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We've been working on a post regarding the Seattle SuperSonics and their possible (okay, probable) move to Oklahoma City. It isn't done yet, but we would like to take a quick moment to point that it's obvious the new owners aren't trying real hard. Say, for instance, this listing at the Sonics Team Shop. This very nice Sonics Flex Fit cap is currently for sale, but with an asking price of $28, 479.00, we think action will be a mite slow. We here at No Rhubarb are cap aficionados, but we rarely buy caps that top the 20K mark.

We're only mostly dead.

Actually, not dead at all. The last couple months have been a blur to me, and unfortunately this and my other blog have taken quite the hit. But fear not No Rhubarbian, we shall return with random updates all throughout the off-season. We'll hit any Rainiers news we come upon, and we shall spend a few hitting on the Pacific Northwest sports scene. Quick Version: Yay MLS, Boo NBA.

And I would be remiss not to mention the shout out we've received from Ben's Biz, a fantastic new blog from MiLB.com. Unlike many of the MLB corporate blogs, which run from the mundane to the ridiculous, Benjamin Hill knows his stuff and seems to love the minor leagues as much as we do. Please check him out.

We are not dead. Only sleeping. Actually, sleep is rather the opposite of what is going on here. We've been busy. We are...

... putting on a show! Come see it and figure out the mystery!

...making life miserable for local restaurateurs!

...playing with this thing, which might be God's perfect time-waster.

...getting yet another animal!

...getting seriously chagrined when we describe ourselves as “blogger”.

So, where do we go from here? The Rainiers are done for year. Minor league baseball – while now close to a year-round affair due to various winter leagues – won't be seen around these parts until next spring. We could – and almost certainly will – continue to blog about the other, slightly less local franchises. We've also kicked around the idea of following either the UPS or PLU football teams, and while we may keep abreast of them, we can't see that idea completely taking hold. Mostly because we don't have a clue about UPS or PLU football.

We'll work on it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a proud franchise. A tough, blue-collar team based born in a blue-collar city. A team owned by the same family for 50 years, originally purchased with the patriarch's gambling winnings. The same basic black uniforms, the same three coaches in 30 years. A team built on toughness and defense. A hard team led by hard men. Fans that are truly fanatical, spread around the world. A team that does things the right way. A team that understands that football is war. A team that never concerns itself with frivolities. A team with no cheerleaders.

Now though, they do have a mascot. In honor of the team's 75th anniversary, the Steelers have unleashed Steely McBeam on the world.


Now, we are fans of the Seahawks, and we cannot mock anyone when it comes to mascots. We do have to mention though, that every time we see Steely, we can't help but think of this, our favoritest Simpsons moment ever.


Keep reaching for that rainbow Steelers fans!

If you are the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, what exactly do you do for a mascot? Like Rainiers, this is not a name that lends itself well for mascotdom. A geological formation – especially one with the ability to destroy cities – doesn't seem like a natural.

So, if you are the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, you go a little nuts. Meet Crater:


No, we don't have any idea what Crater might be. Now, the Volcanoes one up themselves and feature Lil Crater. We don't know if this is Crater's son or mini-me. If he is the son, we have no idea what the mother would look like, and our sanity is contingent on the fact that we never, ever think about it.

Lastly, rummaging about the Salem-Keizer official site – one so poorly put together it reminds us of a late-90's GeoCities page, we also find this picture.

Apparently this is Blooper, who looks to us like nothing more than an orange and blue gorilla.

Just like God intended it.

The Rainiers got off to a strong start, ripping Nashville starter Mark DiFelice for six runs in 4 2/3. Starter Jake Woods wasn't much better though, giving up five runs over five innings. After the Sounds rallied in the sixth to tie, which carried the game into extra innings. In the the 10th Nashville pulled ahead on Brad Thomas' two-run double. Tacoma didn't go down though, scoring three to win, the last on Brant Ust's walk-off single.

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A complete game win for the Rainiers. Redbirds reclamation project Rick Ankiel hitting a standup triple in the first. Ryan Feierabend giving up two quick runs in the first and then shutting Memphis down.

None of these things matter. What matters tonight is that we have seen the Zooperstars.

And they are a billion times creepier than you can imagine. With the help of Kevin Frietas-dot-net – our copilot and photographer – we will bring this to you.

A hint? Harry Canary and the Black Eyed Peas. Specifically, “My Humps”.

You have been warned.

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This is not a giant rat. This is not a giant rat. This is not a giant rat. This is not a giant rat. This is not a giant rat. This is not a giant rat. This is not a giant rat. This is not a giant rat. This is not a giant rat. This is not a giant rat. This is not a giant rat

Okay, it's a giant rat.


Actually, it only looks like a giant rat. This is actually Chatter the squirrel and mascot of the Class-A Visalia Oaks. We would like to point out to very nice and disturbing details from this picture. You can see for yourself the overall horror of this giant rat creature, but now, focus on the small stuff.

1-The sleeves of the costume must not be quite long enough, because we can see the wrist of whatever unlucky soul has to wear this thing.

2-Chatter's giant, freaky, unblinking eyes are shaded like acorns. We don't know what this means, but it will haunt our dreams.


Photo courtesy of Paul M. Photography


Adam Jones is back in the show. While this move is about three months too late for Mariner fans, we in Tacoma will surely miss him. The Mariners are being tightlipped about his role with the team, but anyone who's followed Adam knows he should be in the Seattle outfield every day. Hey Adam, you're joining a team in the midst of a pennant race and apparently some of the vets aren't that happy to see you. The Mariner blogosphere is pretty thrilled though.

No pressure.

Now, the post of Our Favorite Rainier is officially open. Wlad Balentien? Kameron Mickolio? Watch this space...

The modern-day Pacific Coast League is a massive enterprise consisting of 16 teams stretching from Tacoma and Portland in the Pacific Northwest to New Orleans of the Deep South. These are the teams our hometown nine will face throughout the long season. You must know the enemy!


The Team: Memphis Redbirds

The City: Memphis, Tennessee

The Affiliation: St. Louis Cardinals

The Website: MemphisRedbirds.com

The Ballpark: AutoZone Park. Commonly described as “one-third a major league park”, AutoZone Park was the most expensive minor-league baseball park ever built when it opened in 2000. Rainier voice Mike Curto has stated on the air that this is his favorite PCL park.

The History: Like New Orleans, Memphis was a longtime member of the Southern Association. The Memphis Chickasaws (or Chicks usually) were members up until the circuit's collapse in the early sixties. Later the Memphis Blues competed in both the Texas League and the Southern League. Triple-A baseball came to Memphis for the first time in 1998 with the arrival of the Redbirds.

The Name: Chickasaws? C'mon...

The Prospects: Memphis is all about Rick Ankiel. If it weren't for the amazing story of Josh Hamilton playing for the Reds after years lost to substance abuse, Ankiel would be the comeback story of 2007. Once heralded as the second coming of Steve Carlton, Ankiel made his major league debut at 20 and pitched the entire 2000 season in the Cardinal rotation. A surprise choice to start the first game of the NLCS against Atlanta, his start was a disaster, as Ankiel became the first pitcher since 1890 to throw five wild pitches in one inning. After that, his career fell of a cliff. An apparent victim of Steve Blass Disease, he would eventually bottom out a Johnson City, the lowest rung on the Cardinal minor league ladder. In 54 innings he threw 10 wild pitches and walked 49 batters. Following Tommy John surgery, Ankiel made a comeback. As an outfielder. Always a tremendous athlete and fine hitting pitcher, Ankiel has worked his way back up through the Cardinal system at center, and he currently leads the PCL in homers.

The Ownership: There is none, actually. The Redbirds are actually considered a charitable organization, and any profits the team makes go toward baseball's very worthy RBI and STRIPE programs.

The Schedule Quirk: The Redbirds are a skip team for Tacoma this season. Memphis comes to Tacoma this year, but the Rainiers won't see AutoZone Park until 2008.

Hey, lookee here, the Rainiers pitched themselves a shutout! Jorge Campillo started and went the first five. Jake Woods went the final four innings and notched his first save of the season. Nick Green tripled and scored on Jeremy Reed's sacrifice fly in the first, and Tacoma takes three out of four against the RedHawks.

The Rainiers come home for a nice long eight-game homestand starting tomorrow against Memphis.

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There are times when following a team – any team, but especially a baseball team – can get to be a grind. The Rainiers dropping three in a row to New Orleans and on the verge of getting swept is one of those times. The best news? Our Favorite Rainier - who, seriously needs to be promoted like today – doubled and scored, and Wladimir Balentien hit his 23rd homer. It just wasn't enough.

