This article was written by Andy Bokser
This article was published in the Baseball’s Business: The Winter Meetings: 1958-2016
Among the more noteworthy events in major-league baseball in 2010 were a) the San Francisco Giants winning their first World Series since 1954 (when the franchise was based in New York) when they defeated the Texas Rangers in five games; b) the in-season retirement of several stars, including future Hall of Famers Randy Johnson, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Ken Griffey; and c) the retirement of future Hall of Fame managers Bobby Cox and Joe Torre. The major leagues (and minor leagues) culminated the 2010 baseball season with their winter meetings, held at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, from December 6 to 9.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist welcomed the attendees to Orlando during the awards luncheon on the first day of the meetings. Governor Crist applauded the major and minor leagues’ economic contributions to the state.
“I thank minor-league baseball and major-league baseball for choosing our state as the location for the annual tradition of the winter meetings,” Governor Crist said. “Professional baseball means nearly $1 billion annually to Florida’s economy, and this event puts a nice ending to a year that saw the economic outlook brighten.”1
Crist, who had previously served as general counsel for Minor League Baseball, had worked to strengthen professional baseball’s presence in Florida.2 In 2008, he revived the annual Governor’s Baseball Dinner after it had not been held for more than a decade. Held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg prior to the beginning of spring training, the dinner honored the major-league clubs that hold spring training and fall instructional leagues in the state, and the minor-league affiliates that play in Florida during the spring and summer.3
The Winter Meetings in 2010 were more than the gathering of baseball’s leaders. There was also a trade show with companies trying to persuade teams to use their products.4 One example of a trade-show presenter was Pocket Radar, a company that developed a radar gun the size of an iPhone which, according to the company, drew considerable interest from several major-league teams.5
One of the topics of discussion at the meetings involved the findings of Commissioner Bud Selig’s special committee on rule changes. Among the topics explored by the committee was the idea of expanding the number of teams in the playoffs from eight teams to 10. Torre said he thought the addition of more playoff teams was a good idea because he felt that the team winning the division “didn’t have as much clout as it should.”6 Under the existing rules, the wild-card team, while not having home-field advantage during the playoffs, needed the same number of wins to reach the World Series as did the team that won its division. Adding an additional round (or single game between two wild-card teams) would theoretically make it more difficult for the wild-card team to reach the World Series, thus rewarding the division winner for finishing first after 162 games. Torre’s support for a change (he was a member of Selig’s committee) was echoed by fellow managers Lou Piniella and Cito Gaston.7 The options contemplated for the new playoff format would be either a best-of-three series or a one-game playoff, which is what was implemented beginning in 2012.8 Selig’s 14-member committee, which also included managers Tony LaRussa (Cardinals), Jim Leyland (Tigers), and Mike Scioscia (Angels), plus Hall of Famer Frank Robinson and future Hall of Famer John Schuerholz, was also charged with discussing the possible expansion of the instant-replay system. Selig (who was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017),9 was not at that time in favor of expanding the replay to plays other than home runs or fair/foul calls. However, approval of any changes endorsed by Selig or his committee would only be the first step, with approval needed by both the major-league owners and the Players Association.10
Longtime successful managers Joe Torre, Lou Piniella, Bobby Cox, and Cito Gaston were invited to the Winter Meetings by Selig for a special tribute to their managerial careers. (Cox reportedly left before the ceremony due to a family issue.)11 Cox and Gaston had previously announced their retirements. While neither Piniella nor Torre formally announced their intentions to leave the bench, both made it clear that they were not looking to resume the managerial reins.12
In a highlight of the meetings, it was announced that former Toronto Blue Jays executive Pat Gillick had been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.13 Gillick spent 27 years as a general manager and was credited with building the 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays World Series champions; the Seattle Mariners team that reached the American League Championship Series in 2000 and 2001 (winning an AL-record 116 games in 2001 before being dispatched by the New York Yankees in five games in the ALCS)14 and the 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.15 Prior to his positions as general manager, Gillick also worked as a minor-league player, scout, and scouting director.16 He was credited with some very successful trades during his career including recommending the acquisition of second baseman Willie Randolph from the Pirates while he was the Yankees’ scouting director. When Gillick left the Yankees to become the Toronto Blue Jays’ assistant general manager in 1977, George Steinbrenner reportedly unsuccessfully tried to block the move,17 hoping to keep Gillick in the Bronx.18 In December of 1982, Gillick was able to outsmart his old boss when he traded right-handed relief pitcher Dale Murray and a minor leaguer to the Yankees for outfielder Dave Collins, right-handed pitcher Mike Morgan, and a minor leaguer Gillick wanted – Fred McGriff, who became a five-time All-Star and hit 493 homers in the majors.19
