There’s no database that quantifies which team has the most knuckleheads on it. Anecdotally, however, it kinda feels like the Rays do. They’ve had a number of high-profile bad citizens — and worse — over the years. Josh Sale, Matt Bush, Toe Nash, imports like Josh Lueke and Yunel Escobar and many others have had bad character and sometimes criminal moments either with the Rays or before they got there. It’s enough to lead one to conclude that, when you’re trying to squeeze that extra 2% out of limited resources, things like preferring standup guys have to go by the wayside.
But the Rays say it’s not so. Marc Topkin talks to Rays officials as they approach the draft and they all note that, while predicting who is going to be a jerk and who isn’t is tough business, it’s business they take seriously:
“It’s something that is very important in our process,” Friedman said. “We talk about it a lot. We try to break up onfield makeup and off-the-field makeup … It’s something that is critical to how we’ve done things in the past and will continue to be.”
Maybe they’ve just had some bad luck. Maybe we’re just cherry picking the Rays’ character lapses and not noticing them as much on other teams. But at least their front office is aware of it.
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.”