Urban: Hot Stove meetings finally getting spicier

Loose lips sink ships, we’re told, but the New Guard in big-league baseball apparently disagrees. It’s decided that loose lips are a good thing.

Prior to this year, the annual general managers’ meetings typically generated very little in the way of news that might stoke the Hot Stove fires. As such, only a handful of media types bothered to show up and cover the thing, at which the suits would gather somewhere warm, cast a procedural vote or two and share precious little information regarding their plans for the winter.

Something of a snoozer, really.

Not so this year. This one was something of a boozer, and baseball — particularly in relation to the annual winter meetings that open in Nashville on Monday — is better for it.

Thanks in part to peach-fuzz-faced Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and some other young, out-of-the-box thinkers, the suits who gathered in Florida earlier this month weren’t just encouraged to share their plans. They were plied.

The first order of business was to have each GM take center stage among his peers and detail exactly what his club is looking for — and what he might be willing to part with to get it — this offseason. If that’s not a conversation starter, nothing is.

But Epstein and crew took it a step further. Sometime after the unprecedented sharing session, the GMs were gathered in a big conference room, the centerpiece of which was an open bar.

As the boys in the Guinness commercials would say, “Brilliant!” What better way to loosen everyone up and stimulate creative deal-making than to provide a hearty helping of hooch?

Now, this isn’t to glorify alcohol in any way. We all know the danger of overindulgence, particularly when it’s followed by that unexplainable and insane urge to jump behind the wheel of a car. That’s why most teams have made the responsible move of banning booze in their home clubhouses and on plane rides home.

But in this case, the GMs weren’t going anywhere but to their rooms, an on-site restaurant or the lobby bar — perhaps with another GM to further discuss business.

Did it work? Billy Beane of the A’s, who as more of an Aquafina man might be someone the Chivas Regal-and-rocks set wants to avoid in such settings, says the GM meetings were more productive than they’ve been in years.

Coincidence? Doubtful. Word is there’s going to be a similar get-sauced-and-swap setup in Music City.

Loose lips sink ships? Perhaps. But baseball’s brass seems to have a new mantra: Boozed bellies craft contenders.

Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com. He also hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).

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