With 16 members on the committee, 12 votes (75 percent) were required to be elected, and Gillick received 13 of 16 votes. Among those who were passed over were Marvin Miller (one vote short), Dave Concepcion (who along with Miller was the only other candidate who received more than half of the votes), Ted Simmons, Vida Blue, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Billy Martin, Al Oliver, Rusty Staub, and Steinbrenner.20 Miller, who was instrumental in leading the Major League Baseball Players Association from a small struggling entity to one of the strongest unions in all of organized labor, expressed his frustration and anger at the results of the vote. Miller declared, “A long time ago it became apparent the Hall sought to bury me before my time. … Its failure is exemplified by the fact that I and the union have received far more support, publicity, and appreciation from countless fans, former players, scholars, and writers than if the Hall had not embarked on its futile and fraudulent attempt to rewrite history. It is an amusing anomaly that the Hall of Fame has made me famous by keeping me out.”21
It was reported that Miller did not congratulate Pat Gillick on his election and falsely accused Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci of not voting for him.22 Miller did fare better than Steinbrenner, who received fewer than eight votes.23 Another Veterans Committee member, Hall of Famer Tony Perez, voted for Miller and expressed regret that he had not been elected.24 Gene Orza, the Players Association’s chief operating officer, theorized that Miller’s opposition to drug testing may have resulted in his losing votes. He also declared that reasons to vote against Miller were petty.25 Commissioner Selig said he supported both Miller and Steinbrenner for the Hall of Fame. Former Commissioner Fay Vincent said it was “embarrassing” that Miller did not get in.26
Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers, and Dave Van Horne, longtime broadcaster of the Montreal Expos (from 1969 to 2001) and Florida Marlins (since 2002), was named the recipient of the Hall of Fame‘s 2011 Ford Frick Award.27 They were honored at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 24, 2011. Conlin covered the Phillies and was The Sporting News’s National League columnist from 1966 to 1986.28 In another announcement, the Baseball Writers Association of America reported that it had voted down proposals to delay the voting for manager of the year until November to take the playoffs into account, and to create a new award for relief pitchers.29
Minor League Baseball also gave out awards at the meetings. Since 1951, the minors had annually honored one of their own with the “King of Baseball Award” in commemoration of their “long-time dedication and service.”30 The award for 2010 went to former All-Star first baseman Don Mincher, who played with several major-league teams and had been president of the Southern League since 2000.31 The John H. Johnson President’s Award was presented to the Billings Mustangs, the Cincinnati Reds’ affiliate in the Pioneer League, for its stability, its contributions to the league’s stability, and its promotion of the baseball industry.32
The Winter Meetings did not go well for Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy. While waiting for an elevator with two of his coaches, Carney Lansford and Tom Runnells, he collapsed and was taken to a hospital, where he was held overnight.33
In addition to receiving good news about their manager, the Rockies announced they had signed infielder Ty Wigginton, an All-Star in 2010 with the Baltimore Orioles, to a two-year, $8 million deal.34
The Rockies got a bargain in Wigginton when compared to the monster contract signed by Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth. Right before the Winter Meetings, on December 5, Werth’s agent, Scott Boras, completed a deal with the last-place Washington Nationals worth $126 million.35 Werth asserted that the Phillies did not want him after reportedly offering him a mere four-year contract in the vicinity of $66 million. The signing caused more than a stir during the Winter Meetings.36 New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson quipped, “I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington.”37
It was announced that Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt had lost a critical ruling in his divorce action. Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon38 held that the property settlement reached by McCourt and his wife, Jamie, was invalid. The ruling meant that under California’s community-property laws the court could determine after trial that Jamie was a co-owner. That ruling left the future of the Dodgers in turmoil.39 The troubles with the Dodgers continued after the end of the Winter Meetings when Major League Baseball expressed concerns about how McCourt was running the team, anxieties that led MLB to take over the day-to-day control of the club in April 2011. McCourt filed for bankruptcy protection in June 2011, and in November McCourt agreed to sell the Dodgers to a group that included Magic Johnson, longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten, and controlling owner Mark Walter;40 they formally took control on March 27, 2012.41
Another court proceeding that seemingly had an impact on a team’s actions during the meetings involved the Bernard Madoff case in Manhattan Bankruptcy Court. In this case it was the Wilpon family, owners of the New York Mets as well as substantial investors with Madoff, who were involved.
