Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is enjoying a nice season. His team is 11-2 and has already clinched at least a Wild Card spot, and will likely soon wrap up the NFC West. What many have forgotten is that he was once a fourth-round pick by the Rockies in the 2010 Major League Baseball draft. He played second base in the Minors for two seasons in A-ball with Tri-City and Asheville, compiling a .710 OPS in 379 plate appearances.
He might have made a useful Major League player someday, but we can all agree he made the right choice to stick with football. Nevertheless, the Rangers plucked Wilson in the Rule-5 draft earlier today. And, according to ESPN’s Richard Durrett, it’s not just a gimmick meant to get publicity. Wilson told GM Jon Daniels he wants to join the Rangers in spring training.Deion Sanders, one of the few multi-sport stars along with Bo Jackson, thinks Wilson “should seriously consider baseball”.
Sanders enjoyed fame as an outfielder over nine seasons with the Yankees, Braves, Reds, and Giants; and as a cornerback with the Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, and Ravens. Few people should be dispensing advice to Wilson, but Sanders certainly can.
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, 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.”