In my view, this is one of the three worst times of the baseball year. The others are the general managers meetings in November and the winter meetings in December. All three times give my colleagues in the field of baseball writing license to indulge in creative writing rather than in legitimate reporting.
The two sets of meetings probably bring out the worst in writers. The weeks leading to the trading deadline are bad but not as bad as the creative fiction writers inflict on their readers from the two sets of meetings.
At one time the winter meetings were the only ones writers covered. The general managers meetings were ignored for the most part. Initially, Hal Bodley of USA Today was the only reporter who attended the meetings. Then I began going, not to drum up daily stories about possible trades but to gather comments from general managers for general stories. When the meetings were in western cities, Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times would attend.
At that time, the meetings didn’t produce trades. They gave the general managers an opportunity to explore trade possibilities to be continued at the winter meetings.
After Barry Bonds and other free agents signed exorbitant contracts at the 1992 winter meetings, Commissioner Bud Selig decided agents were dominating the meetings and ended major league participation in them. Newspapers switched their attention and their coverage to the general managers meetings, and reporters wrote their speculative stories there.
When Selig lifted the boycott of the winter meetings in 1998, reporters returned, too, but didn’t end their coverage of the general managers meetings, meaning they get twice as many chances to float questionable trade reports.
Why do they do it? Their newspapers and Internet companies spend a lot of money on their coverage, and reporters feel compelled to …