Great Moments in Half-Baked Populism

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times is uncomfortable with the symbolism of the Winter Meetings in the fabulous Bellagio Hotel and Casino:

Reporting from Las Vegas — It’s the symbolism, stupid.

As Americans lose their jobs and homes at a frequency unseen in decades, baseball convenes today for its annual holiday shopping spree in Las Vegas. The setting, according to the hotel website: “Contentment and opulence are the hallmarks of your Bellagio hotel luxury experience.” The pitch, according to baseball executives from the commissioner on down: Believe us, times are tough.

The retort is the same one Congress used on the auto executives that flew to Washington in private jets: It’s hard to believe you amid all that luxury.

It’s not the economy. It’s the symbolism.

I’m a big fan of sending the right signals, but I put greater faith in facts than Shaikin’s brand of symbolism. And here are the facts: right now, if you go to the Bellagio’s website, you will find that you can get a room at this very moment for $129 a night, checking in this morning and checking out Friday morning. Last year the Winter Meetings were held at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Right now, if you go to the Opryland Hotel website, the cheapest room you can find for the same now-thru-Friday stay is between $199 and $219 a night.

When you factor in the built-in-chapeness of everything else in Las Vegas due to the greater competition for food and entertainment dollars, and of course, when you add in the fact that all things are subsidized with gambling receipts, travellers to the Winter Meetings are looking at a much, much cheaper week this year than they had last year. And that’s just if they’re staying at one of the two or three nicest places in town. Check in to Bally’s across the street and you’ll pay only $59-79 a night. At these prices, you can’t afford not to go to the Winter Meetings!

Upshot: Shaikin can keep his symbolism. I’ll take the lower bottom line.

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  1. Ron said...

    In 1942, President Roosevelt decieded to let baseball play on instead of closing it down for the duration of the war, as had been the case in WWI.

    He said the American people needed baseball as a diverson away from the troubles of everyday life and something to root for. (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the actual saying).

    I’m not trying to compare WWII to the current ecomomic crisis, but there is a correlation. The world doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do the American people. We want our entertainment regardless, and we want our team to win the pennant. There are only 4 constants in life. Death, taxes, the fact the in the next 5 years Britney Spears is going to blow up like Kirsty Alley, and my unwavering hope that the Royals will be competetive this year.

    I don’t think many baseball fans are sitting around complaining that their favorite team is going to spend too much money this off-season while they pinching pennies to make ends meet. In fact, it’s just the opposite, with most fans wanting to know why their team isn’t spending more.

    People who worry about stuff like this aren’t really baseball fans anyhow, so screw ‘em.

  2. Brandon Isleib said...

    I went to the Nashville meetings last year – it was all kind of weird.  You had the aged, holiday-sweater-with-birds-on-it women who couldn’t miss the Christmas decorations and the upcoming Pam Tillis concert walking shoulder-to-shoulder with Joe Girardi, Lou Piniella, and friends.  It seemed like the players and managers didn’t care for that much at all.

    The meetings themselves didn’t seem very opulent at least in their day-to-day operations.  I will note, though, that if you want to interview with a major league team while you’re there (mainly if you’re an Ivy League MBAer), it will cost you triple digits.  The meetings are nothing more than a business conference with famous people and famous media people to cover the famous people.  Well, okay, and it’s really fun to go to if you’ve never been and it has the Rule 5 draft, but other than that…

  3. Pete Toms said...

    The minor league contingent is staying at The Hilton ( can’t recall where I read that ).  Maury is there, so friggin happy for him. 

    Ron, you’re bang on.

  4. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Brandon:  good points.  I joke about wanting to “cover” the Winter Meetings, but (a) I’m not exactly sure what covering a bunch of conversations I’m not party to and presentations I’m not invited to would entail; and (b) about 75% of my comments along these lines are inspired by the fact that they’re in Vegas this year. I’ve stayed at the Bellagio and I enjoyed it immensley.  I had no feelings of envy about not being able to see the dancing waters, country kitsch, and holiday sweaters at Opryland last year.

    Really, unless you’re a sourced-up guy who can plausibly insert himself into conversations with baseball people, I think you’d have to be much better off sitting at your laptop.

    Only possibly exception: if I can get a handful of bloggers together to set up a shadow-Winter Meetings meeting at the same location next year.  We’d make no effort to break any stories.  We’d simply hang out and make occasional posts about our brushed with famous people (“Jon Daniles hit on 18 right next to me and took my king!”).  I suppose if that happened, however, they’d simply move the thing to a closed resort to freeze us out.

  5. Brandon Isleib said...


    I have a Facebook note that does precisely what you have described.  Consider me a trailblazer.

    I was a semi-stalker, but at least some people were looking for me (got to meet Sean Forman, which rocked).  Now the guy with the dirt-lip mustache with more caps on (1) than showers in the past week (0) who couldn’t wait for Cal Ripken to walk through his corner of the Opryland to get his book signed…yeah, maybe not that guy.

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