Clayton Kershaw may join some amazing but odd company

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R.A. Dickey notched his 20th win of the season this afternoon, but in allowing three runs in 7.2 innings he fell from first to second among NL ERA leaders.

Clayton Kershaw now leads Dickey by the slimmest of margins, 2.68 to 2.69, which got me wondering if a reigning Cy Young winner had ever led the league in ERA and not won the award again.

Instead of trying to research that myself I lazily asked the question on Twitter and got a quick answer from none other than the official account for SABR (plus a more detailed reply from Dan “The Baseball Crank” McLaughlin).

Anyway, the answer is yes. Roger Clemens (twice), Sandy Koufax, and Tom Seaver all led leagues in ERA as reigning Cy Young winners and didn’t get the award. It’s worth noting that when Koufax failed to win in 1964 they only gave out one Cy Young award, rather than one per league.

So yeah … if Kershaw hangs onto the ERA lead he’ll join some pretty exclusive company because there’s seemingly no buzz for him as a top Cy Young candidate.

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.”