Portland hosts its last AAA game

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The Beavers haven’t always played baseball in Portland. Minor league baseball took a few years off in the 70s. The team that came back in 1978 later moved to Salt Lake City, occasioning another break in AAA ball before the latest incarnation showed up.  But those few bumps aside, there has been a Pacific Coast League edition of the Portland Beavers since 1903.

Not anymore, though, as the latest edition played its last game last night. The Beavers are losing their ballpark to Major League Soccer next season and will have to find a new home. Tucson is a possibility. So is Lake Elsinore, California. All we know for sure is that the Padres’ AAA team won’t be in Portland next season.

My first thought is to be irked by the fact that someone, somewhere thought that MLS was a better bet for Portland than baseball. My second thought is to scoff at anyone who brings up Portland as a possible landing spot for a relocating Major League Baseball team.  Both thoughts are all about emotion, not reason, however, because this move has very little to do with how much Portland loves baseball and everything to do with economics.

Sure, it would be great if Portland had found room for both the Beavers and the new MLS team, but stadium politics in Oregon have always been dicey, rendering this an either/or situation. Given the league’s relatively low overhead and straight revenue split, a Major League Soccer franchise can be pretty damn lucrative these days. If you had the choice between keeping a minor league baseball team in your park or, alternatively, kicking them out, renovating the place for soccer and getting an MLS team you’d do the latter every time. At least if you were interested in making money. That was Portland’s choice.

The prospect of a major league team would likely change the economics of it all. No, it would not likely be easier to get public money to build a ballpark for, say, the A’s or the Rays or someone that it would have been for the Beavers, but there’s way more money to be made in Major League Baseball than there is in AAA too, so it could probably inspire more private money (assuming Bud Selig and the Lords of Baseball drop their aversion to owner-financed stadiums).  The upshot: the Beavers fleeing has very little to do with Portland’s suitability as a major league city. It’s benefits and flaws remain much the same as they’ve always been.

But yeah, it does suck that there’s no baseball in Portland anymore. Because baseball is, you know, cool.

Video: Nomar Mazara crushes a 491-foot home run

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 27:  Nomar Mazara #30 of the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on April 27, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Rangers rookie outfielder Nomar Mazara crushed the longest home run of the season to date, according to Statcast, with a 491-foot shot to the upper deck in right field against the Angels on Wednesday afternoon. With the bases empty and no outs in the second inning, Angels lefty Hector Santiago threw a 1-1 off-speed pitch, which did not fool Mazara in the slightest.

Statcast measured it at 491 feet. Giancarlo Stanton previously had the longest home run at 475 feet off of Hector Neris on May 6. Franklin Gutierrez hit a 491-foot shot on Saturday against Reds pitcher John Lamb.

Mazara entered the afternoon hitting a terrific .317/.364/.483 with seven home runs and 18 RBI in 162 plate appearances.

Blue Jays activate Devon Travis from the disabled list

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 22: Devon Travis #29 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates scoring a run in the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on July 22, 2015 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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The Blue Jays announced on Wednesday afternoon that the club has activated second baseman Devon Travis from the disabled list. To create roster space, ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte has been optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.

Travis, 25, last played on July 28 last year. He battled a shoulder injury for which he would undergo season-ending surgery. He burst onto the scene as a productive rookie, batting .304/.361/.498 with eight home runs and 35 RBI in 239 plate appearances before being sidelined.

Thus far, Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney have handled second base for the most part for the Jays. But the club has gotten a meager .585 OPS out of the position, the lowest mark in the league. The return of Travis should be quite a boon. He is batting eighth in Wednesday night’s lineup against the Yankees.

Adam Wainwright is not a fan of the proposed strike zone changes

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 09:  Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6 to 1 in Game Five of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on October 9, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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It’s probably not a big shocker that a pitcher is not a big fan of the strike zone being made smaller, but Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and he tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he is not a fan of the proposed changes to the strike zone we wrote about recently, calling the proposal “a horrible, horrible idea.”

Horrible, he acknowledges, because he’s a pitcher with a vested interest so, yes, let’s give Wainwright credit for self-awareness and for disclosing his self-interest. But he thinks it’s a bad idea for another reason too: more hits will lead to more balls in the gap and thus longer games.

I get the intuitive nature of that — the longer it takes to retire a side the longer games go — but it doesn’t necessarily follow that offense and game times are related in the way Wainwright implies. There was a lot more scoring in the 1990s and early 2000s and games were actually shorter then than now. Partially because of other factors (i.e. there were not quite as many pitching changes and because guys played at a faster clip). Partially, I suspect, because there were fewer strikeouts and strikeouts take a longer time than guys grounding out or having some of those balls in the gap caught on the run by a fast outfielder.

As I said last week, I suspect that we’ll see fewer balls in the gap than Wainwright implies and, rather, a lot more walks as pitchers test umpires to see if they’re really taking away that low strike. In the short term that’ll actually make games longer, though not for the reason Wainwright thinks.

 

 

Report: Jonny Gomes has retired

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 28:  Jonny Gomes of the Kansas City Royals looks on before Game Two of the 2015 World Series between the Royals and the New York Mets at Kauffman Stadium on October 28, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
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SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo hears from a source that former major leaguer Jonny Gomes has decided to retire from baseball. The 35-year-old spent the 2016 season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japan Pacific League, but he struggled at the plate, batting .169/.280/.246 in 75 plate appearances. Gomes left the Eagles by mutual consent back on May 11.

Gomes won a championship with the Red Sox in 2013 and the Royals last year. He ends a 13-year major league career having hit .242/333/.436 with 162 home runs in 4,009 trips to the plate.

Gomes was known as a clubhouse leader during his playing career, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up coaching or managing in some capacity in the future.