Wood-chipper$ and beverage$: a day in the life of an arbitration stake-out

Blog Image 308722 - Murphy
Astros president Tal Smith, who argued the Phillies case

A decision is expected in Ryan Howard's arbitration hearing sometime Thursday.

I'm not exactly sure how we'll get word of it. I'm envisioning white smoke pouring from the top of Bright House Field if he wins, red smoke if he loses.

Regardless, stay tuned. . .

I wish I had more info for you, but it was a pretty anti-climactic day.

For six hours, we hung outside the Vinoy, waiting for this thing to end. The Vinoy, by the way, is probably the nicest hotel in St. Petersburg. Lots of money, both old and new, pouring into that place. Rooms start at a little over $300 a night. So it was a tad comical watching a bunch of sports writers in Hawaiian shirts hanging outside on the porch. Surprisingly, they didn't try to kick us out until around 2:30 p.m. At that point, a security guard informed all of us -- five or six writers, a host of TV people -- that we were on private property.

We waited on the sidewalk for awhile, got bored with that, then had a brilliant idea: what if we were paying customers? So another writer and I dipped in to the hotel, purchased a couple of beverages and felt confident in the fact that we had done enough to not get arrested while attempting to ask Ryan Howard a question.

The good news? It worked.

The bad news? Howard didn't have much to say.

Someone asked me earlier today to interpret Howard's body language, and I gotta be honest, I really couldn't. Tal Smith, the arbitration guru who has handled the case for the Phillies, insisted there were no hard feelings. But Howard really wouldn't talk about it. He smiled as we left and signed autographs for a pack of children. But he also called it a "different experience," which I thought was an interesting choice of words.

I can tell you that in the time we were outside the Vinoy, we watched a landscaping crew chop down an entire tree and feed it through a wood-chipper.

That was pretty exciting.