The day had not gone well for Atlanta. New first baseman Derrek Lee was 0 for 4 with a couple of strikeouts. Melky Cabrera’s adventures in left field had led to a couple of Cubs runs. The Braves’ bats just weren’t able to do a hell of a lot against Ryan Dempster. Facing Carlos Marmol in the ninth seemed like a mere formality. But then . . .
Martin Prado, Brian McCann and Alex Gonzalez walked. In between, Lee and Melky struck out. Bases loaded, two down, Rick Ankiel up to the plate. The count went to 2-2 . . . Braves down to their last strike and . . . Ankiel triples to right field. 5-3 Braves, which is where things ended after Billy Wagner closed it out. Since they were tempting The Fates by relying on Ankiel to be a hero they should have tried to be really macho and close it out with Farnsworth, but no one ever listens to me.
I’m obviously excited because I’m a big fanboy. But even if you’re not a fanboy you can’t help but marvel at what the Braves are doing this year. Unless I’m missing one or two, that’s the 3.675th time they’ve come from behind in the ninth this season. They’re living on the edge and it’s been pretty entertaining stuff.
Well, Phillies fans probably aren’t marveling. And today Cubs fans aren’t. But you see what I’m getting at.
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.”