Russell Wilson gets in helicopter with wannabe Portland MLB owner, struggling newspaper devotes precious staff time to covering it

I’m not honestly sure exactly what has sparked this sudden flurry of interest in applying for MLB expansion franchises that MLB isn’t even offering yet — I guess MLB commissioner Rob Manfred keeps vaguely talking about how expansion would be nice, but that seems a bit much to be basing entire development plans around — but if you want a summary of where the madness is leading in a nutshell, you could do worse than this photo caption from the Oregonian:

Russell Wilson and Ciara take a selfie Saturday after holding a news conference in Northwest Portland to discuss their investments into the Portland Diamond Project’s effort to land a Major League Baseball team.

Yes, this is where journalism is right now: The quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks and the singer of “Goodies” took a helicopter tour of potential stadium sites with potential MLB owner Craig Cheek, were “whisked in a Mercedes SUV to Saturday’s news conference” (per the Oregonian), then posed for some photos in front of an “MLB PDX” backdrop. And then some poor college football writer who is one of the few people left in the newsroom had to write the whole thing up for the Oregonian, probably with occasional breaks to check for alternative career opportunities.

If you were hoping for any word on what an actual Portland baseball plan would look like, or what MLB would demand for an expansion franchise (either in terms of a franchise fee or stadium amenities or whatever), or really any details at all, needless to say this was not the article for you. Art Thiel at SportspressNW made a slightly better attempt, but even he was forced to rely on speculation and a few hints dropped by Manfred over the years, because really there is no solid information at this point at all. When a news vacuum exists, it will apparently now be filled with selfies, which is as good an epitaph for our age as any.

18 comments on “Russell Wilson gets in helicopter with wannabe Portland MLB owner, struggling newspaper devotes precious staff time to covering it

  1. To those of us in the Pacific Northwest, we greet the news with an eye roll- Wilson was an investor with Hansen and the SoDo arena for the Sonics. Really, he was a token investor for PR reasons and would be the same for an MLB team. Better to have a likeable millionaire as the face of an investor group than a ruthless billionaire, I suppose?

    • Yup, sounds like a Derek Jeter redux — a popular athlete putting himself forth as one of the faces of a franchise (in this case, one that’s still at least a decade from existing, provided it actually does form). Although, he wouldn’t have to defend pulling any fire sales in advance of his first year as owner, so he’d at least have that going for him.

    • The NBA made the “Jay-Z rule” about ownership fractions being too small. Does similar exist for the MLB (or NFL?)

      I’m still thinking Hansen was the friendly, not-a-well-known-multi-billionaire face for Ballmer. He, personally, isn’t rich enough to build an arena in Seattle all-private.

      • I don’t believe either of them have any limits on the smallest investment. Just on the number of overall owners and the minimum share for the largest owner (or family of owners)

  2. Don’t forget Jlo & Mark Anthony with the Dolphins. Ross has been such a horrible owner down there it didn’t even help.

  3. Token celebrity owners are an old game. See:
    Magic Johnson with both Lakers and Dodgers
    Bob Hope – Cleveland Indians
    Burt Reynolds – Tampa Bay Bandits
    Bing Crosby – Pittsburgh Pirates
    John Candy / Wayne Gretzky – Toronto Argonauts

    and many others

    • Was Gene Autry (LA/California/LA but of Anaheim Angels) the first celebritowner in the major pro sports (NFL, NBA, MLB)?

      • Autry was a “Real” owner but Hope and Crosby token ownerships came before him

        • Until 1995 when Disney bought most of the team except for a token share that Autry maintained until his death. Autry was still the face of the owners after Disney’s purchase though.

  4. I was wondering why Russell was so passionate about a possible Portland team when he plays in Seattle & I’m guessing he’s still upset that the Mariners were one of the biggest hurdles, along with the port, in getting the SODO project off the ground. I guess teaming up with the Portland team is his way of exacting revenge.

    • More likely it’s that the Mariners don’t need any more owners, celebrity or otherwise.

  5. I have never visited Not even once. Do I get bonus points for that?

  6. Yeah, definitely skeptical about MLB expansion within the next decade… but just for the sheer speculative rush of it…

    Who wants to guess what the expansion fee/min stadium requirements will be?

    In 1993 the Marlins/Rockies each paid $95m to join MLB.
    In 1998 the Rays/DBacks each paid $130m to join MLB.

    In terms of “general” franchise appreciation across the major sports, you’d have to think that somewhere between a 500-700% increase in fees would be warranted. But even that puts the generic expansion franchise value of a prospective MLB team below the Forbes valuation of the Rays (approx $900m). So it’s going to be more than the $800-850m the “math” suggests it might be.

    I’m as skeptical of Forbes values as anyone: the year before the Leafs were sold for $1bn, Forbes valued them at $445m… the year after they recurved every team’s value based on the “new” Leafs value…and they seem to have done the same for MLB teams post Dodgers sale (roughly speaking, the relatively short period between the Cubs sale for $890m and the Dodgers sale for more than twice that required the Forbes insiders to roughly multiply all team values by 2… these are professionals and this is very hard work, people…)

    So what will the new price of entry be?



    And how expensive will the expansion team’s stadium have to be?

    How will the reduction in MLBam revenue to each team affect a potential expansion fee? Certainly losing $20-30m in annual revenue should make a new team worth less than they would have been before the divestment… Or can they simply charge whatever they want?

    $2bn + a stadium contribution?

    Seems ridiculous… but in a sports environment where a group just paid $150m for an MLS franchise and built a $300+m stadium (on the site of the old LA arena… which those of you who are up on your Charlie’s Angels trivia – original – will remember fondly…), who knows.

    • I’d guess it’ll depend on whether they want to get a competition going among potential expansion cities (Montreal, Portland, Charlotte, San Antonio, Vegas?), in which case it might be closer to $1 billion, or if they just want to target a couple of favored cities and say “Give us $1.5 billion or else we’ll just never expand ever.” They’re both reasonable strategies, if you’re a supervillain.

      • I actually thought Vegas would be a better bet for MLB than it would have for either the NHL or NFL. More games = more dates on which someone might agree to go along with their gambling friends and take in a game or two while in town… and it’s a summer sport, not fall/winter like the others. Add to that, MLB tv revenues now make bums in seats less critical than they were 30 years ago.

        Then again, I don’t have a copy of the supervillain playbook…. speaking of…. is there any strategy that isn’t reasonable if you are a supervillain?

        • Stopping to explain your evil plan before carrying it out is always a bad idea. If Bud Selig had been a Marvel character, he could have easily outwitted the Avengers just by plotting the alien invasion of Earth behind closed doors where Nick Fury wouldn’t hear about it.

  7. Update: Russell Wilson was in Montreal on the weekend!

    Surely this means he is an investor in the MBP as well!
    Oh, wait, he was just hanging out with his friend Lewis Hamilton… still, no reason not to use this as leverage for another MLB cash grab…