Winter Meetings, reporter-style.

Covering baseball’s Winter Meetings, at least for reporters, can be compared to taking final exams in college — it’s the most intense week of the year, and you walk out of the last one, on the last day, pretty much feeling like you were run over by a Mack truck.

Chasing rumors, attempting to separate fact from fiction, sniffing around for leads and running agents down in the hotel lobby is consistently exhausting, occasionally humiliating and all too often, it ends up taking you nowhere, except back to square one — where you find a new bulk of rumors to chase.

So, for the average reporter, the Winter Meetings are about as fun as a trip to the dentist. That said, the meetings are also in their own way fascinating. This is the only time of year that the entire the baseball universe gathers in the same city to talk business, so there’s always a chance for that blockbuster trade or splashy free agent signing. And the rumor mill never, ever stops churning.

Geographically, there are three main areas where you’ll find baseball people: the hotel lobby, the GM suite and the media area, which includes a workroom/press conference room and a long hallway occupied by the radio/television side — i.e., MLB Network, XM/Sirius satellite radio and MLB.com.

I spent Tuesday morning and afternoon floating through all three areas, with camera in tow (of course). Enjoy the pictorial tour, and apologies in advance for the lighting issues…the dim hotel lights are driving me nuts.

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The lobby
The hotel lobby is the epicenter of all Winter Meetings. It’s where reporters hang out, hoping to run into agents, and where agents strategically stroll through knowing scoop-hungry reporters are looking for them. It’s where scouts roam and exchange information with other scouts. It’s where job-seekers go to, well, find jobs.

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The media

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This gigantic room serves three purposes: it provides workspace for the hundreds of reporters covering the Winter Meetings, it serves as a press conference room when teams have trades or signings to announce (or when future Hall of Famers announce their retirement, as Greg Maddux did in Vegas last year) and provides space for the manager-reporter media sessions.

Here’s Houston’s manager, Brad Mills, addressing reporters.

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And the Mets’ Jerry Manuel

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And the Cardinals’ Tony La Russa (when I walked up he was talking about — what else? — his new hitting coach, Mark McGwire).

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Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon

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Radio/TV row

The radio and TV outlets were lined up in a nice, orderly row: first, XM/Sirius Satellite radio, then MLB Network and finally MLB.com. Not every manager was interviewed by every outlet, but the higher-profile managers usually made their way down the line over the course of about 20 minutes.

Mills, well-known as Red Sox skipper Terry Francona’s right-hand man for six years (and two World Championships) was a popular guy. Here he is with Casey Stern and Buck Martinez on MLB Homeplate on XM/Sirius Satellite radio.

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His next stop was MLB.com for an interview with Vinny Micucci.

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On his way back to the GM suite, Mills ran into Milwaukee skipper Ken Macha (shown below). The one thing that struck me through this week is how many friends in the industry came up to me to tell me how much they like and respect Mills. He clearly has established a nice reputation during his many decades in baseball.

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Other random shots:
I took this picture of Peter Gammons on Monday, not realizing he was about to announce he was leaving ESPN and joining MLB Network and MLB.com. As a former MLB.com-er, I consider this great news. Congratulations to Peter.

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Atlanta manager Bobby Cox was a popular guest, which is understandable considering he’s already announced he’s retiring after next season.  

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I’ll admit it, I’m an MLB Network junkie. I love its Hote Stove show and all of the old “All-Time Games” it shows during the day. In this shot, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is about to go on with Tom Verducci, Dan Plesac and Victor Rojas.

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The day ends in the GM suite, where Ed Wade spends most of the morning and afternoon talking with his staff and other clubs about possible matches down the road. At the end of the day, Ed goes over the business of the day and asks for feedback. He then ends the day with a brief meeting with reporters, although the work never really ends…talks and meetings can, and usually do, drag into the night.

In Tuesday’s media session, Wade reiterated his desire to re-sign LaTroy Hawkins and admitted signing Miguel Tejada is probably not happening, given Tejada’s desire for a multi-year deal.

Read about it here and here.

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