From the moment the final out is recorded in the World Series until pitchers and catchers report for spring training, the baseball off-season is a series of many lows punctuated by intense highs. You can go weeks without much of anything happening, and then BAM! Cliff Lee. That sort of game-changing moment is what makes the winter months tolerable.
For most fans, winter is a cold and miserable time because their teams lack the payroll to make any significant moves. They (fans) have to settle for frugal signings and hope that the injury-prone starter they signed on the cheap is able to survive another 180 innings.
But for the fans of the Phillies, winter can be a wonderful and magical time because when Ruben Amaro, Jr. is your GM, you never really know what's going to happen. And now that the winter meetings are upon us, we can go ahead and turn the intensity up to 11, because it's nothing but rumors and whisperings about trades and free agents and the sort of stuff that makes the off-season fun. Unless, of course, you're a Pittsburgh Pirate fan...
It's the calm before the storm that is the free-agent signing period because it seems like nothing ever really happens during the week that the managers and beat writers are cooped up in a hotel in some city in the mid-west (this year, it's Dallas). It's a lot of posturing and pre-supposing and hypothetical situations, but it's mostly just a teaser for the fans and page views for MLBTradeRumors.com.
This year is no exception, as we've heard rumors about Albert Pujols being courted by the Florida Marlins, Placido Polanco being dangled like trade bait so that the Phillies could acquire Aramis Ramirez, and the Washington Nationals turning themselves into actual players. It's a lot of sizzle, but not a lot of steak.
So, for the ingenues out there who aren't hip to the winter meetings, here's a tip: Trust no one -- like Agent Mulder on “The X-Files.” Even if you have a mousy assistant who is supposed to be the level-headed one, leave nothing to chance and assume that every tweet that you read about baseball is nothing but the end result of a conversation that may or may not have actually happened.
It's an elaborate shell game that kicks off the holiday rush for free agents, which means we've got a long way to go until spring training gets here, so it's best to pace yourself and get ready for the long haul as we prepare for the onslaught of player acquisitions.