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As far as I can tell, absolutely nothing interesting happened during this game.

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After the weather-induced mess over the past weekend, an extra-inning game following a cross-country flight is exactly what the Rainiers didn't need.

But that is exactly what they got, falling to the Zephyrs 4-2, on a twelfth-inning, walk-off, two-run homer by New Orleans rightfielder Jesus Feliciano. The recently demoted Jason Davis started for Tacoma, giving up two runs over five. No Rhubarb! favorite Kameron Mickolio took the loss.

Same two teams tomorrow at 5 Pacific.

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What We've Missed

Okay, we ended up taking a bit longer than expected. The great stair adventure from last week - combined with the release of the final Harry Potter – led to a more extended absence than we expected.

We do apologize. But we're back, still sticking to our oddball third-person narrative and obsession with a rather lousy minor league baseball team. Lucky for us, we didn't miss much due to the awful weather.

Seriously, it's late July, what the hell is up with this? We convinced the Missus Frinklin to move here from San Diego for chrissakes. She needs some sort of sun, or she may very well explode.

Okay, baseball. After a rather uninspiring series against Salt Lake – the Rainiers won only once in four – the weather hit and it's been difficult to get any baseball played. The Rainiers were set to play Las Vegas in a doubleheader today, and we'll see how that goes.

Then, on to New Orleans!

Yeah, the blog went silent for a few days, but I have a damned good reason. I fell down the stairs at my house. Yeah, clumsy blogger + scary 100-year old staircase = look out below.

I'm okay though, and now that a good 1/3 of body doesn't hurt, I"ll be back around.

Now, we here at No Rhubarb! are baseball fans. We love the simple beauty and joy of the game; the perfect rhythms and dynamic contrasts; rich history and oftentimes bewildering contradictions. We are now and always will be baseball fans. We understand that taking a round ball and a round bat and hitting it square might be the hardest thing to do in sports. We also fashion ourselves traditionalists: life without the DH is more fun, artificial turf comes from the devil, baseball uniforms are supposed to be white at home and gray on the road. We loathe the unceasing parade of lousy Top-40 music played at every chance in nearly every ballpark we've seen. We yearn for the return of organs at baseball parks.

Now, this may make us seem like those crusty old bastards who won't accept anything past 1929, who ramble on endlessly about the Brooklyn Dodgers and when Cincinnati had the decency to be called the Redlegs. No.

Anyway, we understand there there is larceny in baseball and there is lunacy in baseball. We understand that sometimes it isn't the action on the field that keeps 'em coming in. And we understand that this lunacy is most perfectly expressed at the minor league park. It always has been.

And this is why we need the Rainiers to get with the program. While we understand that switch in ownership groups has hampered the promotions department, but we're past that now. Need some pointers? Just watch this space. We will attempt to find the best, the goofiest thing a minor league club has going on this year.

Case in point: The West Michigan White Caps are having Star Wars night. We've mentioned the natural Star Wars and baseball connection already, but this one goes a bit farther. Clone Trooper singing the national anthem. Costumed characters throwing out the first pitch. A big screen showing The Empire Strikes Back. No, the White Caps are taking it to the next level. Witness: the Star Wars uniform:


This, THIS is what we need. Get to it folks.

Thanks to the almighty Deadspin for the tip.


The Dayton Dragons – Class A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds – have some things going for them. “Dragons” is a very cool name. We love the Dragon logo. We aren't a huge fan of the green and black color scheme, but we can tolerate the white home uniform.

So what the hell are they doing here? Look, we understand that the very nature of mascots mean that whatever cool or even slightly threatening image has to be denatured into the blandest, most “family-friendly” thing they can come up with.

Having said that, we must point out that “Heater” the boy dragon is quite simply the wimpiest-looking dragon ever. And “Gem” the girl dragon is so creepy it makes us nauseous.


Photo Courtesy of DaytonDragons.com

It would be difficult to come up with a better game to start the second half with than this one. Perfect weather for baseball, a tight, taut game throughout, a brilliant inning of work by rehabbing Mariner Mark Lowe and Our Favorite Rainier hitting his 22nd homer for the win. Throw in Kam Mickolio's first Triple-A save, and you have the Rainiers' fifth win in a row.

Lots more of these fellas. That's all we need.

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A loss for the PCL and a split decision for the Rainiers. Tacoma's Justin Lehr got the start for the PCL and unfortunately picked up the loss as the International League jumped on him for four runs in his only inning of work. Lehr hit a batter, and then gave up a double and consecutive homers to Toledo third baseman Mike Hessman and Pawtucket outfielder Brandon Moss. The PCL was unable to recover from the early deficit. Our Favorite Rainier acquitted himself well, scoring the PCL's first run after his double in the first.

The season starts for real again tomorrow. Grizzlies at Rainiers, 7:05,, Cheney Stadium. And apparently Adam Jones will remain a Rainier for the time being, so don't miss him.

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Today we take a look at what's gone right for the Tacoma Rainiers. As you might expect, with a team 11 games under the .500 mark, there ain't much.

Player of the Half: Adam Jones There is no surprise here whatsoever. Our Favorite Rainier was the hands-down best player on this team before the season started and nothing has changed. Adam Jones has hit .309/.377/.585 for the season, with 21 homers and 72 RBI, all while playing stellar defense in both centerfield and right. The downside for Rainier fans? His time in Tacoma at this point is measured in days, not months, and if the Mariner blogosphere is to be believed, Jones might not be seen in a Rainier uniform again after the Triple-A All-Star game on Wednesday. Rainier fans should count themselves lucky he's been with the team this long; Adam Jones is ready for the show.
Also Receiving Votes: Wladimir Balentien, Justin Lehr

Pitcher of the Half: Justin Lehr Even more of a no-brainer than Jones is this 29-year old who rescued the team. Initially signed to come out of the bullpen, forced into starting when Jake Woods was called up to the big club, Lehr won his first six decisions en route to starting the Triple-A All-Star game. The Rainiers have seen 14 starters (including three rehab starts) so far this year, and none of them have come close to being as steady and productive as Justin Lehr.
Also Receiving Votes: Jorge Campillo, Julio Mateo

Most Welcome Development: Prior to this season Wlad Balentien was considered a talented but risky prospect, an all-or-nothing player prone to big power numbers (90 HR in 400 minor league games) and huge strikeout totals (140 in 2006 alone). As a Rainier though, Balentien has solidified his status as a real prospect, and forced himself into the Mariners' future plans. His numbers (.328/.397/.993) are actually slightly superior to Jones, and his flair for the game have made him a fan favorite in Tacoma. Due to the outfield logjam in Seattle, Balentien might be prime trade bait.

Most Intriguing: Not many Rainier fans heard of Kameron Mickolio before his Tacoma debut on June 13 against the Beavers. He was roughed up that day, to the tune of 1 2/3 innings and four earned runs. Since then, the 6-9, 250 pound behemoth has been dominant, giving up only two earned runs over his next five appearances, and posting an eye-popping 15 Ks in 14 innings pitched.

The Triple-A All-Star game is tomorrow night in Albuquerque, available as either streaming video or audio from MilB.com. Tacoma's own Justin Lehr gets the start for the PCL squad.

If this game is half as good as the major league All-Star game, we'll be quite pleased.

The hometown Rainiers have reached the All-Star break. While not the actual midpoint of the season – that was about two weeks ago – this marks a good spot to take stock of the season.

Which, handily enough, is exactly what we'll be doing this week. Today, we look at the team as a whole. The Rainiers – thanks to four straight wins over Portland – have pulled out of last place. Tacoma stands at 40-51, 10 games behind division leader Salt Lake. They haven't seen .500 since the first week of the season. Tacoma ranks 12th in ERA, fourth in walks allowed, 13th in strikeouts. The Rainiers have notched no complete games and only two shutouts.

So, pitching may be an issue.

Sadly, the Rainiers don't hit all that well, either. They rank ninth in overall OPS, 12th in On-Base. The team K's a lot (645 times, fourth in the PCL) and never takes a walk. Tacoma is a pathetic 15th in walks. A team can't survive with a three-to-one K to walk ratio. And they haven't, ranking 10th in overall runs. This team has two incandescent bright spots in the line up (Our Favorite Rainier and Wlad Balentien) and some absolute dead zones.

But we'll cover that later in the week.


