Bases empty, two outs, a 3-1 game, #8 hitter up. Nothing comes down to this.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Overheard at the GM Meetings

The rise of Twitter and rumour-aggregate sites like MLB Trade Rumors have ushered in a new era of up-to-the-millisecond reporting. The ability of reporters to relay information instantaneously has resulted in stories being posted increasingly frequently and decreasingly substantively. But the more juicy gossip the public gets, the more they want. It's like a perpetual motion machine, a machine that won't break until reporters are hardwired to their readers, brain to brain, sitting in adjacent chairs, at all times.

This phenomenon is never more apparent than at baseball's annual off-season GM meetings (currently ongoing) and Winter Meetings (slated to start in the first week of December), when members of the press awkwardly mingle in some hotel lobby, waiting for team executives to emerge from days-at-a-time secret meetings (the agendas of which generally focus on the merits of computers vs. punch cards in front-office analytical systems, we understand) in an effort to ferret out any morsel of information Twitterable: that is, anything at the maximum 140 characters and at the minimum 60% in English.

This year's edition of the GM Meetings has been no different; indeed, each year the inundation of micro-blogged "news" is more prolific. In an attempt to wean the uninitiated reader onto this new form of news reporting, Bottom of the Fourth has compiled several samples of the type of info passed on from baseball writers during this part of the off-season, and what that info means.

"Just got word that Dayton Moore was pleasantly surprised by the quality of his grapefruit juice this morning. Royals moving spring training facility to Florida?" - Joe Christensen, Minneapolis Star Tribune

For those who missed the connection here, half of the teams in MLB play their spring training games in Florida (the 'Grapefruit League') while the other half play in Arizona (the 'Cactus League'). As you've no doubt guessed, the Royals are one of the latter, and Christensen has effectively read between the lines and deciphered this clearly pointed comment.

"Hearing that the lunch room has run out of turkey sandwiches. Roast beef is still available and, I repeat, turkey is OUT." - Mark Bowman, MLB.com, Tuesday at 12:42 PM.

The Twittersphere went nuts over this one. It's been well-established that both Theo Epstein, GM of the Boston Red Sox, and Michael Hill, GM of the Florida Marlins, are huge turkey sandwich eaters. A lack of turkey at the lunch table made it very clear that Epstein and Hill had stocked up for a long afternoon negotiation. Pretty quickly, Florida and Boston beat writers were speculating about Hanley Ramirez coming back to the Red Sox, the team that originally signed him from the Dominican Republic.

The most popular version of the deal had the Red Sox acquiring Josh Johnson in addition to Ramirez in return for Darnell McDonald and Kevin Cash. The Marlins were are supposedly seriously considering this deal because they're looking for a "solid 4th outfielder" and a "steady back-up catcher", and this is the best offer they've received so far.

"A reliable source tells me that Longoria to the Yankees is a done deal." - Ken Rosenthal, Fox Sports

A quick primer on unnamed sources: "reliable" generally refers to hotel bellboys, "trusted" suggests that most trusted of American information relays, the barkeep, while a source described as "food-bringing" or "delicious" may imply a room-service delivery employee.

These are just three of the thousands of tweets dispersed over the last couple days by sportswriters desperate to be the first to pick up a scoop. While reporting may be a constant flurry of activity, simply being a fan can become a full-time job in this day of never-ending information. We here at Bottom of the Fourth pride ourselves on being a bridge between that information and those attempting, ambitiously, to parse it.

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