The Bankruptcy Court appointed trustee Irving H. Picard to oversee the distribution of assets from Madoff to his victims. Among the trustee’s powers was the ability to reclaim funds from investors who received “profits,” and pay the recovered monies into a fund to partially compensate other victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Picard stated that the Mets made nearly $48 million from investing with Madoff.42 Potentially, the Wilpons would have had to return millions of dollars. As the Winter Meetings began, it was unclear how the Wilpons would be affected by the Madoff litigation. Jeff Wilpon maintained that the Mets were in good shape financially and the family was not looking to sell the team.43 However, it was not seen as a coincidence that general manager Sandy Alderson said the club was not planning to spend any significant money at the meeting, and that if the Mets were going to improve in 2011 (their 2010 record was 79-83, placing them fourth in the five-team NL East), the current players would have to do better.44
However, the Mets did acquire a couple of players during the meetings, including former Miami Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino, who still needed to serve eight games of a 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Alderson, in defending the signing, said the Mets were operating within the system that was in place.45
Shortly after the Winter Meetings concluded, the Mets announced that they would explore selling a noncontrolling 20-25 percent interest in the club. Owner Fred Wilpon called it “the right thing to do from a business perspective.”46 (The Madoff chapter with the Wilpons continued until 2012, when the family agreed to return $162 million to the trustee over a five-year period. That amount could have been reduced by any claims they made against Madoff as victims of the Ponzi scheme. The trustee, Picard, reportedly had been seeking to recover up to $386 million from the Wilpons before their settlement.47)
Amid all of these off-the-field developments, a couple of trades were made, the most significant one involving the San Diego Padres and the Boston Red Sox. The Padres sent their three-time All-Star, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, to the Red Sox for right-handed pitcher Casey Kelly, Boston’s first-round draft pick in 2008, outfielder Reymond Fuentes, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and a player to be named later who turned out to be infielder-outfielder Eric Patterson. San Diego general manager Jed Hoyer said the Padres had determined that they would not be able to sign Gonzalez after 2011 and decided to act in 2010 rather than risk hoping for a deal to develop the next summer.48
The Red Sox’ acquisition of Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford, whom they signed to a seven-year, $142 million free-agent contract, was less than successful. They were both packaged on August 25, 2012, along with right-hander Josh Beckett, infielder Nick Punto, and cash, to the Dodgers for infielder Ivan De Jesus, first baseman James Loney, and right-hander Allen Webster, plus players to be named later. The Dodgers later sent right-hander Rubby De La Rosa and outfielder-first baseman Jerry Sands to the Red Sox to complete the trade.49
The Baltimore Orioles went to the meetings determined to improve their ballclub, which had just seen three different managers record 96 losses and finish at the bottom of the AL East. On December 6, they traded a pair of right-handers, Kam Mickolio and David Hernandez, to Arizona for third baseman Mark Reynolds and a player to be named, who became catcher John Hester. Three days later, they sent two more righties, Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson, to the Minnesota Twins for a pair of infielders, J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris. In 2011 the Orioles won only three more games, but by 2012 they won 93 games and made the postseason.
There was one other major trade involving name players. Right-hander Shawn Marcum, who had just come off a 13-win season for the Toronto Blue Jays, was sent to Milwaukee in a straight deal for infielder Brett Lawrie, who had been the Brewers’ first-round draft pick in 2008.
