It appears as if Portland, Oregon is seriously close to achieving their goal of Major League Baseball.
As reported by The Oregonian, a group of businessmen hoping to bring baseball to the city offered Portland Public Schools upwards of $80 million for the land their headquarters sits on. Their hope is that this land will become a major league stadium.
This block of land, which is located at 501 N Dixon Street, is just blocks from the Moda Center, the home of the Portland Trail Blazers. If this bid fails, The Oregonian is reporting the group has also announced that they have bid for an old Esco Factory, which is located at 2141 NW 25th Avenue in Portland.
One thing is obvious: baseball is dangerously close to coming to Portland. Portland’s fans are historically rowdy for their NBA team, but given the current climate surrounding the MLB and their ineptitude to adapt to the present day social media age, it’s no guarantee basketball fans will jump over to baseball.
Other logistical concerns also arise, but many of those issues are above my pay scale. The biggest issue to arise is whether this would be an expansion or a relocation of one of the several teams failing to make it look like they have a semblance of a fanbase.
However, given the current climate in some of America’s baseball stadiums, it is a risk worth taking. Portland may not be the ideal place for a new team, but they are probably the best one with an already established sports following and professional team.
If this were to happen, there are really only three viable options for who fills the Portland vacancy. Rob Manfred could back out of something he said publicly (shocker, I know) and start the expansion process early, or one of the A’s or Rays, the two most struggling MLB franchises, could relocate.
The Rays are the least likely of those three scenarios, and by quite a wide margin. At this point, I would be absolutely dumbfounded should they move at all.
The Rays formally announced their new stadium site in Ybor City, but they currently do not have a way to fund it. This proposed site would still be relatively small, but wouldn’t be anywhere close to the inopportune condition the Rays currently play in.
There is no indication that Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is even contemplating a sale of his only professional sports franchise. While he has contemplated a move before, that was to Montreal, which didn’t have an ownership group already set up.
Sternberg could theoretically move his team to Portland, but he either has to start from scratch in the search for a stadium or sell off significant shares of his team to the investors that I mentioned before.
There is absolutely no indication, at this point, either of those drastic steps is even close to happening. It is going to be significantly easier, as well as more financially viable, for the Rays to build a stadium at the site in Ybor City.
Hypothetically relocating the Rays to the West Coast creates a whole set of logistical problems as well. It’s completely implausible for a team in Portland to be playing in the AL East, so realignment would have to occur as well. While that isn’t necessarily the end of the world, with the impending expansion that will happen regardless of how this Portland situation plays out, it makes little sense for the MLB to realign for one year only to likely branch out to a four-division format a year or two later.
In theory, expansion should be the most likely scenario for any city getting a pro team. However, given some of the prerequisites that Rob Manfred has placed on the expansion process, I don’t think it’s all that likely that a new team in Portland would necessarily be an expansion one.
“Let me go back to a conversation we’ve had already. I think for us to expand we need to be resolved in Tampa and Oakland in terms of their stadium situations. As much as I hope that both Oakland and Tampa will get stadiums, I think it would be difficult to convince the owners to go forward with an expansion until those situations are resolved.” – Rob Manfred (via CBS Sports)
Manfred has been extremely clear that expansion is not slated to be started soon, but that he much rather wants the situations in Tampa Bay and Oakland to be worked out prior to any expansion.
For reasons that I will soon make clear, that is easier said than done. While Tampa Bay at least has stadium plans in place in Ybor City, Oakland seems lost in that regard. If Manfred is true to his word with this statement, this could be a long drawn out process before Portland gets a team.
Given the parcel of land that they are trying to purchase, I’m not sure whether an extended waiting period would be acceptable to the Portland group. Expansion is going to come, but it may be more likely that Oakland becomes the MLB’s equivalent of the Cleveland Browns.
I believe that, at this current point and given the information we currently know, the most likely course of action regarding the MLB and Portland would be the relocation of the Oakland A’s.
This would be a kick in the teeth to the city of Oakland, who not only lost the Golden State Warriors, who are moving across the Bay, but also the Raiders, who are moving to Las Vegas in a couple seasons.
Per NBC Bay Area, the Athletics original preferred site for a stadium, Laney College, is not looking to sell land to the A’s. NBC also reported that there have been whispers that A’s owner John Fisher may put the team up for sale.
The A’s are in a really tough spot when it comes to a stadium. They signed a 10-year lease in 2014 with the O.Co Coliseum with an assurance that the Raiders, who are co-tenants, would stay. Since they are not, there isn’t any public information as to what the lease states the A’s could do.
However, since rumors of a sale, which would likely bring relocation, are running rampant, it’s likely that there is an out in the lease. Exercising that would allow the A’s to move.
The league had previously allowed an Athletics relocation, as SFGate reported that Bud Selig signed off on it prior to the signing of that lease in 2014. It’s fairly obvious that Selig was using it as leverage, but it is worth noting that the league has had this debate before.
Should Fisher decide to sell the team, it’s hard to believe a potential buyer would keep the team in Oakland. Matt Synder specifically mentions that the A’s will not be getting a new stadium IN OAKLAND for the next 10 years, which leads me to believe that the next A’s stadium will either be in San Francisco or in an entirely different place.
It’s really tough to predict the future without knowing the terms of the A’s lease, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s entirely possible that after the Raiders relocation, the A’s renovate the ballpark and make it more baseball-friendly. However, given the money that would inevitably cost, I’m not sure if it will be financially viable for any owner to take on that job.