... in a winter meeting wonderland
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Forgive this thirty-something scribe for being chronically un-hip, but following the Winter Meetings and watching this Red Sox-Yankees Cold War drama play out puts me in mind of the old anti-nuclear ode by Sting, "Russians."

The stockpiling of arsenals by each squad makes the state of Connecticut into a Checkpoint Charlie between the Empire of New York and the Empire of New England. We're just days away from Larry Lucchino standing in New Haven to shout: "Mr. Steinbrenner ... TEAR DOWN THIS WALL."

Meanwhile, Sting can re-mix "Russians" and call it "Russians, Winter Meetings '03."

Theo Epstein
Theo Epstein has the Red Sox singing a different tune.
Mr. Epstein says he will bury you
I don't subscribe to this point of view
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Red Sox love their children, too.

Meanwhile, the Orioles must feel like China in the whole Soviet-America/Red Sox-Yankee showdown. They've got tons of dough, tons of potential to spend, but nobody ever talks about them. The signing of Miguel Tejada is sort of like a Chinese nuclear test -- a high, hard one to the traditional powers.

Holding that analogy, I see the Detroit Tigers are firing up a remote bid for respectability, entering the bidding for some of the big boys. I liken this to a sad-sack nation like Luxembourg holding a press conference to announce the signing of a prominent nuclear scientist who promises to have the nuclear arsenal up to global scale within five years, when in reality their stockpile consists of some slingshots and a few rocks.

It's all enough to tickle the burners on my Hot Stove League. I'm so fired up about the New Orleans Winter Meetings, I've devised a Special Winter Meetings Quiz for your consumption. Please use a No. 2 pencil and refrain from looking at the laptop next to you:

1. On Sunday, the phrase "We got him" was dramatically uttered by:

A) Paul Bremer, the American administrator in Iraq, on nabbing Saddam Hussein.

B) Peter Angelos, the Orioles owner, upon signing Tejada.

C) George Steinbrenner, referring to the administrative assistant who was caught on Steinbrenner's special spy-cam lifting an extra bottle of Crystal Geyser water from the company fridge.

Bonus question 1a. Saddam Hussein's mug shot best resembles:

A) What someone looks like after he's wiled away the better part of six months living in a hole.

B) A failed bid to land the lead role in an Iraqi remake of "Bad Santa".

C) Any Red Sox or Cubs fan who pledges not to shave until his team wins a World Series.

2. The holdup in the A-Rod and Nomar deals is:

A) Complicated issues involving contracts and money.

B) Mia Hamm's refusal to attend games to see her husband play where mosquitoes are the size of soccer balls.

C) Boston's reluctance to turn over one-quarter of its clubhouse, line it with full-length mirrors, stock it with cologne and dub it "A-Rod's Hideaway."

Jack McKeon
Jack McKeon deserved a victory cigar after what he did for the Marlins this season.
3. Jack McKeon spent most of his time in New Orleans:

A) Regaling writers with sage and hilarious one-liners.

B) Living happily in a cloud of cigar smoke.

C) Earning beads by hiking up his "World Series Champs" T-shirt at the request of fans on Bourbon Street.

4. With the addition of Kevin Brown and possibly Gary Sheffield to a Yankee clubhouse that already features Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter, the Yanks' most important next move is:

A) An extra P.R. assistant to handle the media crush.

B) An added runway at JFK specifically for Brown Family Jet Outings.

C) A feng-shui expert to discern how to fit one million square feet of ego into a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse.

5. The Orioles' move for Tejada and flirtation with Pudge Rodriguez and Vlad Guerrero have elicited which of the following reactions from former O's greats:

A) "Awesome stuff. Wish I could put on the spikes and go play 162 this season with the boys" -- Cal Ripken, Jr.

B) "Don't come near me. I swear. I'm not kidding." -- Albert Belle.

C) "Let's eat! Where are the ribs?" -- Boog Powell.

6. The Montreal Expos have made no moves at the meetings. This means:

A) The team is practicing fiscal restraint in a tough economic era.

B) The team is waiting for just the right deal to come along.

C) The team is readying its big promotion for '04: "Guess how many home games Les Expos will draw fewer than 1,000 fans, and win Le Big Mac at a McDonald's near you!"

7. The A's have lost closer Keith Foulke to the big-money Red Sox, shortstop Tejada to the big-money Orioles and lost out on the bidding for Mike Cameron to the big-money Mets. Billy Beane's next strategy is:

Billy Beane
Billy Beane and the A's like to stockpile draft picks, but they don't like big arbitration awards.
Rely on a sound farm system and the best three starting pitchers in baseball to contend again.

B) Attend a reading of "Moneyball" and pass the hat among the crowd, with a handwritten note attached that says, "Please Remember the Neediest in this Holiday Season".

C) Head to Pat O'Brien's for several Hurricanes, eventually stumble home and slur these words to a roadside busker on Bourbon Street: "You know I once had Jason Giambi and Mark McGwire on the same time? Swear. Totally swear. I did ..." Do this until the sun rises over the Mississippi.

8. The Dodgers traded for Jeff Weaver and are thinking of trading Paul LoDuca. This speaks to:

A) A bold strategy hatched by the team braintrust.

B) A daring plan of attack to have the team contend.

C) The enduring toxic effects of smog on cognitive powers.

9. The Mets have been bold, signing Matsui and Mike Cameron, which means their realistic goals for the 2004 season are:

A) An aggressive play to steal some of the Yankees' media attention.

B) Gaining new fans by marketing Matsui's orange-dyed hair in a new ad package that links Matsui to 2001 Met Tsuyoshi Shinjo with the slogan: "Orange You Glad We Signed Another Japan League Player?"

C) Winning hearts and minds with a new "Guess Mo Vaughn's 2003 Weight" ad campaign, offering tickets to fans who can correctly guess how severely Vaughn tipped the Toledos last season.

10. Roger Clemens' hints that he may pitch in 2004 mean:

A) You can't keep a great athlete down.

B) Helping the kids with the algebra homework isn't nearly as cool as hitting the nightspots on the road with teammates.

C) He has wholly cheapened the emotion we all felt during his heartfelt farewell at the World Series.

Time's up! Put your No. 2 pencils down. And if you answered "C" to everything? Baby, your Hot Stove League IQ is classified as "Theo Epstein Level -- Genius", formerly known as "Billy Beane Level --Genius."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go to mediate some détente between the Red Sox and Yankees.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes every Monday for Page 2.



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