As we prepare for next week’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, let’s look at some of the most memorable experiences I’ve had at this event:
As Braves and D-backs officials dined at separate locations away from the hotel, the D-backs were getting ripped for the trade, which had not yet been officially announced. Fearful that Arizona might try to nix the agreement by using Miller’s medicals or some other reason, former Braves leaders John Hart and John Coppolella were determined to announce the deal a couple of hours after they returned from dinner.
So, around midnight or a little after, Atlanta media members were summoned to Coppolella’s suite. As we stood outside and received instructions, a former Braves media relations staffer informed us that the “D-backs were being [expletive] about this.” Thankfully, a group of D-backs scouts and officials were walking by just as these words were spoken.
But this is just part of the story. As we filtered into the suite, we were greeted by a bunch of happy folks who may have taken a sip or two over the previous few hours. The 20-minute interview that followed went off the rails a time or two, but we got an unfiltered version of how the trade happened. As David O’Brien (now of The Athletic, then with the Atlanta-Journal Constitution), 680 The Fan’s Kevin McAlpin and I left the room that night, we walked for about 10 seconds before laughing and saying, “What just happened?”
Dec. 13, 2003, New Orleans: Before baseball executives began holing themselves up in their suites during the Winter Meetings, some of the game’s top minds ended their days mingling in the hotel lobby. This is what former Braves GM John Schuerholz and former Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty did as they met to share a drink or two on Dec. 12, 2003.
As they laughed and reminisced with others, the media had no clue what was about to happen. About 12 hours later, the Braves traded Adam Wainwright, Jason Marquis and Ray King to the Cardinals for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero. Drew was fantastic during his one year in Atlanta, but two decades later, Wainwright is still adding to the value the Cardinals gained from this deal.
Dec. 11, 2004, Anaheim: This was a pretty eventful Winter Meetings. We learned that Drew wouldn’t be returning, and Schuerholz began constructing the deal that would bring Tim Hudson to Atlanta. In between, the Braves acquired Dan Kolb from the Brewers for Jose Capellan, who was throwing 100 mph before that became more mainstream. This trade allowed John Smoltz to move back to the rotation, but it also created this funny exchange I had with manager Bobby Cox after Kolb lost his closer’s role and continued to struggle out of the bullpen:
Cox: Do you guys also boo me when I bring Kolb in?
Me: No. We just start rewriting our stories.