Winter Meetings Day 3: To sign or not sign (an outfielder)? That is the question

Competition for jobs between teammates during Spring Training is always welcomed by managers, which is why you often hear them say that too many good players at one position is “a good problem to have.”

Brett Wallace will compete with Carlos Lee for the first base job during Spring Training next year, and to hear Ed Wade talk, he fully believes Wallace, and his ability, gives him the edge. The worst-case scenario puts Lee at first and Wallace at Triple-A, which still isn’t a terrible set-up.

But there’s only one issue — not knowing how this is all going to end is making the here-and-now a little difficult.

Wade has a little bit of a conundrum to work through: if he signs or trades for an outfielder of some significance — meaning an everyday type player who might cost some bucks, then that pretty much pushes Lee to first and Wallace out of the picture for the start of 2011.

But what if they don’t sign that outfielder, and then Wallace doesn’t make the team out of Spring Training? That still pushes Lee to first, but leaves a hole in the outfield. Wade has internal candidates — Jason Michaels, Brian Bogusevic, for example — who can also step into starting roles if need be, but that puts a lot of responsibility on two players who either haven’t played everyday in many years (Michaels) or have almost no big league experience (Bogusevic).

At this point, Wade appears to be leaning toward not signing an outfielder and giving Wallace every chance to succeed. I agree with him — if the team is indeed going to get younger, and Wallace hit well at every level before getting to the big leagues — then it’s time to give him a real opportunity. Even if it means sending Lee back to left field.

On another front, the annual managers’ luncheon, hosted by the Major League Baseball Public Relations department, took place on Wednesday at the Dolphin Hotel. The purpose of the lunch is to gather managers and the media who cover them for an informal, interview-free couple of hours. Each team has a table, but because the Astros’ media contingent is so small, we usually are joined by a few reporters who were frozen out of the bigger media markets, such as Boston, New York or Chicago.

I like this event, from the standpoint of watching the managers interact with each other during the half-hour “reception” leading up to the luncheon. There’s a lot of camaraderie in baseball, and most managers genuinely like each other and enjoy catching up. I managed to sneak in a few photos before and after:

Bruce Bochy, Kirk Gibson


Terry Francona, Bud Black


Mike Scioscia, Dusty Baker


Later in the afternoon, I snuck in to a networking session hosted by an organization called “Working Women in Baseball.” The group consists of female front office staffers in both Major League and Minor League baseball (most of the participants were from Minor League teams). The group has gathered at the Winter Meetings for three years in a row, and this year’s attendance — 110 — was the highest yet.

1208_women_baseball.JPGThe two-hour session is not a seminar, although they’ve had guest speakers in the past. Rather, this is a time for networking, for exchanging ideas and business cards as women in the baseball industry get face time with at least 27 other executives in their industry.

There were three speed networking topics from which to choose: Communication Skills for Women; Advancing in your Career; Recognizing and/or Increasing your value. The participants sat at a table of 10 of their choosing, and when the bell rang, they were instructed to state who they were and what club they were with, their title, and any insight they could share about the table’s topic.

Each table had 20 minutes to meet and greet. When the bell rang again, participants would have one minute to move to the next table and topic.

As I watched from the back of the room, I wished there was something like this in my day, back in the stone ages of the mid-1990s. Of course, back then, you’d be hard-pressed to find even 40 women who had full-time jobs in Minor League Baseball. I’m pleased with how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.



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