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Let's make a deal
GMs gather in Nashville for winter meetings after 6-year absence
Posted: Friday December 11, 1998 08:34 PM
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- Baseball plopped itself Friday into the land where country music and college football are king, reviving the winter meetings after a six-year absence. Next up, the main attraction: deals, lots of deals.
So instead of talking about the top-ranked Vols or Vince Gill, the main topic at the Opryland Hotel was Roger Clemens.
No trade yet -- probably none until at least Monday -- but there was one big change. New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who had been told by owner George Steinbrenner not to attend, was now expecting to arrive this weekend.
The World Series champions are among five teams interested in trading for Clemens. Toronto general manager Gord Ash spoke to all of those clubs Friday, and the phones were ringing off the hook in the Blue Jays' suite by late afternoon.
"You have to learn to be patient," Ash said. "This meeting has traditionally brought about some action."
"We're all out of winter meetings practice," Ash said.
And, GMs faced one other problem in the majors' first winter meetings since December 1992: finding each other.
The Opryland is the largest hotel in the United States outside of Las Vegas, a sprawling expanse that includes 2,884 rooms, scores of shops and restaurants, multiple lobbies and a man-made river running through the middle.
Plus 2 million or so holiday lights, several singing groups and a lot of trees decorated to the top, part of the hotel's annual Country Christmas.
All in all, a layout even more difficult to understand than baseball's complex waiver rules. So overwhelming that it was a winding, 20-minute walk just from Toronto's suite to the press room where any trade would be announced.
"I'm going to stay right here because I can't find my room," Ash said. "There's too many numbers."
There was a little action on opening day at the meetings.
Free agent Tony Phillips agreed to terms with Oakland, leaving former Athletics leadoff man Rickey Henderson likely to decide between the New York Mets and Seattle. Also, Cincinnati signed free-agent pitcher Steve Avery.
Commissioner Bud Selig was not planning to attend, leaving former Oakland A's president Sandy Alderson as baseball's top-ranking executive at the meetings. Alderson traveled from New York to Nashville on Friday morning -- seated a few rows behind him on the flight, in fact, was country singing star Deana Carter.
Among the planned items on the agenda of the five-day session: a discussion Saturday by team doctors and trainers about androstenedione, the over-the-counter supplement used by Mark McGwire, and Monday's draft of players left off 40-man rosters.
Along with a huge trade show, during which items such as tarpaulins, infield dirt and batting cages can be bought, the meetings offer opportunities.
There's a job seekers branch, where many come hoping to land a position somewhere in baseball, often in the minors. A few of the open spots posted on the bulletin board: an announcer on the Spanish radio station of the El Paso Diablos, a picnic management trainee for the Lansing Lugnuts and a mascot for the Carolina Mudcats.
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