Maybe the greatest catch you’ll ever see

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I’ve watched this a few times and I still don’t know what to make of it.

Phillies’ minor leaguer Jiwan James scaled the wall on Saturday to make what appears to be one of the more ridiculous home run-stealing catches you’ll ever see.  He loses his glove when he comes down hard, but then holds the ball up that he somehow — miraculously — caught.

But watch the final slow motion replay of it. It sure as hell looks like the ball went past his glove and over the fence. But then … how did he so quickly come up with a ball in his hand? If it was some sort of sleight-of-hand, really, where was he keeping the other ball? And why? It’s not like keeping a ball on one’s person makes any kind of sense because how often would that come in handy?

The best I can figure is that when it goes past his glove — and it really looks like it went past his glove — it didn’t go over the fence. Rather, it came down right in front of the fence and into his bare hand and he amazingly held on.  Yes, now that I’ve watched it several times I’m 88% sure that’s what happened here because any sleight-of-hand theory is just too complicated.

That remaining 12% is because my brain isn’t quite able to process what my eyes are seeing here, but I am inclined to think that this is the greatest catch I’ve ever seen. You be the judge:

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

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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.”