Photo Courtesy of milb.com


This is Robert Stratton. He won the Triple-A Home Run Derby tonight in Albuquerque. He isn't actually in baseball this year. The former Isotope is a real estate agent now.

Yeah, things are different in the minors.

We have to be honest: we had chosen this particular mascot before even knowing what it was. The reason? This team name. The Orem Owlz are the Single-A affilate of the Los Angles Angels. That would be Angels, not Angelz. Can you perhapz tell why we dezpize this team zo damned much?

Orem Owlz baseball : It'z X-Treme!

What truly shocks us though, is that this horrid late-90's spelling is actually brand freakin' new! The team was the Provo Angels until December of 2004. Owlz....

Anyway, we decided on this team before ever seeing Hootz (of course!), and Sweet Baby Jesus is this thing creepy.



Try to look away. Just try it.

The Fourth of July: Fireworks, flags, barbecue and baseball. Whether you go out and play catch with Dad or head to the bleachers for a hot dog and a chance at a fly ball, the national pastime is – and always will be – intertwined with this particular celebration of America.

So how is it that the Puget Sound – with three professional teams – has no baseball to be seen? The Mariners are in Kansas City, the hometown Rainiers begin a four-game series in Portland tonight, and the Everett AquaSox (admit it, you love the name too) are in Boise. The Rainiers held Independence Day festivities yesterday, with a fireworks show and some sweet alternate jerseys.

The Fourth for this household though, is a little on the sedate side. We are the owners of four dogs. Four large, overly excitable dogs that don't take to sedation very well. Fireworks for us is an adventure. So, with no baseball and large dogs, today is a relaxing holiday for the Frinklin Household. Sleep late, enjoy the day-off and perfect weather, fire up the grill later this afternoon and later walk a couple blocks for a great view of the Freedom Fair fireworks show.

Have a happy and safe fourth everyone.

If you are between 25-35 you know about the Transformers. A massively successful toy line in the 80's, it spawned a TV series and an animated movie. The storyline never changes: massive robots from a dead world land on Earth, impersonate pick-up trucks and fighter planes, and beat the bejezus out of each other.

The movie hews pretty closely to the established Transformer mythos. Dead planet, centuries long war between the heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons, Earth caught in the middle. As this is a Michael Bay picture – a Michael Bay picture based on a toy-turned-TV series, no less – plot isn't really all that important. All the Transformers are looking for the All Spark, a giant cube that can either return life to Cybertron or turn Earth into Cyberton, Jr. The key to finding this thing is a kid named Sam Witwickey (Shia LaBeauf) who has the coordinates to the All Spark encrypted on his great-grandfather's glasses.

Boy, that made even less sense after I type it.

Still, doesn't matter. This movie is about action and there is plenty of it. We have running. We have shooting. We have yelling. We have shooting while running and yelling and we have yelling while running and shooting. Sometimes we don't have yelling, just running and shooting. Always running and shooting. This movie runs a thousand miles an hour from the first scene (a US Army base in Qatar gets blown to smithereens by a Decepticon) and never, ever lets up. The effects are spectacular, from the CGI robots to the amazing car chase scenes (three of 'em!) and dizzying final battle through the streets of Los Angeles.

Not everything can be CGI, so there is a rather impressive human cast, led by LaBeauf, an enormously appealing young actor and old hands like Jon Voight as the square-jawed Secretary of Defense and a scenery-chewing John Turtorro as the head of secret government operation that knows about the robots. This is Michael Bay's world, so the women are preposterously good-looking and there is a surfeit of gun-toting hero-types such as Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson as survivors of the Qatar attack.

Is it necessary to be a pop-culture obsessed Gen X type on a nostalgia trip to enjoy this movie? No, but it helps. There is a certain thrill the first time Optimus Prime comes around a corner or when Megatron sneers “fleshling” like it's 1986 again, but it isn't necessary. This movie is just so damned much fun, anybody willing to buy into the concept will enjoy it. This movie is so full with guy stuff - cars, guns, jetfighters, incomprehensible army jargon, semi trucks, leggy blondes…. Well, it’s easy to overdose on it all. I’ve been using Sufjan Stevens albums to recover. It's well worth it though. For two-plus hours I - and everyone else in the theater - was 14 again.

Okay, look: this movie features giant outer-space robots with swords. Tell me that isn't cool!

Rainiers 9, Bees 8

Brodie Downs – the 27-year old rookie – picked up his first win as a Tacoma Rainier on Saturday, and that strikes us as just being incredibly cool. Brodie, in his second appearance as a Rainier, worked two scoreless innings to pick up the win in relief of Horacio Ramirez. Ho-Ram, as he is annoying called, is the Mariners' Quadruple-A starter that cost the team the services of Rafael Soriano in one of the more lopsided trades in baseball this past year. Ho-Ram was Ho-Awful, giving up six runs over four innings in his first of three scheduled rehab starts.

Tomorrow: Zooperstars. Run while you can.

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We have a confession to make: Baseball is not our only sport. We here at No Rhubarb! are borderline maniacal fans of several teams, from the Seahawks in football to the Sonics of the NBA – we would at least miss them anyway – to the Canucks of hockey, our fandom choices are fairly typical for our are and age range. When we lived away from the Pacific Northwest, we still proudly supported our teams, but nobody really commented when we would wear team paraphernalia.

There is one team though, that is always noticed, and almost as often mentioned. We are fans of Arsenal of the English Premier League. Football to 99.9% of the world, soccer to those around here. Probably because European football is a cult sport here in America, whenever we venture out sporting Arsenal's ultra-cool crest, somebody has to mention it. Japanese tourist guy at Pike Place Market? Thumbs up! Guy on the train, he's a Liverpool fan. Don't know his name, he's “Liverpool Guy”. Just today at the restaurant, guy sporting a Chelsea shirt. Is Lampard leaving the Blues?

So, just where are we going with all this? We were working on an Arsenal post, to complain about Thierry Henry leaving for Barcelona. We stumbled upon this brilliant YouTube collection (which should explain just why we Americans are so wrong about the beautiful game) and while marveling at M. Henry's goals we kept noticing something.



Just what the hell is that green thing? Oh Lord... Arsenal has a mascot? That can't be. This is a team with 120-plus years of history, a member of the G-14, a group of the most powerful professional franchises in the world, a team with fans across the world. This is the only team to finish undefeated in the history of the Premiership. This team has a freakin' mascot? A Goddamn dinosaur?

Presented without further comment: The Gunnersaurus Rex.


Photo Courtesy of Yahoo UK


Okay, one little comment further: We die inside just a little bit every time we see this.

The modern-day Pacific Coast League is a massive enterprise consisting of 16 teams stretching from Tacoma and Portland in the Pacific Northwest to New Orleans of the Deep South. These are the teams our hometown nine will face throughout the long season. You must know the enemy!



The Team: Oklahoma RedHawks

The City: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The Affiliation: Texas Rangers

The Website: OklahomaRedHawks.com

The Ballpark: AT&T Bricktown Ballpark. Awkward name, gorgeous park. Built in 1999, the Bricktown is considered one of the best Triple-A ballparks. Home to the Big 12 baseball championship and the yearly “Bricktown Showdown” match-up between the PCL and International League champs, this park is part of the revitalization of it's namesake district.

The History: Oklahoma City was home to the Indians, an on-again, off-again member of the Texas League until the Oklahoma City 89ers were born in 1962 to coincide with major league expansion. In 1999, the team moved to the Bricktown, changed names and became affiliated with nearby Texas Rangers.

The Name: Yeah, 89ers is much better than RedHawks (yes, that is the correct capitalization), one of those nouveau 90's names that colleges made up to replace “Indians” and “Redmen.”

The Prospects: Not much. The Rangers are an awful team and the RedHawks have become a haven for nearly-were prospects like Ramon Vasquez and Desi Relaford, both former Rainiers and Mariners.

The Scheduling Quirk: Due to the PCL's scheduling plans – some teams don't play home and homes – the Rainiers will be playing in OKC, but the RedHawks will not be seen in Tacoma until 2008

Be Wary Tacoma

The Zooperstars are in town on Sunday. Be afraid...

The Rainiers took won their third in a row against the struggling Tucson Sidewinders and – wonder of wonders – won a series for the first time since April. What was a tight ballgame tied at one through the fourth turned into a laugher as Tacoma scored at least one run each of the final five innings. Rob Johnson was the hitting star for Tacoma, pounding three doubles and scoring three times. Our Favorite Rainier returned to the line-up after missing the previous three after running into the outfield wall in Sacramento.

