Baseball winter meeting stories from SiriusXM’s general managers

Former MLB general managers and current SiriusXM hosts Steve Phillips, Jim Bowden and Jim Duqette shared with us memories and stories from baseball’s winter meetings.

Steve Phillips wins an arm-wrestling competition

At the general managers’ meeting, [a speaker] was trying to make a point, and said, “Here’s what I’ve got. I’ve got $20 right here. I want you to square off with the general manager next to you, and I want you to arm wrestle. Whoever beats the other guy the most number of times within a minute period will get the $20.”

So the room was seated in alphabetical order [by team], so at the time, I was sitting between 6-foot-6 Jim Beattie and 5-foot-6 Brian Cashman. And unfortunately, the way the alphabet went, I had to square off against Beattie and not Cashman. Because I figured, hell, I can beat Brian Cashman, he’s 5-foot-6; I could actually pummel this guy. But instead, I get Jim Beattie.

So they say, on your mark, get set, go, and, so you know, Beattie and I have our grip together, and the next thing we hear is,“Boom! Crash! Splash!” and Jim Bowden, the general manager for the Cincinnati Reds, and Jon Hart, the general manager for the Cleveland Indians, flip the table over. The water pitcher flew, the hard candies were all over the place, the notebooks, and pens; everything, flying everywhere as they’re trying to beat each other. I said to Jim Beattie, “How about this. How about you let me beat you as many times as I can, and I’ll split the money with you.” And so, when the dust settled and they picked up all the water and everything else, they said to Jim Bowden and Jon Hart – especially to Jim Bowden – “What were you trying to do?” And he said, “I was trying to win … at all costs. I was gonna do whatever I had to do.” So they were just grabbing a table to use as leverage and they flipped over the table.

They came to us, and I said, “Well, they got $20. I figured we’ll split it.” So Beattie and I, he let me beat him as many times as we could, and we ended up splitting the money. So I just thought that was an interesting story for negotiating.

… It just donned on me: When I called these guys for trades, and their assistants said, “It’s Steve Phillips on the phone,” they had to go, “Oh, God, not him.”

Jim Duquette signs Pedro Martinez

My best and favorite memory of the winter meetings comes back in the winter of 2004. We had just lost over 90 games, we’re trying to turn things around at the Major League level with the New York Mets, and we’re pursuing Pedro Martinez. And Omar Minaya had come on, and he and I, and Tony Bernazard, and John Ricco – guys in the front office – we’re trying to pursue or persuade Pedro to join the Mets.

Nobody gave us a shot at it, but we end up coming to the agreement at the winter meetings on a four-year deal. And as we make the final phone call and we hear from the agent Fern Cuza  that the deal has been done, we decide we’re gonna celebrate; yell and scream in our hotel room. And then we realize, we better quiet down, because we were afraid the press would end up hearing our celebration, because they knew the final decision from Pedro was coming in the next 24 hours or so.

But that’s one of those deals we knew was going to change the perception of our club. In fact, that deal led to the Carlos Beltran signing, and that was the turnaround starting in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The reason why the Mets ended up being as competitive as they were was because of that day, and signing Pedro Martinez.

Albert Pujols shocks baseball, and Jim Bowden has a front-row seat

My favorite winter meetings memory was when Casey Stern and I were getting ready to broadcast Inside Pitch on Dec. 8, 2011.

The Rule 5 Draft was about to begin. Our set was right outside of the room, and all of us were expecting Albert Pujols to either re-sign with the Cardinals or sign with the Miami Marlins. And just as the doors were opening and the executives in baseball were walking into the Rule 5 Draft room, word came down that the Los Angeles Angels had signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year deal.

It was an announcement that shocked the world. Casey and I were on live radio at the time, and it was incredible the next few hours as the baseball world was set upside-down by this incredible signing.

Hear Steve Phillips weekdays at 7 am ET on MLB Network Radio‘s The Leadoff Spot, XM 89 and Sirius 209.

Jim Bowden co-hosts Power Alley with Mike Ferrin, weekdays at 10 am ET on MLB Network Radio.

Weekdays at 2 pm ET and Saturdays at 10 am ET, listen to Jim Duquette and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio’s Inside Pitch.

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