Winter meetings seldom fail on delivering a baseball circus

Through the years, baseball general managers rarely fail to stage a show full of big-money signings and big-name trades.

ORLANDO, Fla. — It has been a few years since I attended the winter meetings, and a few decades since I covered my first one in Miami in 1991. This will be No. 15 overall, and the first under the auspices of Jerry Dipoto and his itchy trigger finger, plus the companionship of Ryan Divish, so it should be fun.

It’s one of the most grueling assignments in baseball writing, but also the one with the biggest potential — away from the field — to provide an indelible memory or aha moment.

And I’m not even talking about the leather pants Jim Bowden sported one year as general manager of the Reds.

Baseball calendar

Monday-Thursday: Winter meetings, Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Jan. 24: Hall of Fame voting announced.

Feb 15: Voluntary spring training reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players.

Feb. 23: Mariners’ spring-training opener, vs. San Diego at Peoria, Ariz.

March 29: Mariners’ opening day, vs. Cleveland at Safeco Field.

July 10: All-Star Game, Washington.

I got both in 1992 in Louisville, one of the most surreal winter meetings in history. That was the year Carl Barger, president of the fledgling Florida Marlins, collapsed and died of a heart attack in the lobby, mere months before his team was to play its first game. It was also the meetings where Greg Maddux signed with the Braves (how did that work out?) and Barry Bonds signed with the Giants — the team I was covering at the time.

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When it comes to indelible moments, high on the list was the news conference in Louisville to announce the Bonds’ signing, complete with Bonds, his agents, and his godfather Willie Mays all sitting at the podium in a packed meeting room. At least until an agitated official went on stage, whispered in the agent’s ear, and suddenly…

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