Going off the record at the winter meetings

Everybody's spending plenty of time on the record. Turn the cameras off, what do they want you to know about what's going on inside the game? Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- There is no better bar scene than the one that happens early every December at baseball's winter meetings. There, over adult sodas, people from every corner of baseball come together and talk shop. Ideas fly and tongues loosen and your rumors are born.

But it feels like we've heard all the rumors, and so many of the trades are already in the rear-view mirror. That's fine. Under the protection of anonymity, there's so much more that those baseball people can teach a curious person.

So I asked as many people as I could some version of these questions: What is the thing that would most surprise someone outside of baseball about what happens inside baseball? What were you shocked to learn when you got to peek under the hood? What do we not know about how the sport is run?

The answers were as diverse as the roles of the people who gave them. But up and down the answers from people all over baseball's front offices, three particular themes emerged.


"It's underappreciated how much of an impact ownership has on every situation," one person told me.

Fans see the general manager on television and think he's making every decision -- one characterized the GM as the "face of the franchise." We think they have the ability to make every decision based on maybe a little constraint from an ownership-issued budget. But reality is fairly different.

One member of a front office talked about deals that had been nixed because they reached a bit far into the club's coffers. Others speculated that certain players had been signed because the owner willed it to be.

And there aren't just explicit decisions from ownership.