Greetings from Florida

I find myself on the grounds of Walt Disney World today, but it’s anything but a vacation. If you truly are dying to one day write a thesis on the elements that comprise the theater of the absurd, you could do a whole lot worse than spending a day in the lobby of baseball’s winter meetings.

Here’s a typical afternoon: Pick a strategically well-placed spot in the lobby (i.e., one where you can witness who walks into the building and who walks out of it). Wait for an acquaintaince _ a source _ to wander through. Ask him what he’s hearing. Tell him what you’re hearing. Promise to keep each other posted. Go your merry way.

Now, this is not to disparage the ability of certain people to execute this job. it truly is a study in admiration to watch the likes of ESPN’s Peter Gammons and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal schmooze with just about everybody in the building. If there are two more tied-in reporters to this sport, I haven’t met them. For most of the rest of us, however, the four days of the winter meetings feels a bit like a cattle call, and you hope that the call will involve movement by the team you’re there to cover.

In between all of this, you make a handful of calls, hope for a few call-backs, and wander back and forth from the media room to the lobby. Now, there are far worse ways to make a living, but to me, anything involving baseball that doesn’t involve the crack of the bat, freshly cut grass and the roar of a crowd just doesn’t measure up.

Anyway, I’m here monitoring all things A’s, and to this point, it’s been akin to watching a pot of wather boil. General manager Billy Beane, according to one of my lobby contacts, er sources (in this case, a member of the A’s organization), is not supposed to arrive until this evening, and his stay may consist of just over a day. Doesn’t exactly give off the impression that the A’s are in the midst of anything huge. They do continue to pursue Mike Piazza, and according to industry sources, the chief competition will be the Rangers and, possibly, the Angels.

Also, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported in his blog that the A’s are close to signing reliever Alan Embree, who presumably would take the bullpen spot vacated when Joe Kennedy returns to the rotation. Could be more on this later in the day.

One final thing. The A’s just announced they’ve hired Ty Van Burkleo as their new hitting coach. Burkleo was the roving minor-league instructor for the Angels for the past six seasons.

Joe Stiglich