The most significant free-agent signing saw the Yankees bring back their shortstop and captain, Derek Jeter. While that may have seemed to be a no-brainer, Jeter’s age (36), his drop in productivity and declining range at shortstop made for some rather contentious negotiations.50 Jeter agreed to a three-year contract worth $51 million, with an option on a fourth year.51 After the announcement of the agreement Jeter commented, “I was pretty angry about it and I let it be known.” But he added that he was going to move on. “It’s over with, and I won’t bring it up again. I’m happy because this is where I want to be.”52
The Seattle Mariners’ former closer, right-hander J.J. Putz, left the Chicago White Sox to sign with the Diamondbacks, where he regained his All-Star form in both 2011 and 2012. Two-time All-Star infielder Melvin Mora also signed with Arizona after a season in Denver. Catcher Miguel Olivo also said goodbye to the Mile-High City and hello to the Emerald City of Seattle. Outfielder Jeff Francoeur left the Texas Rangers for the Kansas City Royals and proved to be very productive in Kansas City. Cincinnati right-hander Aaron Harang signed with the Padres and won 14 games, his best season since 2007. Meanwhile, infielder Miguel Cairo, left-hander Mike Hampton, and first baseman Paul Konerko re-signed with the Reds, Diamondbacks, and White Sox, respectively.
Other reported transactions during the meeting were:
- P Brian Bass (Baltimore Orioles) signed with Philadelphia Phillies.
- OF Eric Hinske re-signed with Atlanta Braves.
- IF Russ Adams re-signed with New York Mets.
- OF Trent Oeltjen re-signed with Los Angeles Dodgers.
- C Paul Phillips (Colorado Rockies) filed for free agency, then signed with Cleveland Indians.
- P Boof Bonser (Oakland Athletics) signed with New York Mets.
- IF Carlos Peña (Tampa Bay Rays) signed with Chicago Cubs.
- OF Jack Cust (Athletics) signed with Seattle.53
In addition to the team executives and agents trying to make deals, other attendees included agent Scott Boras, who was trying to drum up interest in his many clients, including outfielder Manny Ramirez, who had a poor 2010 season for the Dodgers and White Sox. He did succeed in getting the Chicago Cubs to sign Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Peña to a one-year, $10 million contract, even though he had batted just .196 in 2010, albeit with 28 home runs.54
Newly hired Mets manager Terry Collins was at the meetings, happy to be back running a major-league team, and he expressed his gratitude to Mets former GM Omar Minaya and the man who hired him, general manager Sandy Alderson. Also seen in Lake Buena Vista was former Twins outfielder Bobby Kielty, who had been in the minor leagues for the past three seasons.55 Kielty attended the meetings after playing winter ball, hoping to stir up interest in having a team sign him for 2011.56 It didn’t happen, and Kielty never again played in a major-league game.
California Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who was at the meetings as a member of Bud Selig’s special committee, was touting baseball’s number-one prospect, outfielder Mike Trout. He thought Trout would have a great future. (It is clear that Scioscia’s perception about his future star was on the money.)57
The 2010 Winter Meetings delivered a new Hall of Famer, a future change in the playoff format, several player transactions, awards to deserving members of the baseball family, and every indication that baseball had completed a good year and was set up for a successful 2011 campaign as well.
1 “Governor Crist Applauds Impact of Sports on Florida’s Economy,” States News Service, December 6, 2010, Infortrac Newsstand, go.galegroupcom/ps/i.do? Gale Document Number: Gale A243664422.
2 Jane Musgrave, “Crist’s Career a Continuous Evolution,” Palm Beach Post, October 17, 2010: 1A.
3 “Governor Crist Applauds Impact of Sports on Florida’s Economy,” Targeted News Service, December 6, 2010.
4 “Baseball Winter Meetings,” Minor League Baseball news release, milb.com/content/page.jsp?sid=t456&ymd=20101205&content_id=16258124&vkey=news.
5 David Waldstein, “Gizmos Come to Play at Winter Meetings,” New York Times, December 12, 2010: SP8.
6 Ronald Blum, “Ex-Managers Favor More Teams in Baseball Playoff,” Lakeland (Florida) Ledger, December 8, 2010.
8 2012 MLB Postseason Schedule, MLB.com news release, mlb.mlb.com/mlb/schedule/ps.jsp?y=12.
9 Craig Muder, “Expanding Hall,” Memories and Dreams (Hall of Fame publication), Spring 2017.
10 Rick Hummel, “Selig Will Be at Meetings; Commissioner’s Panel Will Discuss Expanding the Playoffs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 2, 2010: C.3.