The Rainiers return home tonight to face Portland. The Beavers are coming off an ugly sweep in Colorado Springs (sound familiar?) and sit just two games ahead of Tacoma in the PCL Pacific North. Now would be the perfect time to pull out of the cellar.

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Meet the New Guy

C.R. Roberts from the TNT has a quick Q and A with Aaron Artman, new president of the Rainiers. It's nothing earth-shattering, but it shouldn't be missed.

The modern-day Pacific Coast League is a massive enterprise consisting of 16 teams stretching from Tacoma and Portland in the Pacific Northwest to New Orleans of the Deep South. These are the teams our hometown nine will face throughout the long season. You must know the enemy!


The Team: New Orleans Zephyrs

The City: Metairie, Louisiana

The Affiliation: New York Mets

The Website: Zephyrsbaseball.com

The Ballpark: Zephyr Field. Built in 1997, the “Shrine on Airline” (yes, the dumbest nickname for a stadium we can recall), appears to be the minor league equivalent of New Comiskey in Chicago: new, shiny and pretty close to soulless. As with most newer minor league stadiums, Zephyr Field features outfield berm seating, the unfortunately named “Da Levee”. In 2005, Zephyr Field was used as FEMA staging area following Hurricane Katrina. Thankfully for New Orleans baseball fans, FEMA managed not to burn the stadium down.

The History: The New Orleans Pelicans were a longtime member of the old Southern Association; one of the crown jewels of Deep South baseball along with such franchises as the Atlanta Crackers, Little Rock Travelers and Nashville Volunteers. The SA collapsed in 1961, either unwilling or simply unable to integrate. In 1977 a new version of the Pelicans played one season in the Superdome, but a lousy stadium lease forced the team to relocate to Springfield, Missouri. In 1993, baseball returned to the Crescent City after the Denver Zephyrs were forced out by the expansion Colorado Rockies.

The Name: After decades as the Bears, the Denver franchise switched to Zephyrs in 1985. The name went with them to New Orleans, missing an opportunity to reclaim a great baseball name and look.

The Prospects: The Zephyrs feature two of the parent Mets' best pitching prospects in Phillip Humber and Mike Pelfrey. In addition, the talented-but-somewhat flakey Lastings Milledge and former Rainier and Mariner Clint Nagoette are on the New Orleans disabled list.

Did You Know? The Zephyrs are the only team in organized baseball with a "Z" on the cap?

Did You Care? Us neither.

For the second game in a row, the Rainiers got a last-inning (this time the 10th) homer to win. After Tuscon evened up the game at four with two in the eight, Wladimir Balentien hit his 17th in the 10th to put the Rainiers ahead. Julio Mateo redeemed his earlier mistake and picked up the win in relief.

The Rainiers go for a much-needed series win Tuesday night at 7:00.

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Review/Preview

The Week That Was: Another down week for the Rainiers. Tacoma went an ugly 2-4, and lost Our Favorite Rainier for the weekend after he injured his hand running into an outfield wall. After winning the final game over Tucson to finish a short homestand on an up note, the Rainiers ran into the buzzsaw that is the Sacramento River Cats. The Cats took three out of four as the Rainiers remained deep in the cellar, stuck at 10 games behind Pacific North co-leaders Salt Lake and Colorado Springs.

On Deck: Two more in Tucson to end the road trip and the Rainiers head back home to entertain the Portland Beavers and the aforementioned Bees. The Rainiers added a very interesting name to the bullpen over the weekend, 2007 Mariner draftee Brodie Downs. At 27, Downs is the oldest player Seattle drafted this year. He quit baseball after high school to work as a surveyor until returning to pitch one season with Modesto CC. Live the dream Brodie.

We have been shamefully ignoring the hometown nine this weekend, lost in the return of Junior to Seattle. Sunday's game though, that looks like something we would have enjoyed. Tucson jumped out to an early lead, Tacoma came back, Tucson stretched it out again until the seventh. The Rainiers eventually won on Rob Johnson's ninth inning solo homer.

It might not have been the prettiest game, but it sure was fun. Same two teams tomorrow night in Tucson, 7:00 first pitch.

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The Rainiers were blasted Saturday night in Sacramento. It could have been worse; the parent club Mariners lost 16-1 at home to Cincinnati.

Not a night to remember for Pacific Northwest Baseball.

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Augusta, Georgia is famous for the Masters and Jim Nantz at his most annoying. But Augusta is so much more than that. What else does this elegant old southern town sport?

GreenJackets baseball, what else? The South Atlantic League affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The GreenJackets – named after the green sport coat awarded the Masters Champion – sport one of my favorite names in baseball. What to do with GreenJackets presents a problem, which the team takes care of pretty nicely with their yellowjacket with sportcoat look. The further deck out mascot Auggie with some lovely plaid golf pants. Giant scary eyes aside, I think is is one of the more tolerable mascots in baseball.



Photo Courtesy of Greenjacketsbaseball.com

Of course, the franchise couldn't leave well enough alone, introducing a second mascot, apparently the runner-up who will fill in if Auggie can't fulfill his mascotly duties. Olmo, who lives at the bottom of nearby Lake Olmstead, likes to retrieve foul balls and throw them at unsuspecting fans.

Photo Courtesy of Greenjacketsbaseball.com


Wait a minute. Does this guy look familiar?

Take a look at this:



See it? We think the family resemblance is clear. Olmo is obviously Elmo's drunken, borderline-retarded, absentee father, and the GreenJackets owe us an explanation and assurances that proper child support is being paid.

We've (gently) mocked the team's official site, but we feel the need to congratulate it. Over the past week or so TacomaRainiers.com has been a virtual link fest, and most of them are worth checking out. Baseball America on Our Favorite Rainier, MLB.com on Wlad Balentien, a local kid makes good tale featuring Eastlake High's own Brent Ust, a TNT feature on ballpark art... It's a nice change from the days where the site featured just about nothing.

Also, the Rainiers are having a Job Fest on Monday. No request for team blogger, but we're always listening.

Being shutout just sucks. Wednesday was the sixth shutout loss for the Rainiers this season, about par for the course for a team with the worst record in the PCL. It's not like this team didn't get baserunners; no, they left 11 on base and put up an 0-12 with runners in scoring position. Mario Ramos – former prospect with Oakland and Texas – picks up the win in his 2007 Triple A debut, and Rich Harden throws a scoreless inning in a rehab stint.

Same two teams tomorrow night at 7:05 in lovely Sacramento. Justin Lehr (6-1, 3.19)can hopefully put the brakes on this skid.

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Editor's Note: This is based on the actual PCL ballot. Some may already have been promoted to the majors.

Starting Pitcher Pick Two
-Yovani Gallardo, Nashville Sounds
Second in wins, 110/28 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a 2.90 ERA. The best pitching prospect in the PCL.

-Chris Oxspring, Nashville Sounds
Not a prospect, but a great #2 to Gallardo. Six wins, second in the PCL in Ks.

Relief Pitcher Pick Two
-Chad Harville, Tucson Sidewinders
Leads the PCL in saves, solid 2.35 ERA and four vulture wins. Not great peripherals (13/25 K/BB ratio)

-Andrew Brown, Portland Beavers (Write In)
Hard to argue with a 40/14 K/BB ratio and 12 holds. No saves, which is okay. Saves are basically meaningless.

Catcher
-Kurt Suzuki, Sacramento Rivercats
Good defensively, adequate offense. Best of a weak position in the PCL

First Base
-Mitch Jones, Las Vegas 51s
Probably should be on the ballot as an outfielder, but where ever he plays, a 1.099 OPS (best in the PCL) is hard to argue with

Second Base
-Eric Patterson, Iowa Cubs
An offensive second baseman with some power (24 XBH) and some speed (10 SB). Not much of a defender.

Shortstop
-Wilson Valdez, Los Vegas 51s (Write In)
PCL All-Star in 2006, plays good defense and currently sports a .383 OBP

Third Base
-Ian Stewart, Colorado Springs Sky Sox
Improved defensively, solid .296/.365/.834 line.

Outfield Pick Three
-Adam Jones, Tacoma Rainiers
Our Favorite Rainier earned his way here.

-Rick Ankiel, Memphis Redbirds
If it weren't for Josh Hamilton in Cincinnati, Ankiel would be the best story in all of baseball

-Nathan Hayes, Salt Lake Bees
Unlike Ankiel and OFR, he's past the point of being a prospect. His 1.040 OPS might change that.

