Interviews

Dwight Jaynes


To call Dwight Jaynes Oregon's "godfather of professional sports reporting" would not be an exaggeration. Dwight has sports--and Oregon--in his blood...and also in his résumé.

A graduate of Cleveland High School in Portland, Jaynes attended both the University of Oregon and Portland State. As a student at PSU, he coached the junior varsity baseball team for three years in addition to working for the Portland Beavers. In fact, Dwight started working for the Beavers when he was a young lad, doing stints as batboy, ballboy, and clubhouse boy before moving on to become press box attendant, group sales manager, public address announcer, and scoreboard operator.

Dwight worked at the Oregon Journal and at The Oregonian for a combined 25 years, covering the Portland Trail Blazers for seven of those years and the NBA for one. He has been named the Oregon Sports Writer of the Year four times. In addition to his sports column writing, he has also coauthored two books-- Long, Hot Winter with former Portland Trail Blazer coach and current Sacramento King coach Rick Adelman and Against The World with Kerry Eggers.

Dwight is currently president of the Portland Tribune for which he has written a sports column since the paper's inception. And he now hosts a two-hour radio talk show on KPAM 860 AM from 3-5pm Monday through Friday.

He is also one of the staunchest advocates for bringing another professional sport to the City of Roses, preferably Major League Baseball...something he thinks is long overdue.

OBC: Not long ago, the idea of bringing Major League Baseball to Portland was viewed by many as a pipedream, but over the last two years there's been an increasing groundswell of support for the idea in both the local and national press. Critics still claim Portland is not large enough or doesn't have the corporate support required. Is Portland too small a market for Major League Baseball?

Dwight: It's my understanding we're now the number 23 market, which makes us bigger than several major league cities.

OBC: Could Portland be successful under the current economics of the game? Or will we have to see sweeping business restructuring in the business of baseball before the "troubled" or "small" markets can succeed in this sport?

Dwight: Market size isn't as important as how well the franchises are run. There aren't many bad baseball towns, but there are plenty of bad baseball operators.

OBC: The owners' current favorite solution to some of the sport's woes is to eliminate two to four teams and divide the profits among the remaining owners. What's your opinion of contraction versus relocation?

Dwight: I am strongly in favor of relocation. I do not believe contraction is necessary if the game is properly cared for.

OBC: But is it being properly cared for?

Dwight: Major League Baseball is much healthier than its caretakers would have us believe.

OBC: Then what do you make of Bud Selig's claim last week that six to eight ballclubs "can't exist another year"?

Dwight: I think Bud is posturing, as usual. A recent Forbes study concluded that these teams are doing a lot better than they say they are. The business is more profitable than they admit. That said, however, overall baseball IS struggling. Just check the attendance this season. It's an alarming drop.




OBC: Assuming baseball does have real economic issues to deal with, would you say the blame for its plight rests squarely on the owners' shoulders? Or does Donald Fehr, the Players Union representative, share some of the blame?

Dwight: The union, too, must give a little. Baseball is the only sport without a salary cap. The players have to compromise on some issues so the smaller markets have a better chance.


OBC: Portland's TV ratings for MLB in 2001 exceeded ratings in 18 major league cities, and this year's numbers look equally impressive. How much of Portland's interest in MLB is tied to the Mariners' success, and how much do you think is indicative of Portlanders' appreciation of baseball in general and a yearning in the Rose City for another pro sport to follow?

Dwight: I think we're ready for another team...WAY ready. I think the new ballpark in Seattle has helped awaken Portlanders to that fact. We see now how nice the situation can be--how much fun it can be--in such a family-friendly atmosphere.

OBC: The Mariners were on record earlier as being in favor of Portland joining MLB, but they've recently started backtracking somewhat on their pro-Portland comments. Why do you think they oppose us now? Is this a good sign?

Dwight: They didn't oppose us earlier because they thought it was impossible for us to get a major league team. Now that it's looking like it could happen, they will be more vocal in their opposition.

OBC: Could the M's claim Portland as part of their broadcast market and throw a wrench into our plans to get MLB?

Dwight: The Mariner organization makes a ton of money off Portland, and that would end if we got a team. But do they have the power to stop Major League Baseball from coming here? I don't think so.

OBC: When a MLB team does come to Portland, which league would you prefer? An AL team would allow for an "I-5 Rivalry" with the Mariners, while an NL team would bring teams to this region that normally never get any farther north than San Francisco.

