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Alas, third-day Vegas numbness has set in. The first time I came to Vegas, maybe 10 years ago, the cab driver pointed out at the MGM Grand and New York, New York and the Mirage and all the rest, and he said, "You see all these big and shiny buildings. I want you to remember something when you're here, and never forget it: Losers built this town."
That realization tends to hit home on the third day in town, that day when the slot-machine bells start to pound against ear drums, and everything smells like cigarettes, and you forget what the sky looks like, and the Caligula-inspired buffets no longer seem especially charming, and you wonder why anyone would pay 50 bucks a ticket at the Imperial Palace to see impersonators of Donna Summer and Justin Timberlake. Most people probably would not pay that money to see the originals.
Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire walks around in a beige sports coat that he apparently picked up in one of the Bellagio stores. "You know what I paid for this?" he asks as he reaches out to let you feel the material. "I paid $580. I could have bought three jackets at Target for that."
Just when it seems as if the baseball-- Las Vegas connection never quite clicked, something happens. A rumor. A three-way deal. Lots of players. And there's a little bit of a baseball buzz in the bar by the craps tables. Then a lot of buzz. The scouts talk louder. The writers work the room. Managers play slots.
The word finally comes down. It's a 12-player deal. Twelve players! The Mets are getting a reliever with the most interesting name in baseball, J.J. Putz. The Indians are getting a reliever with the least interesting name in baseball, Joe Smith. The Mariners are getting six players, four of them with last names that begin with C.*
*Carp, Carrera, Chavez, Cleto—it looks as if Seattle didn't want to plunge too deeply into the Baseball Register.
"Best thing I can say about this trade, guys, is it's an old-fashioned baseball trade," Mets G.M. Omar Minaya tells reporters. "Here we are in the year 2008 and talking about millions of dollars, and this is how trades were done. Just a pure baseball trade."
So true. A pure baseball trade. And it brings a little celebration to the final night of the winter meetings.
ART STEWART hears all the names that announce just how long he's been at this crazy game—Art, Artie, Arthur, Stew, Stewie and, of course, Mr. Stewart. Baseball men congratulate him because he just won another award: Midwest Scout of the Year. Art has reached that point in his life when people want to keep giving him awards.
Art is recalling the first time he saw Bo Jackson hit after he had drafted the Auburn star for the Royals in 1986. Bo had not swung a bat in months, but the first pitch he saw he slammed over the centerfield fence. The ball whacked off the scoreboard, some 450 feet away—it was one of the longest home runs any of the onlookers had ever seen. Bo hit the next pitch even farther. The great major league scout Buck O'Neil was among the observers that day, and he famously said he'd only heard that sound, that unmistakable crack of the bat, twice before. "The first time was Babe Ruth. And the second time was Josh Gibson."