Designated Hitter
-Craig Brazell, Omaha Royals
DH shouldn't even be on the ballot, but the PCL Player of the Month for May is an easy choice here

Online voting for the Triple-A All-Star game (July 11th in Albuquerque)has been going for a couple weeks and we have a major issue with the current results. Our Favorite Rainier – at worst, one of the 5 best players in the PCL – is currently seventh - seventh - in the voting for the PCL outfield spots. We shall be unveiling our ballot sometime this week, but for cryin' out loud, just vote at random if you have to. Adam Jones needs some love.

Oh, and please don't just vote for all the Rainiers. Jones and Balentien are the only guys who should be considered for the All-Star Game. It's a cold reality, but this team just ain't that freakin' good.

Remember: Vote Early and Often!

Review/Preview

The Week That Was: Pacific Coast League baseball fans got their money's worth this week, as the Rainiers managed four extra-inning games in a row. The highlight has to be Wladimir Balentien's walk-off homer on Friday. The lowlight? Thursday and Saturday's extra-inning losses. Overall a down week for the Rainiers, who finish 3-4 over the seven days.

On Deck: An off-day Monday, which is always a good thing. Tuesday starts a week-long road trip with four against Sacramento, then on to the desert for a weekend series against the Sidewinders in Tucson. Neither are an easy mark; the two teams are in a virtual tie in the Pacific South Division. The Rainiers are still last in the Pacific North, and still sport the worst record in the PCL.

There are few things more fun than independent league baseball. Independent leagues –minor league teams not affiliated with major league organizations – are wilder and weirder than the minors. The ultimate indy success story is that of the St. Paul Saints. Partially owned by Bill Murray, run by the man who gave the world Disco Demolition Night, featuring a pig that delivered baseballs and a nun giving massages, the Saints early-nineties success spawned two pretty good books (Slouching Toward Fargo and Rebel Baseball) and dozens of imitators. Independent leagues appear (and disappear) almost every year.

As you might expect, the indy leagues are a haven for bad mascots. Take the Kansas City T-Bones for example. You might think that coming up with a mascot for team basically named after dinner would be difficult, but you'd be wrong. The T-Bones are represented by Sizzle the Bull. Naming the mascot after the noise his flesh makes while on the grill? A masterstroke. Never miss the opportunity to remind the children how horrible a mascot can be, and just knowing that dad wants to slap that big red belly on the grill does the trick.


Photo Courtesy of NLFan.com

We questioned the wisdom of this second photo, this veritable police lineup of the damned. The giant inflatable race car driver is Victor E. Lane, mascot of the Kansas Sppedway. Sizzle we now know and love. The others? I don't know, and I don't want to.

Photo Courtesy of Kansas Speedway

A beautiful late-spring night, a 1-1 tie, extra innings... it would be hard to top the opener of this homestand. But a Rainier win might help. Tucson took the lead in the second on Jamie D'Antona's sixth homer. Tacoma tied in the eighth on Bryan LaHair's single scoring Jeremy Reed. The score stayed 1-1 until the twelfth when Sidewinder Danny Richar doubled home Donnie Sadler and Jeff Salazar.

If the rest of the series is this much fun, Tacoma fans are in for a treat. Fireworks night Friday at 7:05.

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The Rainiers managed a two-spot in the ninth and a single run in the tenth to avoid the sweep by the hated Portland Beavers. Our Favorite Rainier's RBI single in the ninth scored Oswaldo Navarro and Ronnie Prettyman doubled home Jeff Clement to put the Rainiers ahead in the tenth. After some shaky bullpen work the past few games – weeks really – Julio Mateo pitched a perfect tenth to earn the win.

The road trip is over, the Rainiers finish 2-5 on the weeklong jaunt and now come home for a quick four game set against Tuscon. First pitch at 7:05.

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No, this is not last nights post. The Rainiers June Gloom continued, as they dropped their second in a row to Portland by an identical score of 6-5. The Rainiers are 2-9 for the month and currently sport the only winning percentage under .400 in the PCL.

Yeesh...

The bullpen was blameless this time around. Starter Juan Done gave up all six runs in four innings. The only bright spot for Tacoma was the continued brilliance of Our Favorite Rainier. He really should be Our Second-Favorite Mariner by now, but enjoy him while you can.

Second favorite? Yes, we are Ichiro People.

The series – and this long, ugly road trip – end tomorrow night at 7:05.

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We'd like to apologize: Apparently blogspot ate last night's wrap-up. We were under the impression that didn't happen anymore. We fully expect an apology from Google and several hundred stock options.

We are fully aware we're dreaming.

On to tonight, the first game between the Rainiers and the hated Portland Beavers. Well, not really hated, but we think it would be very, very cool if we could get a Pacific Northwest Rivalry going. Not much chance, but we enjoy tilting at our particular windmills.

Unfortunately, the Rainiers stumbled in Portland, losing by a single run. Of course, after getting obliterated three of the previous four night, losing a close one might not be so bad. Justin Lehr survived six rickety innings and turned the game over to the bullpen with a four run lead.

Silly pitcher, your a Tacoma Rainier; no lead is safe. Lefty Jamie Cerda took over and managed to record zero outs while giving up five earned runs. Portland reliever Royce Ring – who really should be a porn star with that name – vultured his third win of the year after pitching 1 and 1/3.

The rivalry continues tomorrow night at 7:05.

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This is no longer entertaining. The Rainiers came closer than the previous tries, but lost again in Colorado Springs. Ryan Feierabend couldn't save Tacoma. He managed six innings, but it wasn't enough.

The Rainiers have given up 46 runs on 54 hits in three games. Tacoma has, at 25-38, the worst record in the PCL.

Please, just make it stop. The series wraps Sunday – Thank God – with Jorge Campillo (4-4, 3.74) against Jorge DePaula (5-1, 4.07).

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After getting blasted on Thursday night, it was important that Tacoma get off to a good start on Friday. Picking up a run in the top of the first off of Colorado Springs starter Marc Kaiser was a great start.

Give up six runs in the bottom of the first? Not so much. Even worse? All six runs came with two outs. Colorado Springs would eventually lead 10-2 when the Rainiers mercifully pulled starter Brad Thomas in the fourth.

Game three of what looks like a nightmare series for Tacoma tomorrow at 6:05. Ryan Feierabend (2-2, 3.86) returns from Seattle to save the day against Bobby Keppel (1-5, 6.55)

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On of our very favorite minor league teams in the Boston Red Sox California League affiliate, the Lancaster JetHawks. What is a JetHawk you might ask. It's a jet fighter with the head of a hawk.

Well, duh...

The JetHawks' mascot is KaBoom – and you damn well better spell it like that – a giant purple hawk wearing a Lancaster uniform and gigantic goggles. Here he leads his legions of the undead adorable little children.


Photo Courtesy of JetHawks.com

Bonus Bit #1: The JetHawks actually call their fans "JetHawks Nation".

Bonus Bit #2: KaBoom has a MySpace page. Don't you want to be his friend?

Okay, a little background: We were picking up dinner this evening, listening to Mike Curto call the game. It was 11-8 Tacoma in the sixth. We felt confident enough - despite the previous five innings of shaky Jake Woods – to abandon the game and watch the second half of the NBA Finals. That was a mistake, as the Cleveland – San Antonio match-up turned so deadly dull we started watching the MLS game between Colorado and Houston.

Imagine our surprise then, when we checked on the beloved Rainiers and found out that Colorado Springs managed to score 15 runs in the next three innings and win 23-11. As one might imagine, the bullpen was the culprit. Juan Sandoval gave up six runs in a third of an inning, Jamie Cerda gave up four in 1 and 1/3 innings, and Byron Embry gave up three in in 1 and 1/3.

The only good news? Our Favorite Rainier goes 4-4 with two homers and a double.

So yeah, just your average 34 run, three-hour baseball game in Colorado Springs.

Same two teams tomorrow – and it couldn't get much worse - at 6:05.

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The modern-day Pacific Coast League is a massive enterprise consisting of 16 teams stretching from Tacoma and Portland in the Pacific Northwest to New Orleans of the Deep South. These are the teams our hometown nine will face throughout the long season. You must know the enemy!


The Team: Portland Beavers

The Location: Portland, Oregon

The Affiliation: San Diego Padres

The Website: PortlandBeavers.com

The Ballpark: PGE Park. Originally a football stadium opened in 1926 as Multnomah Stadium, this multi-use park was completely renovated in 2001. The Portland Beavers added baseball in 1956, after their home, Vaughn Street Park, was condemned. Even after the renovation, this is still very much a multi-use stadium, home to the Portland State Vikings football team, the Portland Timbers soccer club as well as the PCL Beavers.

