Washington has activated Chien-Ming Wang from the disabled list after he missed the past two months with a hip injury, but when he might pitch again and which role he’ll fill remains uncertain.
For now Wang is throwing bullpen sessions so Davey Johnson can get a look at him and the manager told James Wagner of the Washington Post that Wang “conceivably” could make some starts down the stretch. Wagner speculates that would probably happen only after the Nationals had clinched a postseason spot.
Wang hasn’t been healthy and effective since basically mid-2008, although he did make some decent starts for the Nationals last season. Once upon a time the Nationals kept waiting around for Wang to get healthy and step into a rotation spot, but now their rotation is so strong that they don’t even need him.
Any starts he makes down the stretch would mostly serve as an audition for other teams to potentially sign him as a free agent this winter.
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.”