Micah Owings is no longer the best-hitting pitcher in baseball. Now he’s just another minor league first baseman trying to make it to the majors, as the 30-year-old has officially switched from pitching to hitting and signed with the Nationals.
Owings missed most last season following elbow surgery and was released by the Padres in October, prompting his move to first base after throwing 483 innings with a 4.86 ERA in six seasons for Arizona, Cincinnati, and San Diego.
During that time Owings hit .283 with a .502 slugging percentage, although it’s worth noting that he had a terrible 72/8 K/BB ratio and logged a grand total of just 219 plate appearances in six years. In other words, he’s far from guaranteed to be a productive everyday hitter, particularly at an offense-driven position like first base.
As a first baseman/pitcher, however, Owings could be awfully interesting even if he were just mediocre at both roles and for a minor-league deal the price is certainly right for the Nationals.
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.”