having won just 74 games, they proved to be one of the most active teams during the week, also signing former Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson to a four-year contract worth $60 million.
The meetings’ most notable transaction at the major-league level was a complicated three-team trade between the Angels, Diamondbacks, and White Sox. The Angels sent slugging first baseman-outfielder Mark Trumbo and minor-league right-hander A.J. Schugel to Arizona. The Angels received southpaws Tyler Skaggs (from Arizona) and Hector Santiago (from the White Sox), while outfielder Adam Eaton moved from Arizona to Chicago and minor-league outfielder Brandon Jacobs headed from the White Sox farm system to the Diamondbacks.
Veteran ace Roy Halladay announced his retirement at the meetings, signing a one-day contract with Toronto so he could retire as a Blue Jay, the club with which he spent 12 of his 16 baseball seasons. Halladay was only the second pitcher in history to record a no-hitter in postseason play when he defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 4-0, on October 6, 2010, as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. He had also tossed a perfect game earlier in the year (against the Marlins), making him only the fifth pitcher in major-league history to throw two no-hitters in a single season. Halladay is one of only five pitchers to win the Cy Young Award in both the American League (2003 with Toronto) and National League (2010 with Philadelphia).
Hall of Fame announcement
On December 9 baseball history was on display, following the Expansion Era Committee’s announcement that managers Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, and Joe Torre would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.7 The committee’s decision was announced by Hall of Fame Chair Jane Forbes Clark during the first day of the meetings. Cox, LaRussa, and Torre combined for 7,558 regular-season wins, 17 pennants, and 8 World Series championships.
Other relevant stories
Perhaps the biggest story from the 2013 Winter Meetings in terms of its possible impact on the future of the game, was that Major League Baseball was moving toward banning collisions at home plate. The players union would have to approve the rules change for the 2014 season; if it did not, MLB could unilaterally implement the rule for the 2015 season.8 As it turned out, MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed on language, and an experimental rule, 7.13 (Collisions at Home Plate), was in place beginning with spring training in 2014.9
Minor League Baseball crowned Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A Eastern League) President Charlie Eshbach the 2013 King of Baseball. This title represents a long-standing tradition in which Minor League Baseball salutes a veteran from the professional baseball world for longtime dedication and service.10 Eshbach celebrated his 40th season in the game in 2013, working for one of the minor leagues’ most celebrated and successful franchises, following 11 years as president of the Eastern League.
Press Release Regarding New MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark11
On December 3, 2013, after Players Association executive director Michael Weiner died less than two weeks earlier, Tony Clark became the first former major-league player to assume the role. Clark was caught off guard by the circumstances: “I expected to be tied to the hip of Michael for 20 years. He rides off into the sunset, I ride off into the sunset. We ride off into the sunset having affected the game positively.”12
Here is the formal announcement of Clark’s appointment:
LA JOLLA, Calif. – The executive board of the Major League Baseball Players Association voted unanimously to appoint Tony Clark as the union’s next executive director, pending a vote by the general membership, it was announced today during the MLBPA’s annual executive board meeting. The general membership will vote on the matter as soon as practicable.
Clark, 41, has been serving as the MLBPA’s acting executive director since former executive director Michael Weiner’s passing on Nov. 22, after a 15-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor.
As executive director, Clark, who joined the MLBPA staff in March 2010 as director of player relations, and was promoted to deputy executive director this past July, will oversee all day-to-day aspects of the MLBPA’s operations, including labor relations, business affairs and the Players Trust.
“Although the need to name a new executive director was brought about by the tragic passing of Michael Weiner, a man we all loved and respected, we’re very happy to have someone like Tony take the helm of our union,” stated Jeremy Guthrie, who, along with Curtis Granderson, serves as MLBPA association representative, the union’s most senior player-leadership position. “Tony’s experience as one of the most respected players of his generation and his knowledge of the union and its bargaining relationship with the clubs will serve all players well as we navigate the future.”
“Tony has some big shoes to fill, but we’re more than confident that he has the knowledge, experience and passion to serve as our next executive director,” added Granderson. “Tony has been actively involved in the last three rounds of bargaining, and his commitment to the brotherhood of players – past, present, and future – makes him uniquely qualified to serve in this role.”
“It is with a very heavy heart that I thank the players for providing me the honor and opportunity to follow my mentor and friend, Michael Weiner, as the MLBPA’s next executive director,” said Tony. “We all wish this decision was not necessary; however, we also know that Michael would urge all of us involved with the union to forge ahead in our efforts to protect the rights of the players. The passion and courage Michael displayed during his inspiring 15-month battle has truly set a tone that further embodies the commitment players have to the Players Association and to one another.”
Clark retired during the 2009 season, after spending 15 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and San Diego Padres. Originally drafted by the Tigers in the first round (second overall) of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft, Clark made his big-league debut in September 1995 and finished third in 1996 Rookie of the Year voting. Clark, a first baseman, played in 1,559 games, appeared in the 2001 All-Star Game and finished his career with 1,188 hits, 251 home runs, and 824 RBIs.
Clark became active in union affairs after attending his first executive board meeting in 1999. From there he became a team player representative, before spending his last seven seasons as an association representative. As a player, Clark was actively involved in the union’s collective bargaining negotiations in 2002 and 2006, as well as in negotiations over the Joint Drug Agreement.
The MLBPA executive board consists of the 30 player representatives, two association representatives, two alternate association representatives, two pension representatives and two alternate pension representatives (38 players total).
1 2013 Baseball Winter Meetings, Agenda and Events, Milb.com, milb.com/milb/events/winter_meetings/y2013/agenda_events.jsp.
2 “O’Conner’s Opening Session Speech,” Milb.com, milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20131209&content_id=64505444&vkey=pr_milb&fext=.jsp&sid=milb.
3 numbertamer.com/files/2013_Prelim_notes-Revised_1_.pdf ; “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of MLB Attendance,” Forbes.com, forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2013/10/03/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-mlbs-2013-attendance/#7ff48b7d3308.
5 Jayson Stark, “Winter Meetings Forecast,” ESPN.com, December 7, 2013, espn.com/mlb/wintermeetings2013/story/_/id/10084758/mlb-winter-meetings-preview.
6 Matt Snyder, “Wrapping Up the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings,” CBSSports.com, December 12, 2013, cbssports.com/mlb/news/wrapping-up-the-2013-mlb-winter-meetings/.
8 “MLB Set to Ban Home-Plate Collisions, Needs MLBPA Approval,” CBS Sports.com, cbssports.com/mlb/news/mlb-set-to-ban-home-plate-collisions-needs-mlbpa-approval/.
9 Tim Brown, “MLB Moves to Eliminate Home Plate Collisions,” Yahoo Sports.com, December 12, 2013, sports.yahoo.com/news/mlb-moves-to-eliminate-home-plate-collisions-041253389.html.
10 “Eshbach named ‘2013 King of Baseball,’” Milb.com, December 12, 2013, milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20131212&content_id=64642892&fext=.jsp&vkey=pr_milb.
11 MLBPA/MLB News Release, “MLBPA executive board appoints Tony Clark executive director pending vote of the general membership,” MLB.com, December 3, 2013. Accessed October 5, 2017. mlb.mlb.com/pa/releases/releases.jsp?content=120313
12 Chris Jenkins, “Taking the Reins: Former Aztec, Padre to Head Major League Baseball’s Players Group,” San Diego Union Tribune, December 4, 2013: A-1.