After seven embarrassing years of desperately pursuing MajorLeague Baseball, the time has come for Portland to back off.
Last week, for the seemingly umpteenth time, MLB CommissionerBud Selig taunted Portland baseball-backers, declaring that theOakland A’s “simply cannot continue playing” in the outdatedOakland Coliseum – implicitly suggesting that without a new stadiumin Oakland, the A’s would have to relocate.
Having mastered the drill during previous cries of “wolf,”Portland baseball-backers no doubt took Selig’s doomsdayproclamation as a sign to rally the lobbyists, bombard the radioand flood the paper with editorials urging civic leaders to awakento the fact that the time for a major league team to relocate toPortland has finally arrived.
The routine has become more predictable than the arrest patternsof the Blazers.
Hopefully city and state officials will finally tunebaseball-backers out and take a long overdue stand against theirprinciple-less pandering to MLB officials.
By now, everyone involved should realize this. The commissionerhimself went so far as to omit Portland from a list of fivepotential relocation sites two months ago in Tokyo.
Desperate to maintain the faith, Portland baseball-backersbelieved the commissioner’s office when it later assured them thatPortland was still very much in the running.
The commissioner’s omission was no fluke. He was trying to tellus directly what he has not-so-subtly been telling us for the lastseven years – Major League Baseball doesn’t want a team inPortland.
We should have caught the hint when the commissioner’s officeignored last summer’s passage of Senate Bill 5.
Since 1997, baseball officials have been saying that publicstadium financing is the key to relocation. So, being the goodsuitors that we are, Oregon legislators passed Senate Bill 5,providing $150 million to build a baseball stadium in Portland,making us the only area with secured public funding.
At the time, the Oregonian editorial board even bought into thehype, optimistically calling Portland “a hot prospect” forrelocation.
Expand the number of areas under consideration forrelocation.
Instead of just Portland, Washington, D.C., and NorthernVirginia, baseball added Monterrey, Mexico, Las Vegas, Nev. andNorfolk, Va.
That wasn’t the first time they reneged on their word.
During the last seven years, MLB has set at least three”deadlines” to move the Montreal Expos. The first in June of 1998,the second in July of 2003 and the third coming this July.
The first two have come and gone and the third will too.
In the winter of 2002 they invited us to N.Y. to bid for theExpos. We went, we proposed, they ignored.
Yearly visits from lower-level MLB executives have replaced thewaterfront festival as a sure sign that summer has arrived. Everyyear they come, visit PGE Park, say how wonderful it is and assureus that we’re still in the running. All the time knowing thatPortland could build a $400 million dollar stadium, find a richowner and line up by the thousands in Pioneer Square to kiss thecommissioner’s boots before he would consider us. And even then hewould only consider us as a last resort.
Whether they think we’re not big enough, not rich enough, notsports-crazy enough or just too damn outdoorsy, the reality isbaseball officials have made up their minds.
Instead of whining about it and trying to be something we’renot, we should embrace those three characteristics because they’reexactly what have made Oregon unique.
The time has come to quit pandering to baseball’s illogical andill-thought-out demands and get back to restoring the uniquequalities that have fallen by the wayside during our one-sidedcourtship.
At some point in the future, Major League Baseball in Portlandwill make sense, but that day isn’t today.