The History: Portland has hosted a Pacific Coast League franchise longer than any other city. Like Tacoma, Portland was an original member of the Pacific Northwest League, and went through the war between the Pacific National League and the PCL. Where Tacoma stuck with the PNL, the Beavers’ predecessor Portland Webfeets made the move to the Pacific Coast League. Eventually rechristened the Beavers (or Lucky Beavers), the team remained in the PCL – with the exception of WWI – through the 1973 season. That team headed to Spokane, but the Beavers returned in ’78. This version stuck around until 1993, become the Salt Lake franchise. When the Beavers left again, the movement for a new ballpark caught fire, culminating in the opening of PGE Park and the return of the Beavers in 2001.

The Name: Yes, Lucky Beavers would be the perfect name for a strip club.

Miscellaneous Note #1: There would seem to be the chance for a nice Pacific Northwest rivalry with Tacoma, but that isn’t helped by the fact that the two teams don’t meet until mid-June.

Miscellaneous Note #2 We love the Beavers’ home uni.

The Prospects: Not much. The Padres’ system is very thin. The name to know might be Ryan Ketchner. He’s a minor prospect, but former Mariner property. The Beavs were supposed to feature Cesar Carrillo, San Diego’s best pitching prospect, but he went out with an injury.

Cubs 5, Rainiers 4

Ouch....

The Rainiers were on the verge of a series win against the team with the best record in the PCL. And then they weren't. Julio Mateo gave up a 4-3 lead in the eighth and gave up a game-winning solo home run from Cubs leadoff hitter Eric Patterson. Tacoma ends up losing the series and ending with a losing record for the recently ended homestand.

Tacoma hits the road tomorrow – with a much needed off-day – then it's on to Colorado Springs and Portland.

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After a sparkling 6-0 start, Justin Lehr came down to earth for a few innings Monday night. Lehr – who has been nearly unstoppable since joining the rotation the second week of the season – could only go 3 1/3, giving up homers to I-Cubs Micah Hoffpauir, Scott Moore and Anthony Richie. Lehr gave up five in the first, only to see Tacoma tie with five in the bottom of the first, but he gave up the lead in the third. Still, if this is the worst Lehr start the Rainiers will count themselves lucky.

Rubber game of the series tomorrow at 11:35. Also the finale game of this homestand; Tacoma sends Juan Done (0-1, 2.84) against J.R. Mathes (5-3, 5.40)

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Rainiers 7, Cubs 3

Hey, wrap-ups are back!

Bryan LaHair returned from the bench (Wait, he's been playing all this time? I thought since he's contributed nothing in the past six weeks...) and popped his first two homers since mid-April to power the Rainiers past Iowa. Jorge Campillo evened his record at 4-4 and Tacoma snapped a three-game losing streak. Our Favorite Rainier tied a rather esoteric record, number of putouts by an outfielder with 11. Jones is the eighth PCLer to tie this record, but the first in 39 years.

Same two teams tomorrow at 7:05. Rainier ace Justin Lehr (6-0, 2.34) against Ryan O'Malley (3-4, 6.23)

And We're Back!

Did we miss anything? The trip, the wedding, everything went smoothly. The blog suffered of course, but sometimes real life is more important than baseball. Not very often, but it does happen. We shall recap the rather tumultuous events of the past week later on.

But tonight, we're heading to the game. Omaha at Tacoma, 6:05 first pitch. The Royals will throw Matt Wright (2-3, 3.35) against the Rainier debut of Juan Done. Done was 2-3 with a 4.19 ERA down at Double-A West Tenn. Beautiful day for baseball!

Have the Schlegel Sports Group cleaned house? Exit133 says yep, it looks like they have. Nothing is official anywhere, so we shall see what comes of this. Dave Lewis - though we've never actually met the man - has always seemed like a decent fellow.

Now does this effect any potential moves? I'd say no, I still think we won't start to hear rumblings until the end of this year and beginning of next. Even if they are planning a move, they can't do much of anything until a new ballpark is built, whether it's in Reno or Dallas or wherever.

Greetings from lovely San Diego! Thanks to the miracle of my in-laws fancy satellite internet (they live in a rather rural area) No Rhubarb! is on the air. Well, sorta… and not very often, but we’re here.

Rough day for the hometown nine yesterday, as Brad Thomas pitched his best game of the year, throwing six scoreless innings – and not getting anything to show for it. The bullpen – culprit this time was Jamie Cerda, who gave up five runs – failed the squad. Not that the offense and defense helped much either. The Rainiers ended up with a total of 5 hits and 3 errors. Not a pretty day all around.

This series stumbles on tonight at 6:05. The TNT lists Jorge Campillo (2-4, 4.07) as the starter, which would make sense, as it is his turn in the rotation. TacomaRainiers.com doesn’t list a starter for the Rainiers. What does that mean? Maybe something, maybe nothing, but we do know that DJ Houlton (5-2, 3.28) starts for the 51s.

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For an interesting take on the Our Favorite Rainier Conundrum, check out this USS Mariner post from yesterday. Dave makes the very valid point that Adam Jones is done with Triple-A, and at this point is one of the "5-6" best hitters in the organization. It’s not difficult to argue, nor is it obvious what the Mariners should do with Jones right now. There isn't a place on the major league team for him - thanks to some hopeless decisions by the Seattle front office - and he needs no further time with Tacoma.

Hey, time to slap myself on the back. I did get one right yesterday, as A.C. Milan rode two Inzaghi goals to a 2-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League finale. Give the Reds credit though; when Peter Crouch was on the pitch Liverpool threw a scare into the Rossoneri. Honestly, was there any Milan fan in the world who wasn’t terrified the last two minutes and into stoppage time? Memories of 2005 die hard.

This is a hectic day for the Frinklin family. We are leaving to night for the sun-drenched lands of San Diego (no Whale's Vagina jokes please) for my lovely sister-in-law's massive wedding. All we need to do today is take the dogs to the kennel, finish the laundry, pick up my new glasses (thank you Downtown Vision), get the house ready for the cat-sitter, head out to Comic Book Ink to pick up comics for the flight (Comic Book Ink rocks, any and all South Sound Geeks should go there), and (oh yeah) pack for the trip.

Whew...

Now, what this means for the No Rhubarb! reader is that blogging will be rather erratic, definitely light and quite-possibly non-existent. Yes, you may – for the next week anyway – fall back into the dark days where there was no blog solely for the Tacoma Rainiers, and for that we apologize. If you need Rainier-based content,the TNT has a fine article on Our Favorite Rainier we recommend highly.

Also, for non-baseball fun, we recommend – nay, we command – that you flip your televisions to ESPN2 for the finale of the UEFA Champions League, A.C. Milan v. Liverpool. While we are by no means the expert that this fellow is, we just don't see the Reds being able to keep up with Milan, and very much doubt a repeat of 2005.

51s 8, Rainiers 6

A beautiful day for an ugly game. The Rainiers tied the game up at six, only fall behind again in the seventh when Mitch Jones' doubled home Matt Kemp. Tacoma dropped this game despite homers from Our Favorite Rainiers (his sixth in 10 games), Goooooooookie Dawkins and Rob Johnson. After a nice outing his last time on the hill, Jake Woods scuffled again, giving up six runs in four innings. The Jim Parque Experiment came in relief and pitched two scoreless innings.

Same two teams tomorrow at 6:05.

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The modern-day Pacific Coast League is a massive enterprise consisting of 16 teams stretching from Tacoma and Portland in the Pacific Northwest to New Orleans of the Deep South. These are the teams our hometown nine will face throughout the long season. You must know the enemy!


The Team: Iowa Cubs

The Location: Des Moines, Iowa

The Affiliation: Chicago Cubs

The Website: IowaCubs.com

The Ballpark: Principle Park. The second park placed by the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines River, Principle Park sits on the bones of Pioneer Park, built in 1947. Pioneer Park was renamed Sec Taylor Stadium in honor of the longtime sports editor of the Des Moines Register. The new field – also named Sec Taylor Stadium – opened in 1992. In 2004, the city sold the naming rights to Principle Financial Group and now goes by the rather unwieldy moniker of Sec Taylor Field at Principle Park.