11 Bill Madden, “Joe & Lou Manage Futures,” New York Daily News, December 8, 2010: 64.
13 Tyler Kepner, “Gillick Elected to Hall; Steinbrenner and Miller Fall Short,” New York Times, December 7, 2010.
14 Steve Gietschier, “Year in Review,” The Sporting News Baseball Guide 2002 Edition.
15 Bill Madden, “On George, Vets Shout Hall No! Boss Gets Less than 50% as Rival Gillick Walks In,” New York Daily News, December 7, 2010: 65. (The article incorrectly listed the Phillies’ championship year as 2005; it was 2008 when they defeated the Tampa Bay Rays.)
18 Tyler Kepner.
20 Paul Hogan, “Celebration Breaks Out at Winter Meetings,” Philadelphia Daily News, December 7, 2010: 60.
21 Bill Madden “On George, Vets Shout Hall No!”
22 Ken Davidoff, “Winter Meetings Report Card,” Newsday, December 12, 2010.
23 Bill Madden, “On George, Vets Shout Hall No!”
24 Tyler Kepner.
25 Richard Sandomir, “Miller Says Hall Is Trying to Rewrite History,” New York Times, December 7, 2010.
26 Associated Press, “Pat Gillick Elected to Hall of Fame,” Pensacola News Journal, December 7, 2010: 15.
28 “Rocks’ Tracy out of Hospital After Collapse,” Detroit Free Press, December 8, 201: B4.
29 Phil Rogers, “Red Sox Land a Monster haul,” Chicago Tribune, December 10, 2010: 2-8.
30 “Major Award Winners,” Minor League Baseball news release, milb.com/milb/history/awards.jsp.
31 “Don Mincher Stats,” baseball-almanac.com/players/player.php?p=minchdo01.
32 Minor League Baseball news release, milb.com/minlb/history/awards.jsp.
33 Ben Walker, “Rockies Manager Collapses at Winter Meetings,” Shreveport Times, December 8, 2010.
35 Gary Gillette and Pete Palmer, “2010 Transactions,” The Emerald Guide to Baseball 2011.
36 Matt Gelb and Bob Brookover, “Werth’s Departure Not Surprising,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 6, 2010: D06.
37 Associated Press, “Werthwhile Signing,” Easton (Maryland) Star-Democrat, December 6, 2010: 11.
38 “Baseball Notebook,” Associated Press, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 8, 2010: C002.
39 Richard Sandomir and Ken Belson, “Roundup: Ruling Could Lead to Sale of Dodgers.” New York Times, December 8, 2010: B-19.
40 Tony Jackson, “Frank McCourt to sell Dodgers,” EspnLosAngeles.com, November 2, 2011.
41 “Dodgers Owners Through the Years,” Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2012.
42 Ronald Blum, “Owners Explore Partial Sale of Mets,” Anniston (Alabama) Star, January 29, 2011: 16.
43 Peter Lattman and Michael S. Schmidt, “Madoff Case Lingers as Menace to Mets,” New York Times, December 6, 2010: D-2.
45 David Lennon, “Alderson Addresses Paulino’s PED Suspension,” Newsday, December 9, 2010.
46 Ronald Blum, “Owners Explore Partial Sale of Mets.”
47 Grant McCool and Jonathan Stempel, “NY Mets Owners Settle Madoff Case, Avoid Trial,” reuters.com/article/madoff-mets/ny-mets-owners-settle-madoff-case-avoid-trial-idINDEE82I0BG20120319, March 19, 2012.
48Ben Walker, “Gillick Elected to Hall, Big Deals at Meetings,” Shreveport Times, December 7, 2010: 17.
49 Carl Crawford, baseball-reference.com/players/c/crawfca02.shtml.
50 Ben Shpigel and Michael S. Schmidt, “End of Discussion: Jeter’s a Yankee,” New York Times, December 4, 2010, accessed online September 9, 2017.
52 “Baseball Notebook,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 8, 2010: C002.
53 Gary Gillette and Pete Palmer,”2010 Transactions,” The Emerald Guide to Baseball 2011.
54 Ben Walker, “Hot Stove Heats Up Winter Meetings,” Bennington (Vermont) Banner, December 8, 2010.
55 Dan Woike and Bill Plunkett. “Updates From Baseball’s Winter Meetings,” Orange County (California) Register, December 8, 2010.
56 La Velle E. Neal III, “Winter Confidential: Inside Baseball’s Winter Meetings From Lake Buena Vista,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, December 7, 2010: C10.
57 Dan Woike and Bill Plunkett.