Wednesday, June 30, 2010

R.I.P., Portland Beavers... Again

The Portland Beavers are leaving town again for parts unknown next season and no one seems to care. It's frustrating to grow up in a fairly decent-sized television market that only has one franchise in the top four professional sports and seems to be dead set against any visions of changing that. I've often dreamed about what Major League Baseball would be like in the City of Roses. There's been an NHL-ready arena here for 15 years. And while the NFL might be the toughest nut to crack, I'm pretty sure that you could toss a franchise in the middle of The Grand Canyon and it would manage to sell out its games and develop a fanbase.

All along, there was always the comfort of seeing AAA baseball on a warm summer night or a hot summer afternoon. Except, of course, when there wasn't... like when penny-pinching owner Joe Buzas pulled up the stakes and took the team to Salt Lake City in 1994. At the time, mostly due to Buzas's minimalist (i.e. cheap) ideas of promotion and what is now known as PGE Park in a state of total disrepair (the center field bleachers were actually "condemned"), the Beavers departure was met with widespread indifference. You could read about it in the papers, sure, but they were leaving and no one was sad to see Buzas leave town. The Beavers came back 7 years later, as they always do, to a newly renovated yet severely mismanaged ballpark.

This time around, it's new owner Merritt Paulson's push to bring the Portland Timbers soccer franchise up to the MLS level that's driven the Beavers out of town. Paulson hasn't exactly promoted the team well, either. Aside from the season in which he purchased the Beavers and Timbers (2007) in a package deal, he's done very little to promote the club as his clear focus was to take the Timbers to the next level. I can't fault him for that. I also begrudgingly see both sides of the story after initially feeling like boycotting the soccer club. Still, it's hard to get past the notion that if Paulson hadn't bought the team, they'd probably still be on steady ground in downtown Portland. Since the MLS refuses to let any of its franchises share a stadium with a baseball team mostly because of seating configurations, the Beavers are officially homeless after this season and are headed to parts unknown. In the meantime, I've been trying to enjoy as many Beavers games as I can - it feels like 1993 all over again - and I indulged recently in a discounted team set from 2009.

Here are the Venables, father and son... in reverse order. Will has been a mainstay in the outfield for the Padres this year, while his father Max also has a pretty cool looking 1981 Topps baseball card.

You can see Paulson's Timbers logo creeping around in the background of this Chad Huffman card. The Timbers logo pays homage to the much beloved late '70s NASL franchise. I'm excited about, er, "bigger time" soccer coming to town. I'm just really unhappy with the collateral damage. Huffman has been getting some playing time lately with the Yankees lately with some nagging injuries that they've been going through.

Tim Stauffer has been putting up quality stuff with the Padres for years and yet always seems to find himself on the next train back up to Portland. I don't think the Padres, oddly enough, are hating the idea of moving their AAA affiliate closer to home. San Diego and Portland are not exactly neighboring cities, and there's been a trend recently to move key farm clubs closer to the big league club's home base of operations.

This guy was huge... physically. There's been a trend with the recent Beavers clubs where they'll have at least one or two of these monstrous players who are perhaps too awkward to be successful in the majors. Walter Young comes to mind, and even Kyle Blanks could fit this mold if he is not careful.

Finally, here's Lucky... the Mascot. He's Paulson's mascot. I grew up with Round Tripper as the mascot until they left before the 1994 season. (There's a nice history of the team here.) Round Tripper was replaced by Boomer when the Beavers were reborn in 2001. The team went with a really nice old-timey look while retaining their old primary colors of red and black. Paulson decided to tinker with the look, however, by 2008 as he went with the logo and uniform scheme that you see on these cards. This also ushered in the era of Lucky the Beaver, whose costume will presumably be retired in a few months.

PGE Park will hold 20,000 people, after renovations are done.

Those renovations will evict Paulson's baseball team, the Portland Beavers, after this season.

Paulson says even though the Beavers won't play in Portland next year, he predicts Triple-A baseball will return to the metro area "at one point, or another."


deal said...

Is there a college baseball team in Portland (OSU??) and do they share the facilities w/ the AAA team? This type of arrangement is starting to occur on the east coast in some places.

night owl said...

Losing Triple A baseball for the MLS is a horrid trade-off. My sympathies.

We lost our minor league team -- although we just had the single A variety -- more than 10 years ago. The city replaced it with a college league team but it's not the same. Sadly, I don't think too many people know the difference.

TJ said...

Yeah, the trade off is not worth it at all. What's worse is that places were found for the team here, but certain politicians didn't support the move.

Deal, OSU and U of O are more than a few hours away. Nobody is going to drive that far for a minor league game. By nobody, I mean me and it's all about me. Portland screwed this up. Again. F-ing hippies.

--David said...

I wish I lived closer to Little Rock to watch the Travs play. I feel your pain...

Word verification: droprop - as in, drop. roll on portland.

kevincrumbs said...

It was a combination of two things:

1) Fan apathy from Beavers fans. No rallies, no sustained campaign to keep the team going.

2) The recession. Okay, so money was found for the Timbers and such but as for other communities in the area that wanted the Beavers & a new ballpark, it would be political suicide to approve any sort of funding, tax breaks or free land for a ballpark in this economic environment, especially when the economy is such a clusterf*** in Oregon.

Last but not least, part of me maintains that Portland feels like it's too good for minor league sports now. Probably not twenty years ago but certainly now. A similar case can be made with the Winterhawks. Outside of die hards, no one cares about the team. People might go to one game a year to drink beer & watch 16 year olds fight (the equivalent of people going to watch the Beavers once a year to drink beer & sit in the sun) and people certainly wouldn't give a crap if the team up and left.

Portland probably isn't big enough at this point to support any top tier sports beyond the Blazers and Timbers.