Agent Scott Boras speaks to a throng of reporters at Major League Baseball’s 2018 winter meetings in Las Vegas. This year, MLB cannot shine a spotlight on the annual meetings because they are being held remotely. AP Photo/Janie McCauley

Major League Baseball should be holding its annual winter meetings in Texas this week. Instead, 30 teams around the game are connecting virtually. Like the rest of us, they are staying at home hoping to flatten the curve and limit exposure to the coronavirus.

This annual gathering of baseball people is not important in the big scheme of things. Or even the small scheme. And while the loss of the winter meetings might not affect you in any way, it certainly affects the people in the business of baseball. And the business itself.

Business can be conducted remotely. It usually is. General managers don’t need to see each other in a hotel lobby to get a deal done. They can connect via FaceTime. Agents don’t need to bump into someone from a team’s baseball operations department to get his client top dollar. The agent has a smartphone.

So why gather for five days in the midst of the holiday season at all? Because baseball needs an offseason jolt of publicity. And the winter meetings provided that. The media can’t ignore so much front office firepower gathered in one place. Once the media arrives, stories will be filed. TV and radio shows will be broadcast. Twitter will burst with scoops and rumors.

And people will be talking baseball. In Boston we’d be talking about what the Red Sox will be doing to fill on-field vacancies.

Is Eddie Rosario a good fit in Boston? He’s not much of a defensive outfielder, but has plenty of pop. Kind of the inverse of Jackie Bradley, Jr. Speaking of JBJ, who is the front runner to sign him?

“Jackie is definitely on our radar,” Red Sox GM Brian O’Halloran said Monday, “and we’ve all seen what Jackie has been able to do over the years.”

O’Halloran, not the type to give details on any ongoing (or not ongoing) negotiations, wouldn’t elaborate.

What about pitching? Who’s going to land Trevor Bauer? Could Corey Kluber reclaim his career in Boston? Could Ryne Stanek be reunited with Chaim Bloom and become the reliever/opener he was in Tampa before he was traded to the Marlins and struggled?

Again, O’Halloran wouldn’t elaborate. And it’s hard to get background information on a Zoom session. If we were all at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, we might be able to corner someone and learn a little more. That’s not happening virtually.

Baseball used to be a year-round topic of conversation in America. Now it’s been edged out of the limelight by other sports. December belongs to football. And the NBA, with annual free-agent drama, makes news 12 months a year. The hot stove has cooled off considerably over the years; the winter meetings was a rare chance to fan the embers and stoke the flame.

The meetings will be back next year. They’re scheduled for Nashville. Baseball should make them bigger and better than ever. As others have suggested, MLB should turn them into an annual celebration of the sport. Hold an awards night and hand out the MVP and Cy Young Awards. Bring in stars from the music and entertainment world and have them mingle with ballplayers.

Make these meetings cooler than ever. And, in the process, help remind people that baseball is still cool.

That will take buy-in from the players. That will take negotiation. And that’s something baseball hasn’t been great at over the years.

Now is the time to change that. We’re headed for a long, dark winter. A little more baseball talk would go a little way to helping us get through that.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN.


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