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Follow the bouncing rumor

Retained my post in the lobby of the Walt Disney Dolphin Resort this morning, and the morning buzz is pretty much that: A lot of buzz without much sting. Still waiting for the first major announcement of the Winter Meetings, though it’s worth wondering whether there will be any. This is one of the repurcussions of the current market. Free agents continue to be wooed, and even when they do reach a deal, there are physcials to be taken, i’s to be dotted, and t’s to be crossed. So even when there is a deal in place — Vicente Padilla’s three-year, $34 million deal with the Texas Rangers for example — teams can’t announce it. And if teams don’t announce it, they inevitably turn to the the “if it hasn’t been announced, it isn’t true” card.

Which brings us to the locals. Word I get from various members of the industry, including one member with ties to the A’s, is that Mike Piazza’s signing with the A’s is “imminent.” They’ve reportedly offered him a two-year contract, and the numbers I’ve heard indicate it would be worth between $14.5 and $15 million, depending on certain incentives. Impossible to know if those numbers are entirely accurate, since Dan Lozano, Piazza’s agent, hasn’t returned calls and since the A’s don’t reveal such information. The Rangers apparently have dropped out of the race, and according to one industry source, the Angels never were that interested.

As far as the Giants, all the talk surrounds Barry Bonds, even though the team is working on a potential three-way deal to land Manny Ramirez (a complete long-shot, it says here) and is set to meet with the agents of pitcher Ted Lilly this afternoon.

Speaking of Bonds, the most outlandish rumor I’ve heard in three years of covering these things circulated last night. The reason A’s general manager Billy Beane wasn’t at the meetings yet, the rumor went, was that he was personally negotiating a contract with Bonds, and he was going to fly in Wednesday to announce a deal. For one, I’d like to know what Bonds’ agent Jeff Borris would say to the notion of Bonds negotiating his own deal. For two, you think Beane would fly 3,000 miles just to hold up a uniform and smile for the cameras? (Uh, no.)

The rumor-mongering is one of the more interesting aspects of this. Heard a veteran news reporter for the New York Times — his name is escaping me — once say that when President Kennedy was assassinated, it was the only time he ever saw a rumor move. This reporter was at the luncheon at which JFK was supposed to speak that fateful day, and word of his assassination spread quickly. All I can say is that said reporter never stood in the lobby of the winter meetings, where the rumors take on a direction entirely their own.

Joe Stiglich