At the risk of criminal understatement, it will not be a surprise when Bobby Valentine is fired after the season ends. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t surprising when the team’s GM goes on the radio and says that he’s going to be running a managerial search this winter without first, you know, actually firing the current manager.
Pete Abraham of the Globe caught this on Ben Cherington’s WEEI interview this morning:
“I’d always rather get the decision right than rush it,” Cherington said. “But what we know we need to do is hit the ground running this offseason. One of the things that, as I look back on last offseason, that didn’t go perfectly was simply the amount of time that we spent on the manager search and what that did to the rest of the offseason and I would like to spend less time on it this offseason, that’s for sure.”
Man, if it wasn’t for the fact that by doing so he’d forfeit the $2.5 million he’s owed for 2013, if I was Valentine I’d quit today. And I do it loudly and in such a way as to make clear how jerked around I’ve felt all season.
I mean, no, he hasn’t had a good year by any stretch of the imagination and yes, he has made things worse with a lot of his behavior and decisions, but the manner in which he was used and abused by this team, the front office and the media has been ridiculous. His very hiring was part of some palace intrigue between the team’s president and the GM. He’s been a scapegoat for problems that existed before he was hired and would have been present no matter who had the job. And now his boss is going on the radio and talking about his replacement before he’s even gone.
Because of the contract Valentine has no choice but to sit quietly and wait to be fired, but this really is bush league, unprofessional crap.
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.”