Obviously a general manager saying misleading things about a big-name free agent shouldn’t be shocking at this point, but with Prince Fielder signing a massive nine-year, $214 million deal with the Tigers today Dave Dombrowski’s comments from just four days ago are pretty interesting.
Dombrowski was asked Friday about the Tigers’ chances of signing Fielder and replied:
Of course we’d consider Prince Fielder, but realistically it’s probably not a good fit. We anticipate Victor Martinez coming back in 2013 and playing at the level he was at last season. I would just say the fit is really not there at this point.
And that seemed to make sense, because the Tigers have Miguel Cabrera at first base and owe Victor Martinez $13 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014. Yet in less than a week Dombrowski went from saying “realistically it’s probably not a good fit” to giving him $214 million to play for the Tigers through 2020.
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.”