The History: Des Moines has been a hotbed of professional baseball since the 1880s. A longtime member of the Western League, Iowa’s capital city was the host of the first night game held under permanent lights in 1930. The current club joined the now-defunct American Association in 1969 as the Iowa Oaks, and then switched to the Iowa Cubs in 1982. They have remained the Chicago Cubs Triple-A affiliate ever since. Despite being the smallest market in the current PCL, the I-Cubs have been a phenomenal success, including selling out 47 luxury boxes every season.

The Name: Hawkeyes, Prohibitionists, Midgets, Undertakers, Champs, Boosters, All-Nations, Demons… These are all past names for Des Moines-based baseball teams.

Any one of these would be vastly superior the “I-Cubs.” Can you imagine how well “Des Moines Undertakers” paraphernalia would do? The utterly amazing Ebbets Field Flannels used to offer a Des Moines Undertakers t-shirt, but not anymore apparently.

The Prospects: Felix Pie is one of the best prospects in minor league baseball. Imagine Our Favorite Rainier, only better.

Over at our other blog – one that we've been shamefully ignoring since starting up No Rhubarb! - our blogpartner, the misnamed Mediocre Fred, has revealed his deep, dark secret.

He is a Mascot American. Apparently, he appeared as the monstrosity known as “Uncle Slam” for the Class A Potomac Nationals in a recent parade. Uncle Slam, an oversize blue-skinned approximation of Uncle Sam (one that, judging by the bright red nose, sure likes to hit the sauce), is – like all mascots – an abomination before all. As it is written in the Baseball Testament, Book of DiMaggio, chapter 3, verse 7: And the mascot shall come unto you, inflated of feature and furred of complexion, and yea they shall not be of baseball, but of shameless hucksterism, and you shall stone them until the mascot head collapses in. And you shall be not afraid, for the Louisville Slugger of the Gods of Baseball is at thy command.

It is written that we must “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” and we shall do so for our blogpartner.

But if we ever see that creepy blue thing coming at us, we shall show no mercy.

Rainiers 8, 51s 3

Been awhile since it was this easy. The Rainiers jumped on Las Vegas for a run in the first, two in the third, and a four-spot in the fourth, and coasted for the first time since a 7-1 laugher against the Sidewinders last week. Our Favorite Rainier led the charge, going 3-5 with a homer and three runs scored. Ryan Feierabend picks up the win after a solid efforts, giving up three over 5 1/3.

A day game tomorrow at 11:35. Jake Woods (1-3, 5.23), coming off his best performance of the year, takes on Miguel Pinago (2-0, 0.82), who has been dominant since coming up from Jacksonville.

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When times are bad, you take wins where you can get them. In this case, that would mean a rain-shortened eight inning affair. Justin Lehr threw seven strong innings, and picked up the win after the game was called due to the downpour that hit Tacoma just in time for the ninth inning.

Considering how shaky the bullpen has been lately, it might have worked out for the best.

The Las Vegas 51s make their first appearance in Tacoma for a four-game series that starts tomorrow night. First pitch is at 6:05, Ryan Feierabend (1-2, 3.61) starts for the Rainiers, former big leaguer Joe Mays (1-2, 5.16) takes the hill for Vegas.

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Update: As per the comment left here, No Rhubarb! messed up. Joe Mays was released this week. William Juarez (NR) will replace him in the rotation tonight. Juarez was4-2, 4.79 with Jacksonville of the Southern League.

There is a truism in sport that says it is better to lose big than to lose small. We shall see how the Rainiers handle things, because they’ve now done both in the past 48 hours. After the 12-0 shellacking on Friday, the Rainiers - thanks to fine pitching by Jorge Campillo - went to the ninth inning with a 2-0 lead.

And promptly imploded.

Eerily reminiscent of the home opener, the Rainier defense cost them this game, with three errors in the ninth. The Sidewinders scored five runs to win in the ninth on only two hits. Tacoma is now officially in a tailspin, going 4-10 over their last 14 games.

Finale of the series is today at 1:35. Rainier ace Justin Lehr (4-2, 2.42) against Edgar Gonzalez (2-3, 4.81). Let’s see if the Rainiers can salvage a split.

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After yesterday's 12-0 demolition by Tucson, we wrote that "You could watch this game for a hundred years and not see a bigger beat down than this".

Except that the very same night the Lake Elsinore Storm managed to beat Lancaster 30-0.

30-0.

If you reach a score that would be a blowout in football, you've accomplished something.

You could watch this game for a hundred years and not see a bigger beat down than this. It is one thing to give up 23 hits. It's another to be the victim of a five hit shutout. Both of 'em together? Well, batten down the hatches kiddies, it's gonna get ugly. Brad Thomas was killed in his second start this year, giving up seven runs in three innings. In desperation the Rainiers turned back to The Jim Parque Experiment, but he was wracked for 12 hits (12 hits? Seriously?) in 3 1/3. Sean Green, Jamie Cerda and Jon Huber eventually stopped the bleeding, but really. You know the old line about closing the barn door after various animals escape? Well, on Friday night the damned barn burned down.

More fun tomorrow at 1:35. Yusmeiro Petit (3-3, 6.97) against Jorge Campillo (2-4, 4.72).

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Update: Turns out this was the Chickadee's first visit to Cheney. Unfortunately baseball is a very superstitious sport, so if the Rainiers get obliterated the next time she visits, it probably means it's her fault. Just warning you Chick.

We really aren't sure if anything can top the past two weeks. Zooperstars and BirdZerk are such lunatic creations that we actually considered retiring this feature. But then we though, what would we do on a Thursday night? And we must admit, finding bizarre mascots is an awful lot of fun. And unending, we've yet to find a minor league team without one.

This week we touch on a team that we confess an irrational affection for, the Southern League Montgomery Biscuits. The Double A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Biscuits... well, they're called the Biscuits, what more do you need? We believe that a giant walking biscuit would be great, but we don't get it. Make no mistake, the club's identity revolves around the biscuit, the logo looking like a buttermilk biscuit with a pat of butter for a tongue and giant googley eyes. But they don't use that as a mascot. Frankly, we here at No Rhubarb! are flabbergasted.

Instead, the folks in Montgomery are treated to – as stated on the team website - “seven feet of biscuit lovin' beast”. Big Mo is a large orange creature that looks like what might happen if an armadillo and an elephant mated during a nuclear test. It's hideous really, and again make us wonder why the good people of Montgomery don't just have a giant walking biscuit.


Photo courtesy of biscuitsbaseball.com


A Slight Sidebar We realize that we have a lead on what could be the crowning glory of this little feature. Mike Curto – Voice of Your Tacoma Rainiers – advised us via USS Mariner of the Long Beach Barracudas mascot, which Mike described as “Satan wrapped in tinfoil". Unfortunately, despite the vast resources of this site (Me and Google) we are unable to locate much info about said Barracudas. If a picture of this creature exists, we must find it.

We should start this out with a clich̩ about home-cooking. Let's not and say we did. In the first of a four-game set against Tucson, the Rainiers put a four-spot up in the second inning and never looked back. Our Favorite Rainier hit his fifth home and drove in four. Bryan LaHair and Wladimir Balentien picked up Ribbies as did a very unexpected source. Ronnie Prettyman Рhitting an even .200 with West Tenn before being called up Рdrove in a run and improved his average to .364. Jake Woods pitched his best game of the year, going seven scoreless to pick up the win.

Same two teams tomorrow at 6:05 for Fireworks Night. Brad Thomas (1-2, 6.30) gets the start for Tacoma, and Dustin Nippert (0-1, 11.57) takes the hill for Tucson.

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The modern-day Pacific Coast League is a massive enterprise consisting of 16 teams stretching from Tacoma and Portland in the Pacific Northwest to New Orleans of the Deep South. These are the teams our hometown nine will face throughout the long season. You must know the enemy!




The Team: Omaha Royals

The Location: Omaha, Nebraska

The MLB Affiliation: Kansas City Royals

The Website: Oroyals.com

The Ballpark: Rosenblatt Stadium. Longtime home of the College World Series, this aging ballpark is simply too big for minor league club. At 24,000 capacity, Rosenblatt works well for the CWS, but not for the Royals, who are pushing for a new ballpark.

The History: The Omaha Royals were a Triple-A expansion team in 1969, affiliated with the major league expansion Kansas City Royals. They have been affiliated ever since. Nice and easy, especially when considering some of the longtime franchises.

The Name: Using the same name as the team's MLB affiliate is seriously irritating. Why not make a choice that reflects the local area of the team? Apparently the good people of Omaha would disagree. In 1999 the team changed to the “Golden Spikes” referencing the Golden Spike that finished the Transcontinental Railroad (of which Omaha has always been a hub) and the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur baseball player in America. The idea lasted only until 2002. They like the name Royals apparently.

