The idea of MLB expanding to 32 teams has been around for a while and commissioner Rob Manfred gave it more credence when he laid out six potential cities — Portland, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Nashville, Montreal, Vancouver — back in July. If former Cub Darwin Barney has his wish, a new franchise in the first of those spots will soon become a reality.
As Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest writes, Barney is now an investor in the Portland Diamond Project, which is seeking to lure MLB. Other prospective owners include Russell Wilson, himself a former baseball prospect, and his wife, Ciara.
“The timing is real good for me,” Barney said of his foray into ownership. “I never envisioned being an owner of a major-league team but I never envisioned being a major-league player, either.
“You never know what your path is going to be, you just know what your passions are going to be. I quit playing to spend more time with my family. This came up just at the right time.”
Barney starred at Portland’s Southridge High School before moving on to Oregon State, where he anchored a pair of national title teams. He was selected by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2007 draft and debuted in 2010, later finishing seventh in the 2011 Rookie of the Year voting and winning a Gold Glove in 2012.
After being DFA’d in 2014, Barney was traded to the Dodgers and played parts of that season and the next in LA before again being DFA’d and traded to Toronto. Barney had a bit of a career revival with the Jays, hitting .269 with a career-high .695 OPS in 2016. But he faded the following year and walked away from the game in March of this year after being released by the Rangers.
“We think the chances (of landing an MLB team) are really good,” Barney said. “I would bet on it. We could be a part of history here.”
You know what would probably help the cause? Getting Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot involved. Not only would it be the grittiest ownership group in history, but they’d instantly be on the right side of the rivalry with the Mariners.