Mariners manager Eric Wedge has finally decided to put the struggling Chone Figgins out of his misery.
At least for a little while.
According to Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, Figgins will get the next couple of days off in order to clear his head. Luis Rodriguez will make the start at third base tonight against the Orioles, though Wedge was quick to mention that this is not a permanent change.
“I’m going to give Chone a couple of days just to get him away from it a little bit,” Wedge said. “Obviously I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about him and a few of the other guys, too. We’re looking to navigate through this the best way we feel like (we can) to get him back on track as quick as possible.”
Figgins is batting .190/.232/.256 hitless over 209 plate appearances this season and is hitless over his last 22 at-bats dating back to May 23. The 33-year-old is two years removed from leading the American League in walks, but is currently drawing walks at a career-low rate of 5.3 percent. Meanwhile, he is just 7-for-12 in stolen base attempts. His line drive percentage has dropped sharply over the past two seasons, so his current batting average isn’t just a matter of bad luck. There’s a real chance we’re watching his decline.
The Mariners signed Figgins to a four-year, $36 million contract in December of 2009. He is still guaranteed $9 million in 2012 and $8 million in 2013.
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.”