Andrew Zimbalist is probably the best known sports economist around. Recently he gave an interview to the Tampa Bay Times about the viability of the Rays in St. Pete vs. in Tampa and offered some solutions to the Rays’ current quandary. Those solutions were basically in line with what MLB most wishes for the Rays. Strikingly in line, actually, with what Rays owner Stuart Sternberg was saying as he made the rounds last week arguing about the problems the Rays face, including the argument that the Rays may be eventually contracted.
Which is fine. Everyone has an opinion, and Zimbalist is an authority on the subject. But here’s the kicker: Zimbalist is currently being paid as an MLB consultant and didn’t disclose that when he was interviewed.
Noah Pransky made this discovery and susses it all out over at his Shadow of the Stadium blog. It’s worth reading. And it’s worth remembering to be very mindful of your source, however respectable his credentials happen to be, when listening to anyone holding forth on matters relating to stadiums and economics.
Maybe most especially Andrew Zimbalist.
(thanks to Jonah Keri for finding the Pransky post and Dan Lewis for finding that last little nugget on Zimbalist)
On Monday, Baseball American 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, 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.”