NASHVILLE - As soon as you move through the rotating door to enter Gaylord Opryland's lobby you are handed a map. That's how massive the site of the 2012 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings is. It is a bit of a sensory overload. Immediately recognizable in the lobby are prominent members of the media, baseball executives, some current managers, and one very impressive manager of the past, Tommy Lasorda. The baseball people all mingle on a bridge directly outside the lobby. At times the narrow bridge that takes you over a large man-made pond gets so crowded that it is hard to pass through. Being exchanged are business cards, pleasantries, and information. As you take a couple of escalators the hotel opens up to a massive garden conservatory with thousands of dangling strands of white light. You can see a quaint gazebo and much more water as you take the skywalk to to the area that eventually winds around to the make-shift television sets, and MLB press conference rooms. More people are standing around talking. Most people are in suits -- surprisingly with no ties -- or company branded polo shirts. There's a surprising amount of job seekers here.You introduce yourself, get business cards, talk to agents, and try to catch wind of moves that could be on the horizon. Inside the hotel there are about eight bars. Most people just partake at night. Below the television area there is a guided boat tour that takes you around the inside of the hotel. It costs 9.50 but they let us ride for free because we brought a high-def camera to shoot scenics. Outside there is a dazzling display of holiday lights. It's easy to get lost here. It's even easier to cover massive amounts of distance without realizing it. For now, these observations are the only ones that matter from the Oakland A's side of the beat. A's general manager Billy Beane and assistant general manager David Forst will be arrived this evening. They will speak with the A's writers and then get to work. If you think it is surprisingly quiet from the A's perspective, this is why. Even when they are here, the A's tend to be relatively quiet at the Winter Meetings. Oakland needs a shortstop. Whether or not they can bring back Stephen Drew is the biggest question. His agent Scott Boras is one of the toughest negotiators in the business. He is here. Drew is drawing interest from several clubs. If the A's can't bring him back, the shortstop market is thin. I spoke with the agents of Yuniesky Betancourt. They say they have been in contact with Oakland but haven't had any serious talks. Betancourt could be had for pretty cheap. He signed a one-year deal with the Royals last offseason for 2,000,000. He only played 57 games last season, but played over 150 games in five of the last six seasons. For now, most of the news that relates to the A's has to do with moves other clubs have made. Mike Napoli has signed with the Boston Red Sox. Napoli, 31, got a three-year deal. He hit 54 homers for the Rangers in the past two seasons, and it certainly hurts Texas' lineup to lose him. The other big news that might have a mild trickle down effect for Oakland is that Alex Rodriguez is going to miss extensive time after undergoing right hip surgery. With the Yankees in need of a back up at third base, Brandon Inge could be a solid solution. That might make it harder for the A's to bring Inge back. With Jonny Gomes joining the Red Sox, Inge could be valuable to the A's as a clubhouse leader and provide depth behind Josh Donaldson at the hot corner. Much more to come. Make sure to check out SportNet Central, and Chronicle Live tonight. We'll have A's manager Bob Melvin on both shows. I'll also be attempting to grab him for a one-on-one interview for SportNet Central: Hot Stove on Tuesday.
OAKLAND — Bruce Maxwell’s gesture to take a knee during the national anthem Saturday night at the Coliseum was no knee-jerk reaction by the A’s catcher.
It was something he’s considered for a long time, balancing his own personal convictions to make a statement with how it might affect his teammates and organization.
Think it was bold of Maxwell to become the first player in baseball to kneel during the anthem, in protest of racial discrimination and the inflammatory remarks of President Trump? It took just as much guts to stand before his teammates, manager Bob Melvin and GM David Forst and explain why he felt he needed to do it.
He did so in a pregame meeting Saturday that made for a degree of discomfort in the room, but also seemed to have played out in a healthy way.
“I didn’t want them to sugarcoat or aid me when it comes to the media and their personal feelings,” Maxwell said, “because the whole point of this is the ability to protest (based on) our personal beliefs and our personal choices.”
Many athletes have been critical of the President, with things intensifying across the sports landscape Saturday after Trump, among other things, withdrew an invitation for the Warriors to visit the White House and harshly criticized athletes who have knelt during the anthem, saying they should be booted off their teams.
After blasting Trump on both Instagram and Twitter, Maxwell took the field for the anthem and took the action that will define him in the eyes of the baseball world. Maxwell had been wanting to make a statement in some way. He said he and his sister dealt with racial discrimination growing up. Watching Trump’s rally play out in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala. on Friday further persuaded Maxwell to finally do so.
“This goes beyond the black community, it goes beyond the Hispanic community, because right now we’re having … a racial divide in all types of people,” said Maxwell, who is African American. “It’s being practiced from the highest power we have in this country and it’s basically saying it’s OK to treat people differently. And my kneeling, the way I did it, was to symbolize the fact that I’m kneeling for a cause. But I’m in no way or form disrespecting my country or my flag.”
A’s outfielder Mark Canha stood next to Maxwell during the anthem with his hand on Maxwell’s shoulder, a show of support. Canha said he’s considered kneeling before in protest himself but had chosen not to. As he listened to Maxwell address the team, Canha wasn’t going to let his teammate make his statement on his own.
“I could tell he was getting kind of choked up and emotional about his beliefs and how he feels about the racial discrimination that’s going on in this country right now,” Canha said. “I felt like every fiber of my being was telling me that he needed a brother today.”
Canha added that he sensed some “discomfort” in the room as Maxwell addressed the team. But he also said there was support.
“It was an open forum to ask him questions. It was as articulate as I’ve seen him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “This wasn’t an emotional thing just today for him. … I think he handled it really well and everybody was comfortable after the session. I’m proud of him for the fact he went about it the way he did.”
Maxwell, who was born in Germany while his father served in the Army over there, said he will continue to kneel for the anthem. He doesn’t expect his teammates to do the same, only to stick to what they believe in.
“I have plenty of family members, including my father, who have bled for this country,” Maxwell said. “At the end of the day, this the best country on the planet. My hand over my heart symbolized that I am, and will forever be, an American citizen. But my kneeling is what’s getting the attention because I’m kneeling for the people that don't have a voice.”
A's catcher Bruce Maxwell made history Saturday night in Oakland. The 26-year-old became the first player in big-league history to kneel during the national anthem.
Below is the official statement from Major League Baseball:
Major League Baseball has a longstanding tradition of honoring our nation prior to the start of our games. We also respect that each of our players is an individual with his own background, perspectives and opinions. We believe that our game will continue to bring our fans, their communities and our players together.
MLB media services contributed to this report