The Prospects: The O-Royals sport one of baseballs' best hitting prospects (fielding, not so much) in outfielder Billy Butler. Except that Butler has recently been called up to Kansas City.

Special Added Bonus: They don't use recorded music at Rosenblatt Stadium. We love them for this.

Starters for tomorrow's game against Tucson - the first of an eight-game homestand - have been announced. Jake Woods (0-3, 6.75) for the Rainiers against the Sidewinders' Evan McLane (3-2, 4.58) Help for the bullpen has arrived as well. Byron Embry's suspension is up and Ryan Rowland-Smith and Sean Green have arrived from Seattle.

The weather has been perfect for baseball the past few days; hope we can continue that.

Perhaps the bullpen needs a little work? On Sunday, the Rainiers were up 16-0... and gave up nine runs. They held on to win 19-9. Monday, the Rainiers were up 12-7 in the eighth, only to see rookie reliever Drew Fiorenza give up six runs on eight consecutive hits. Tacoma lost that one 13-12. On Tuesday the Rainiers led 4-3 before giving up six and losing 9-5.

The off-day Wednesday cannot come at a better time.

Monday Box, Tuesday Box

The modern-day Pacific Coast League is a massive enterprise consisting of 16 teams stretching from Tacoma and Portland in the Pacific Northwest to New Orleans of the Deep South. These are the teams our hometown nine will face throughout the long season. You must know the enemy!


The Team: Tucson Sidewinders

The Location: Tucson, Arizona

The MLB Affiliation: Arizona Diamondbacks

The Website: TucsonSidewinders.com

The Ballpark: Tucson Electric Park. The springtime home of both the Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox, the “Pride of Prima County” is a spring training ballpark first, and a PCL park second.

The History: Tuscon was the home of a team in the Arizona State League – which itself spent time as the Arizona-Texas League, Arizona-Mexico League and the Southwestern International League – off and on from 1915 to 1958. During the '58 season that league went out of business for good. The PCL moved to Tucson when the Seattle Angels were pushed out by the Major League Pilots in 1969. The Toros were the affiliate of several teams, but when the expansion Diamondbacks brought the major leagues to Arizona, the Toros were replaced – in a weirdly arcane way – by the Sidewinders. The Tucson Toros moved to Fresno and became the Grizzlies. The Phoenix Firebirds – pushed out by the D-Backs – moved and became the Tucson Toros for one season. However, the owner of the Firebirds (and most of the front office staff) moved to Fresno with the Toros-turned-Grizzlies. The owner of the former Toros stuck with the former Firebirds franchise, but renamed that team the Sidewinders.

There will be a quiz later.

The Prospects: The Sidewinders are the defending PCL Champions and Triple A Champions. Much of the young talent from the squad – Carlos Quentin, Stephen Drew and the like – are with Arizona now.

The third of a four-game series tonight with the Isotopes. After the off-the-field concerns of the past couple posts, lets just revel in an evening in the rare air Albuquerque, where the first team to 20 wins. USS Mariner is running a Rainier game thread and Rainier voice Mike Curto made an early appearance. Follow along, won't you?

The wrap-up will be late, probably posted tomorrow morning. We are heading to Tacoma General tonight for what is called a Sleep Study. The wife apparently has a problem with the fact that I don't always breathe at night. Wish me luck.

Commenter “Ben Cheney” - back from the dead, apparently- has some disquieting thoughts about the Reno situation:

Rainier fans can all but help pack up the gear, as the team won't be here in 2009 if funding is not found for a complete overhaul of Cheney Stadium.

2.5M additional funding from the state is not going to get this done. Cheney overhaul is a 30 million dollar endeavor, 15 hard must be public money, with 15 more in private investment. Private money could pose a problem without a valid plan of profitablility, unless the money comes from entities that simply donate for the good of the overall community.

There have been several articles and stories involving this development, and here is a glance of what the said, and who the players are.

Schlegel Group - Quietly meeting with Dallas city officials regarding a new ballpark being built there and scheduled to open in 2009.

The Texas Rangers have final say in that market, and normally would not consider a AAA team so close to Arlington. However, a deal with Schlegel would involve Real Estate development projects in or around the stadium site, and current Schlegel group VP Bob McCall was the president/GM of the Frisco AA team of the Rangers. The format there would be one of multiple investment opportunities, cross marketing, and proximity for call up to the parent club from AAA.

Reno/Sparks - Lead group has secured a initial agreement to purchase an undisclosed AAA team. Most consider the club to be the Tucson Sidewinders, as they have been quietly marketed for sale the past 2-3 years prior to winning the PCL crown in 2006.

1. Schlegel group moves the Rainiers after the 2008 season, sign Player Development contract with Texas Rangers.

The Padres sign Player Development contract with Reno/Sparks.

The Mariners sign Player Development contract with Portland, (great cross marketing opportunity, short call up traval to Safeco).

The Diamondbacks sign Player Development contract with Oklahoma (Rangers former AAA club). Or, there could be multiple affilation changes after these moves.

2. Schlegel sells the Rainiers. Purchases the Tucson Sidewinders. Moves the Sidewinders to Dallas. Sign Player Development contract with Texas Rangers.

Reno/Sparks group purchases the Rainiers, moves franchise to Reno/Sparks. Sign Player Development contract with the Padres.

Mariners sign Player Development contract with Portland, Oregon ownership.

Diamondbacks sign Player Development contract with Oklahoma or other city based on potential affiliation changes.

Bottom line is simple. Cheney Stadium goes through a complete renovation, or Tacoma's 47 year run in the PCL is history.

If that happens, the best we can all hope for is short season A ball in the Northwest League.

In the meantime, Cheney is a great place to watch a ballgame and spend the summer. Let's all enjoy it while it's still here!
Now, I don’t entirely agree with everything here. I still say that Nashville - thanks to their ongoing stadium debacle - is the more likely team to be moved, but multiple moves are certainly possible. This Reno thing has pushed a issue onto the table - that of Cheney Stadium and it’s drawbacks - much earlier in the season than I had hoped. Ben Cheney’s ultimate point is correct: Cheney Stadium requires a full-on makeover, and if that doesn’t happen, the Rainiers certainly could move and do so sooner than later.

So, how exactly do we come up with the $30-50 million a new or renovated park would require?

Reno, Nevada - the self-proclaimed “Biggest Little City in the World” - is this much closer to landing an existing PCL team. If this were six months ago, the Rainiers would be number one on the list of possibilities; as it is they qualify as number three. According to the story in the Reno Gazette-Journal, a New York-based ownership group has contracted to purchase and move an unknown team to Reno. A new stadium would be built and finished by 2009. The new ownership group - which includes current Indiana Pacer owner Herb Simon - has a confidentiality agreement with the current owners of the unknown team, and that won’t be released until the deal is finalized.

So who is it? No Rhubarb! runs down the suspects.


1. Nashville Sounds The Sounds currently play in the aging and somewhat dilapidated Herschel Greer Stadium, famous for the guitar-shaped scoreboard. After talks for a new riverfront stadium fell through, the Sounds are the runaway leader for team most likely to move.

2. Las Vegas 51s Las Vegas just seems like an odd place to put a minor-league team, while Vegas seems to be concentrating on attracting a major league team (probably basketball, but the Florida Marlins are always looking for a new home), the 51s seem like a neglected stepchild. Cashman Field doesn’t measure up to the revenue a new Reno park could generate.

3. Tacoma Rainiers Again, if this were 9 months ago - before the Schlegel Sports Group took over - the Rainiers would be the leader in this group. While we love Cheney Stadium, it is the oldest non-renovated park in the PCL. PGE Park in Portland and Isotopes Park in Albuquerque are built over the bones of older parks, but both have been completely rebuilt. We would like to think that Schlegel is committed to the South Sound, but they would be nuts not to listen to Reno.

The Rest:Omaha Royals (problems with Rosenblatt Stadium, but the team is a Nebraska landmark); Tucson Sidewinders (the team never really recovered from the major league D’Backs and the switch between Toros and Sidewinders); New Orleans Zephyrs (Zephyr Park is fairly new and very nice, but everything in New Orleans has to be considered questionable)
This is nothing but speculation, we have no inside information. Do we think the Rainiers are going to move? No, but the fact remains that Cheney Stadium doesn’t measure up to other PCL ballparks. It will need to be renovated or replaced before too long

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