Yesterday the New York Daily News‘ front page featured the headline “E-Z Pass” next to a photo of Jorge Posada and this text:
Bad news: Yanks must go on the road for playoffs. Good news: They play the Twins.
Some of my fellow Minnesotans who’re apparently unfamiliar with the nature of New York newspapers and their headlines were upset about the whole thing, and now Kelsie Smith of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the Twins have the front page “hanging on the white board in the clubhouse today.”
Trying to motivate athletes by convincing them everyone else doesn’t respect them is basically standard operating procedure at every level of every sport, but this rings sort of hollow for two reasons.
First and foremost is that no one on or even affiliated with the Yankees actually disrespected the Twins, it was just some headline writer in New York trying to sell a few extra newspapers. Beyond that, the Twins are 18-54 versus the Yankees under manager Ron Gardenhire, so the notion that New Yorkers should be happy to face Minnesota in the first round isn’t exactly a stretch. But hey, whatever works.
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.”