Former major leaguer Oscar Azocar dies at 45

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Oscar Azocar, who played with the Yankees and Padres during a three-season career that began in 1990, passed away Monday in a Venezuelan hospital. He was 45.
Originally a pitching prospect, Azocar had a 2.30 ERA over 168 1/3 innings in his first three seasons in the Yankees farm system. Arm problems played a role in his conversion to the outfield in 1987. He reached the majors as a 25-year-old in 1990 and hit .248/.257/.355 in 214 at-bats for the Bombers. He excelled at making contact no matter where the ball was thrown, and he had just 15 strikeouts and two walks as a rookie.
After the 1990 season, Azocar was traded to the Padres for Mike Humphreys. He went on to hit .204/.239/.240 in 225 at-bats with San Diego over the following two years. He vanished from the U.S. after that, but he continued playing baseball until 2001.
Popular in his native Venezuela, he was one of two inductees into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, joining Wilson Alvarez. He played in three Caribbean Series for Venezuela.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”