Dwight: I would MUCH prefer a National League team, but that's my preference for the kind of baseball played in that league. It's simply a better league to watch with more good teams. You can still have a Seattle rivalry with interleague play.

OBC: An NL team would also gives the Pacific Northwest a more well-rounded baseball territory...with no direct competition with the Mariners.

Dwight: Actually, a National League team here would allow Portland to steal fans from Seattle who would want to see all the NL teams play.

OBC: There are other parties whose interests may run counter to our goal to bring MLB to the Rose City. For example, Scott Thomason recently spoke in the press about bringing the NFL to Oregon, particularly by tagging onto last year's baseball stadium funding bill. Does Thomason's push for the NFL hurt the MLB movement?

Dwight: I don't think Thomason hurts the baseball movement at all.


OBC: Given the high cost of team ownership in the NFL, is it realistic to think that Oregon will see an NFL team--either through relocation or expansion--any time soon?

Dwight: Most NFL franchises are in great shape. Few are even on the rumored market, so I'd say it would be many years down the road before an existing franchise could be bought and/or moved here. As for expansion, that's probably many years down the road too. Baseball will come to Portland long before the NFL does.

OBC: What about hockey? Portland has shown great hockey support over the years, for the Winter Hawks and before them the Buckaroos and the Rosebuds. With the Rose Garden, we already have a first-class facility just waiting for a team. How close are we to getting an NHL team, and would it have to be a Paul Allen team?

Dwight: If a National Hockey League team comes here, Paul Allen is probably going to have to own it. But I think it would be a shame if Allen were the owner. The hockey team would just become a pawn his organization would use to sell Blazer tickets and sponsorships. I don't think they would put much effort into making the hockey team an on-ice success.

OBC: Speaking of the Blazers, they've had some serious public relations trouble with Portland fans of late. Has the Blazer organization caused Portlanders to seriously rethink the "one-horse town" mentality?

Dwight: The Blazers' arrogance has made people yearn for another option. But I don't think their bad PR has had a big impact on fans' outlooks. Many Portlanders seem content with the status quo.

OBC: Let's talk about the current city leadership then. In terms of building a major league ballpark, are Portland's elected officials pushing too many potential corporate partners (Freightliner, Columbia Sportswear, Meier & Frank) out of the city to make any real private-public cooperation successful?

Dwight: I am very pessimistic about the ability of our political leadership to get any kind of public-private partnership going. There's too much animosity toward the current leadership from the business community. Besides, our mayor and council aren't sports-savvy enough to sell such a partnership in the right way to our community--to the business community OR the social community.

OBC: If our city officials lack the vision and wherewithal to bring another big league team to Portland, then who's going to do it? Is there some would-be local owner waiting in the wings for the right moment to step onstage?

Dwight: This is a funny city, very unsophisticated in the ways of big league sports. We've seldom had local ownership of ANY of our teams, even the minor league ones. And our wealthy people haven't ever been too concerned with owning sports teams or showing leadership in getting them. It's tough.

OBC: Should we resign ourselves to supporting and being satisfied with the Beavers? Is Portland destined to remain minor league? When will we become a big league town?

Dwight: This is a big league town now; minor league stuff is not very well received here any more. The Beavers have it real tough, and their battle will get tougher every year as people relocate here from major markets.

OBC: What do you think needs to happen to bring MLB to Portland? What should we do?

Dwight: We have to get a stadium funding process in place at the state, city, metro, or county level--that HAS to be there. And politicians have to be brought on board who can articulate a desire to bring this city position for the right reasons.

OBC: Last year a bill was introduced in Salem that would have used taxes on players' incomes to help fund the stadium. It looked like a lock to pass and get signed by the governor, but it never got the floor for a vote. If the same bill goes before the next legislature, do you think it will pass?

Dwight: The bill has a decent chance to pass this time around, but pressure will have to be brought upon the likes of Senators Derfler and Hannon, who blocked it the last time. There is sentiment in Salem against anything that helps Portland. That's just a fact of life. But I believe if the bill passes this time, we'll get a team.

OBC: What about the Portland Baseball Group, POSA, and all of us volunteers here at the Oregon Baseball Campaign? Can grassroots and private investment groups have a positive impact?

Dwight: That's where the real impact comes--from real people taking real action...volunteers and leaders of the community having the guts to step forward and tell a city what's possible. Portland has gone a long time without that kind of commitment.

OBC: Is that the best way to bring MLB to PDX?

Dwight: If I knew the best way to make that happen I'd have written it a long time ago....