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It isn't every day that we here at No Rhubarb! actually congratulate a team on a new mascot. Today we feature Visalia, a returning favorite. Two years ago we featured the Visalia Oaks' crazy rat-squirrel thing, famous for unbearably creepy acorn-eyes.

Well, the Oaks are dead, another classic (well, classic for a different city)name, replaced by the odd name of "Rawhide". The rat-squirrel bit the dust along with Oaks, replaced by a Holstein cow.

Because of course you want to remind everyone that Rawhide is dried cowhide. Hey look kids, we can turn the mascot into baseballs!

Your first place Tacoma Rainiers open the 50 year anniversary of Cheney Stadium tonight against the defending PCL Champion River Cats. The old girl has been freshened with a fancy new scoreboard, so check it out! It's gonna be a beautiful - if slightly chilly - night for baseball!

And we're back! Minor league baseball is back and No Rhubarb! is your guide to all things odd and wacky and oftentimes frightening. Tonight we spotlight the West Michigan Whitecaps. This isn't the first time we've checked up on the Whitecaps, as they were the geniuses who came up with Star Wars-themed jerseys. This is a very nice franchise, with a sparkling ballpark, slick uniforms and Kansas concerts.

And of course, they have mascots. Not actual Whitecaps of course, as the 'caps cresting wave logo would be impossible as a mascot. West Michigan features two. The first is Crash the River Rascal. What is a river rascal? Some kind of otter apparently.

The second mascot is Franky the Swimming Pig.
Looks more like Franky the Malnourished Pink Nightmare, but neither mascot is all that offensive. If not for the mascots, just why would we be checking on the West Michigan Whitecaps. Just what is so frightening about this club? Why this of course:
This monstrosity is the Fifth Third Burger: 4 pounds, 4,800 calories. Five beef patties, five slices of American cheese, a full pound of sesame-seed bun, chili, salsa, nacho cheese, sour cream and fritos. Seriously, fritos. Just under 2 pounds of beef alone. Terrifying, ain't it? If you have the courage to, this story from Michigan Live goes into more detail and instructions about how to make the damned thing.

Now, if you'll excuse us, we suddenly need a salad.

Opening Night is Sunday and Opening Day is Monday! Don't worry, it makes sense to Major League Baseball.

1. New York Mets - The "other" New York team opens the palatial but unfortunately named Citi Field with a World Series-caliber squad. The biggest issue from last season, an atrocious bullpen, has been solved by the off-season moves that netted them the overrated Fransisco Rodriguez and the underrated J.J. Putz. Featuring David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, the Mets are one of the few teams in baseball with three legitimate MVP candidates.

2. Philadelphia Phillies - The defending champions return nearly the same team as last season, switching out Pat Burrell, the defensively-challenged power hitting left fielder for Raul Ibanez, another defensively challenged power hitting left fielder. The difference is Raul is a lefty and consistent and Burrell hits righty and is one of the streakiest players in baseball. The Phils won't slip much if at all, provided that Cole Hamels stays healthy.

3. Florida Marlins - The Fish have two things going for them: Shortstop Hanley Ramirez is one of the five best players in the game today, and they have a collection of scary-good young pitchers led by Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson. Befitting a team known for being - let's put it charitably - money-conscious, the Marlins have some serious holes. The outfield is young and untested,and the infield defense is unquestionably the weakest in the league. Ramirez is on the verge of outgrowing the middle infield, and second baseman Dan Uggla is a train wreck. See the his three-error inning in the 2008 All-Star Game for confirmation.

4. Atlanta Braves - The Braves are a team in transition, with only Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones remaining from the glory years. Atlanta is young, with top prospects Tommy Hanson and Jordan Shaefer about to break in. The pitching, now lead by free agent pickup Derek Lowe and holdover Jair Jjurjens (Yes, that IS his name. Awesome huh?)is solid if not spectacular. The issue remains the outfielder, where the rookie Shaefer will be flanked by Garrett Anderson (whose tank is just about on E) and Jeff Francour, who has status has gone from "future star" to "current mediocrity" in two seasons.

5. Washington Nationals - Tell me again why Montreal needed to be stripped of the Expos again? The Nationals are an utterly terrible team on the field and no great success at the gate either, ranking a lackluster 13th in NL attendance despite a shiny new ballpark. GM Jim Bowden is gone, resigning due to a federal investigation of a possible bonus-skimming scheme. Yeah, that's really all you need to know about the Nationals: the guy who built the team could find himself in the federal pen. And not just because of his oddball obsession with DH/corner outfield types. At one point the Nats featured 12 such guys on the roster. But hey, Stephen Strasburg, the current "greatest prospect of all time" should be on the way.

Overview - The Mets are the best team in the National League, and our pick for the NL crown. The Phillies are just as good as they were last year though, and will find themselves in the Wild Card spot. The Marlins still can't catch the ball enough to challenge and the Braves are a year away. The Nationals are a joke.

We were watching the Seattle/Vancouver minor league hockey game this evening, lamenting the multiple failures of minor league hockey in Tacoma when a repeated commercial caught our attention. Something called the "Tacoma Cobras" and "professional football" and "tryouts".


Clearly, a little investigation is in order. And since we at No Rhubarb! are inherently lazy - witness the dearth of posting while we have such free time - a little investigation is all we'll get. Lucky for us we have teh Google.

The Tacoma Cobras are members of the Next Level Football League, a start-up semi-pro football league based in the northwest. Now, that in of itself isn't that big of news. The past two years Tacoma has played host to the Tacoma Invaders of the Cascade Football League. They are still around, but apparently renamed the Warriors.

No, the most interesting - and potentially important - thing about the Tacoma Cobras and the NLFL is that they will be on the television. According to the NLFL's still rather skeletal website, we will be seeing games on Comcast Sports Net, a digital channel that also features the Portland Trail Blazers and Vancouver Canucks among others. There really is no overstating the importance of television in sports. For a league the size of the NLFL, being on any channel is a huge deal. To contrast, the PCL Rainiers were on television twice last season.

The NLFL plans to open with eight teams. The Columbia division will feature the BC Spartans, Bellingham Blitz, Seattle Defenders and the hometown Cobras. The McMinneville Bombers, Roseboro Recon, Hillsboro Hellcatz (soon to be Pioneers, thank goodness) and the Eugene Extreme make up the Cascade Division. Feel free to mock that last name incessantly. Schedule starts in mid-May, and this will be something that No Rhubarb! pays close attention to.

And yes, before you ask: We WILL get a group together to attend a Cobra game and we will be shouting CO-BRA! when every time Tacoma does something even moderately cool.

Four words to excite you even more: Lady Cobra Dance Team!

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