Last week, I was interviewed for a story about the potential for a Major League Baseball franchise someday landing in Portland, Oregon. I get asked these questions because I live in Portland, and have paid some attention to the issues over the last decade or so. Even if you don't care about Portland, the piece is a good overview of the issues relating to any new city -- Nashville, Montreal, Charlotte, San Antonio, wherever -- getting a team.
Anyway, here's the big finish:
9. What about the intangibles?
Should an MLB team arrive in Portland, the team would have to play well to keep fans engaged. The stadium’s neighborhood would need to be easy to reach and offer other entertainment options. Players would need to be community-minded.
These are traits that are true for any franchise’s success. They’re also impossible to engineer to predisposed outcomes.
“Portland is on the margins for a Major League market,” said Neyer. “In this market, it’s incumbent on the franchises to do the little things right. Maybe that means building the right ballpark or marketing itself as a true hometown team. It didn’t work in Tampa but it did work in Denver. Even though the Rockies haven’t been very good, fans have supported the team. That’s your model.”
The Timbers’ Paulson was the most blunt about the city’s chances.
“Major League Baseball is not interested in Portland as a destination. Portland is a major league city. Pro baseball belongs here in my mind. But MLB is not sustainable here,” he said. “It’s fool’s gold.”
"Paulson" is Merritt Paulson, who owns the wildly successful Portland Timbers and used to own the wildly unsuccessful Portland Beavers, who became the Tuscon Padres and are becoming the El Paso Chihuahuas. Paulson had a tough time selling Triple-A baseball to Portlanders, which just might color his opinion. I'm not sure how you can say Portland is a major league city and that Major League Baseball absolutely isn't sustainable. Unless you're placing Portland in the same category as Indianapolis and Nashville. Which I don't believe is appropriate.
I'm sticking with my basic opinion, which is that nothing's automatic in Portland or anywhere else. But the population and the income does exist, and a well-run and -nourished franchise could survive here. And someday will, I think.