I’m not going to change my view of Jim Riggleman’s move — I think it was the wrong move to make and a bad one for his future for him to resign like that — but I’m also hesitant to bury the guy too deeply. The reason? We don’t know what brought the situation to a head with the Nats’ front office. Riggleman has never done a rash thing in his professional life, and all of a sudden he snaps? There’s got to be more to the story, right?
Ken Rosenthal helps shine a bit of light on that this morning. In his column — which starts out by noting that Riggleman’s resignation was not the right way to handle this — Rosenthal reports that the communication from the Nats’ front office was poor at best and not in keeping what people expect to go on behind closed doors with a major league team:
Most GMs talk with their managers every day; Rizzo rarely spoke with Riggleman, according to numerous sources. Most teams understand that a manager’s authority is compromised when he is in the last year of his contract; the Lerners proceed along their merry way, seemingly ignorant of conventional baseball wisdom … Stan Kasten worked 24 years for Ted Turner, one of the most eccentric owners in sports history. He lasted only four years with the Lerners. Gee, wonder why.
Apparently Nats’ scouts have complained about Rizzo’s lack of communication skills too.
Again, none of this makes Riggleman’s move the right one. But even if he was still wrong to quit like he did, it’s not totally inexplicable either.
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.”