14 amusing observations from the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings

mlb_wm_observations_slide.jpg
USA TODAY

14 amusing observations from the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The MLB Winter Meetings are exactly as advertised.

It was my first trip to what is essentially baseball's biggest trade show and the four days in Orlando went by like a blur even though there were very few moves actually made.

The two Chicago teams combined for just three moves — and all of them from the Cubs' perspective (one of which — Drew Smyly — may not even pitch in 2018).

Throughout the week at Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, I rounded up some of the most amusing behind-the-scenes observations with help from the NBC Sports Chicago crew (Chuck Garfien, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon, Vinnie Duber):

—A Red Sox fan intercepting David Ross in the hotel lobby and telling him over and over again, "I'm a SAWX fan, I'm a SAWX fan; I love you, bro," in one of the thickest Boston accents I've ever heard.

—A kid wearing a bright pink suit (like something out of "Dumb and Dumber") trying to get a job.

A White Sox person saw the young man and noted: "If I wore that suit, I would look like a bottle of Pepto Bismol."

—A svelte Kyle Schwarber showed up at the Winter Meetings, driving some 90 miles from the Tampa Bay area to visit with Cubs personnel. He didn't talk to the media, but he certainly looked to be in the "best shape of his life."

When asked about Schwarber representing the Cubs in the ESPN Body Issue, Theo Epstein laughed and said, "I'll let you write about that." (Joke's on Theo because that's exactly what I just did.)

—Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto nearly sent Chuck Garfien to the disabled list with an agressive revolving-door maneuver.

—Scott Boras walked through the hotel flanked by his muscle and his own camera crew. Kelly Crull accidentally got on the escalator right behind Boras and in an effort to escape the TV shot, started running up the down escalator...in heels.

—Scott Changnon and I clearly have no idea what we're doing:

—During our Facebook Live Tuesday, Jed Hoyer walked by in the background on the phone, maybe closing out the final details of the Drew Smyly or Brandon Morrow deal?

Live from Day 2 of the MLB Winter Meetings

It's Day 2 of the Winter Meetings! Chuck Garfien, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki will answer your questions about the latest Cubs and White Sox rumors!

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

—10 minutes after Hoyer walked through the background of our Facebook Live, Theo Epstein ran past the camera as Chuck and Vinnie discussed potential free agent targets for the White Sox.

—A man in a Hawaiian shirt photobombed Wednesday's Facebook Live behind Chuck, Kelly and Vinnie. (Side note: I totally messed up by not packing a Hawaiian shirt for the Winter Meetings.)

MLB Winter Meetings Day 3

Kelly Crull, Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber are live from the MLB Winter Meetings. What's new with the Cubs and White Sox?

Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

—Joe Maddon wore the same olive green blaze he wore to the White House earlier this year and knew full well what he was doing, as he joked about it with reporters.

—Boras stood on a literal pedestal for his hour-long media session Wednesday, stepping up on a sturdy plastic camera case to help all three dozen media cameras catch his entire press conference.

—A woman in a Christmas-themed top hat walking her little pug around the lobby on a leash, but it was slow going as baseball men and women kept stopping them to pet the very good dog.

—Some dude's sneezing in the media workroom was the real star of the show. Never heard anything like it in my life before. Sounded literally like the devil was coming out of his nose.

—The work ethic of people in baseball is mind-bottling to me. 

Not only the front office members, like the Cubs' staff who went from playing deep into October for the third straight fall to preparing for free agency, weighing trade options, scouting and — this winter — pulling all-nighters to put together a proposal for Shohei Ohtani.

But baseball media members are ridiculously hard-working. These people spent all year covering 162-game seasons plus 6+ weeks of spring training and then another month of postseason and now, two weeks before Christmas, they're pulling 15-hour days during the Winter Meetings. 

Yes, it's a really cool job and we get paid to cover a game and hang around professional athletes, but it's also a lot of work and the people who have done this for a lifetime are so impressive.

CubsTalk Podcast: Jed Hoyer on how to handle offseason trade rumors

jed_hoyer_cubs_podcast_offseason_trade_rumors_slide.jpg
USA TODAY

CubsTalk Podcast: Jed Hoyer on how to handle offseason trade rumors

GM Jed Hoyer stops by the CubsTalk Podcast to chat about the Cubs coaching staff, offseason trade rumors and why this is such a big winter for the future of the franchise after 2017 left a bad taste in everybody's mouths at Wrigley Field.

Plus, is John Lackey a good fit for the Cubs' 2018 starting rotation and should we forget about that Jason Heyward-to-the-Giants buzz?

Check out the entire podcast here:

(Try telling us that's not Kyle Schwarber on the top right...)

Cubs expect David Ross to take on bigger role next season as Brandon Hyde shifts to bench coach

david_ross_cubs_bigger_role_slide.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs expect David Ross to take on bigger role next season as Brandon Hyde shifts to bench coach

David Ross took on so many jobs and projects in “retirement” that the Cubs didn’t really have a chance to get him as their new bench coach. Plus, Brandon Hyde has already done the job and is widely respected throughout the organization for his straight-shooting style.  

That locked another piece of Joe Maddon’s staff into place for 2018, when Hyde will shift back into the dugout from the first base coach’s box and Ross will continue to be a special assistant in Theo Epstein’s baseball operations department.  

“I think he’s going to get more involved in that role every year,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday on NBC Sports Chicago’s Cubs Talk Podcast. “With David, he probably wanted a more relaxing first year away from baseball, and to get a chance to spend more time with his family. That just didn’t happen, because he became too popular.

“It’s his own fault, right? ‘Dancing with the Stars’ took a lot of his time – and TV stuff – so I think he’s still very much in that transition period.”

Hyde, a farm director during the early stages of the Wrigley Field rebuild, has been a bench coach for the Florida Marlins (2010-11) and during Rick Renteria’s one-and-done season (2014) before Maddon became a prized free agent.

“Grandpa Rossy” is only 40 and just a year removed from his farewell tour with the World Series champs, which made him an in-demand personality for ESPN and as the author of a memoir that’s in movie development.     

As someone with 15 years of experience as a big-league player, the catching background that allowed him to see the game from many angles and a comfort level in front of the cameras and around reporters, Ross has many of the qualities the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers saw in World Series managers A.J. Hinch and Dave Roberts.

Ross and Hoyer caught up during the World Series in Houston. While Ross worked the event as a broadcaster, Hoyer showed up to represent the organization as Anthony Rizzo received the Roberto Clemente Award.

“He’ll jump in with two feet here soon,” Hoyer said. “I saw him at the World Series, and that’s kind of how he described it. But I think right now – given his desire to spend time with his family and have a little bit of a break after playing – that’s kind of where he is mentally.

“I respect that. When you play that long and travel that much, at some point, you want to take a rest from that.”