Fear and Loathing at the Winter Meetings

Who said anything about slicing you up... I just wanted to carve a P on your head. Nothing serious. - Jeff Zelevansky

General Manager Ruben S. Amaro and his deranged Assistant Ed agreed to record for The Good Phight their experiences attending the 2012 Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. What follows are the notes we received. We assume they are in the correct order, most were received on cocktail napkins and small pieces of torn dress shirt, which our crack staff assembled into a lovely quilt, attempted to convert to poetry and finally just arranged in the most interesting order by size and use of adjectives.

Sometimes, when all the free agents seem to be going elsewhere and the weasels are closing in, it's necessary to load up on heinous chemicals and drive like an arrogant bastard from Philly to Nashville.

We arrived just after midnight on Sunday. The hotel reeks of desperation and cheap cologne. We traveled light, a few suits, tablet notebooks and a suitcase to be opened in case of emergency, boredom or in the event Kevin Millar needs to be tolerated for any length of time. Of course when I say "we" I mean myself along with Ed and Charlie. I don't think Charlie likes these things, but from my perspective it's a visit to a den of depraved gamblers where everyone is guilty and the only final sin is stupidity. Stupidity will get you a fast ticket out, or a job with the Marlins, which may as well be the same thing.

We moved through the lobby after checking in, out into the expanse of what can best be described as some kind of redneck version of the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. Wait there's a river in here? I need to get something to drink to wrap my head around this place. As I settled in with a double of scotch, Terry Ryan sat down next to me. "Are you familiar with Ben Revere?" He asks. "Silverware?" "No, he's a Centerfielder, and I notice you need one. We'd send him over for Worley and May." "Worley and May, huh? I'm not familiar and last time I traded for a guy I wasn't familiar with I ended up with a twitchy spider who I needed to dump. So, I'll tell you what, by the time you get up in the morning I will have had Ed Google "Ben Revere" and unless he looks totally worthless I'll take your offer." I'm sure if you asked Terry, he'd tell you that I'm not very likable, hate people, just want to be left alone and feel too superior to mingle with the normal person. He'd be mostly right. Don't think my arrogance is unintentional, I'd just rather offend people before they get to asking stupid questions.

We were drinking for hours, watching gondolas go past. I probably spent an hour trying to get Beinfest and Hill to trade us Stanton, but those poor bastards work in the most vile of hives. I doubt they can go to the bathroom without going to Mr Loria to brrow some Toilet Paper. No loss, I need to take Ed and go to the suite, we need to get rid of these bags and get ready for the rest of the night. The lobby is really where all the deals happen, you can just sleep through the meeting itself, so Ed and I need to get ready for a long night.

Ed and I get to the room and as trailer park acid trip as the rest of the place is, the rooms are pretty cookie cutter. Just as well, I would go mad if the insanity followed me here. "Ed, open the case. It's time to get into the Adderall." After getting appropriately wired we went downstairs again. Being on Adderall is like having Orlando Hudson as the voice in your head. Lots of talking, very quick, only half of it makes sense. Everything speeds up a bit and you can stay up for hours.

The notes seem to skip the next several hours. We pick back up the next morning.

"Ed! Ed! Ed, get up you bastard!" "What? What time is it?" "That's not important right now, Ed." Ed grumbles and rolls over to go back to sleep. "Don't make me force feed you Adderall you unconsious bastard!" "Fine, fine. What the hell's so important?" Well, I was hoping you'd know where he came from." Ruben gestures towards a shirtless Michael Young, hanging off the side of the couch with a botle of Johnny Walker Gold still clenched in his hand. Ed jumps to his feet "Holy shit. Is he dead? Did we kill a Gold Glove fielder and proven winner? Wait, I can handle this, I'm pretty sure I saw Larry downstairs and as much as he used to run with Pete, I'm sure he had to get rid of a dead body somehwere. We'll just stick Young in the shower and" "Shut up, Ed, he isn't dead. He also probably can't field a beachball on his best days. We need to figure out why he's here." "Okay, Rube, I'll get one of those chairs over there and we can tie him to it with our dress ties. Once we get him settled we can start peppering him with questions and I have pliers, a lighter and" Ruben walks over and starts smacking Young in the check moderately hard "Shut up, Ed. You're being overly dramatic, we'll just ask him... Get the pliers though, they sound usefull, also maybe a steak knife."

Young comes to and sees Ed and Ruben staring down at him. Startled, he hollers and scurries up into a seated position. Equally startled Ed and Ruben also holler before realizing what is going on. Young: "Oh, hey, good morning fellas. That was pretty fun last night huh? Boy, you sure are swell guys, but you can get a little scary when..." Ed, clearly aggrivated "Shut up! What are you talking about? How did you get here?" "well, shoot, you traded for me and we partied to celebrate. You guys talked about how much you needed a Third Baseman and my winning attitude and professional hitting." Rube, mumbling almost to self: "Oh, god, what did we do?" He turns to Young "Well, welcome to the team, I guess. Do you happen to know who we traded for you, and please don't say Lee?" Young "Yeah, I think it was Lisa Bonet and that guy you got in the Victorino deal.".

Relieved, Ruben sits down and tell Young to get dressed and go field some balls or something. Ruben then turns to Ed, "Ed, I have to do an interview with the network, so I'm going to hit the shower and drink some absinthe and try to figure out how I'm explaining this. Meanwhile, pack up the bags, we're getting out of here."

I have strange memories of this nervous night in Nashville. I t seems like a lifetime, or at least a main era-the kind of peak that never comes again. Philly in the mid 2000's was a special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run.

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy and talent of a whole generation of prospects comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time - and which never explain in retorspect what happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on a single week in 2008 when I left the Vet half crazy and instead of going home, I aimed the car for North Broad. I was absolutely certain that whichever way I turned I would come to place where people were just just as crazy and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that...

There was celebration in every direction, at any hour. There was a fantastic universal sense that what we were doing (trading for Lee and Halladay, trading for Oswalt) was right, that we were winning...

And that, I think, was the handle - That sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old (Yankees) and Evil (Braves). There was no point in fighting - on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...

So now, less a year later, you can go up on a steep hill in Tennessee and look North, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark - that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

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