What happened to J.J. Hardy’s home runs?

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J.J. Hardy has picked a bad time to forget he’s a power hitter. With free agency around the corner this offseason the Orioles shortstop has yet to homer in 47 games and 193 plate appearances this season, which is awfully strange considering he smacked 25, 22, and 30 homers in the previous three years and has averaged 22 homers per 160 games for his career.

Dating back to last season Hardy has now gone 70 games without a homer. Also odd: Hardy, who’s a career .262 hitter, has a .306 batting average and is within shouting distance (.702) of his lifetime OPS (.738) despite the lack of pop.

Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun asked Hardy what’s going on:

I’ve got no explanation. Yeah, obviously, it crosses my mind, but I try not to think about it as much as I can. I think the same approach, hits will keep coming. Honestly, whenever I’ve hit homers, it’s always come in bunches. I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. I’m going to continue to try to put good at-bats together and get on base, and hopefully, the homers come. … I feel pretty good physically.

Baseball is weird.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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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.”