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Baseball (and more) links, cute dogs edition

With only the minimum percentage of sad or annoying stories. More fun ones! And dogs!

MARLIN LEVISON * mlevison@startribune.com May 6, 2010 - GENERAL INFORMATION: The Saints baseball club is facing their first season competing with the Twins as an outdoor baseball venue. A look at the crowd or lack thereof at a recent game at Midway stad
Doug Kristal and Shadow at a 2010 Saints promotion. Shadow got in free, and looks happy. The humans look quite cold.
Photo by Marlin Levison/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Three years ago, Baseball America proposed a “Baseball Cup.” Sports Illustrated seconded the notion a few years later. You still see it bouncing around from time to time. What is it?

Well, in England (and some other soccer-loving countries), there are actually TWO major championship trophies handed out each year. One is the league championship, which goes to the top-tier team with the best record. The other is a tournament involving lower-level teams, too.

So, in the baseball equivalent, a single-A team could face a MLB team for "we beat you in one game" bragging rights (this very rarely occurs in English soccer, but upsets have happened).

The Yankees, Dodgers, and Eugene Exploding Whales would all be entered in the tourney.

I think this could be a great idea (ignoring the obvious scheduling problems), but as baseball currently stands, it would be terrible.

The reason it works in English soccer is that little local teams have their own passionate following. (Including Sir Elton John.) While that has sometimes been the case in minor-league baseball (for example, the 1990s Saint Paul Saints, the 1970s Portland Mavericks), Rob Manfred has done his best to destroy it. MLB has cut the number of officially-affiliated teams, and reorganized the minor leagues so that farm teams are as geographically close as possible to their MLB overlords. And told smaller cities whose teams were eliminated that they might get a new team… if they build a publicly-funded stadium!

This is not the sort of thing that’s going to create a strong connection between a community and their minor-league team. And so nobody would care enough about a “Baseball Cup” to make the scheduling hassle worthwhile. Maybe, someday, if minor-league baseball builds up a popular following again. But that won’t happen with Manfred running things.

Anyways, more links 4 U:

You might recall that Justin Verlander, back in April, became the first pitcher to notch a win against all 30 MLB teams. Well, Adam Wainwright, who recently announced his retirement, got pretty close, but never had a chance at 30 because he played all his 18 seasons with the Cardinals. Here’s what he put on his official retirement form:

Pablo López has been playing pickleball to raise funds for a Florida dog rescue shelter. Pickleball? Huh. López says he loves tennis, but it’s “too risky.” Which sounds to me like “it’s prohibited in his contract.” Anyways, he and his wife adopted their first dog in 2019, and he’s a big fan of the cuddly buddies.

Ichiro, who will quit baseball when you pry a bat from his cold dead hands, has been coaching and promoting all varieties of amateur baseball in Japan. Recently, he took BP with some high school players, and did what kids have gotten in trouble doing for 150 years:

The broken window was a math classroom’s. So what’s the school doing with it? Why, they’re preserving the broken window as a mark of pride, naturally! It’s Ichiro, people! The contractor “said it was the first request he has received to remove a cracked window without further breaking it.” (Amateur baseball is really taking off in Japan; now, THAT might make a Baseball Cup tourney work.)

MLB playoff teams decide who gets which “shares” of the players’s playoff bonuses. It’s a players-only vote; they can decide to give partial shares to players who weren’t with the team long, or full shares to rookies who made key contributions down the stretch. These decisions are made before the playoffs begin, so greed doesn’t get in the way (as teams which advance further in the playoffs get bigger playoff bonuses). The Diamondbacks’ players voted to give partial shares to team support staff, including the food prep people. Even a partial share of $313,634 is a nice check. And just in time for Christmas, too!

Speaking of the DBacks, writer Steak85 at sibling site AZ Snake Pit ranked the top Arizona prospects in a fun way, by how cool their names are. Steak85’s favorite was Gemil Santa (for the holiday connection), but noted that Santa’s middle name is Richell, very close to “Rich Hill.” Those who remember a favorite fan nickname for Mr. Hill will appreciate the joke.

Also in ex-Twins news, stlcardsfan4 is... rather unenthused about Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn joining the squad. Not down on them, just... eh. (That's Viva El Birdos, which had this frustrating classic about how the sausage gets made.)

The always-great Al Yellon at BCB has some interesting predictions made by 1950’s Cubs radio announcer Lou Boudreau, about the future of baseball. Boudreau was wrong in a lot of them, but wrong in the right direction. Did you know MLB once considered adding what was called a Continental League to the AL and NL? Yellon’s got you covered if you didn’t (I didn’t).

Last time, I mentioned the tragic story of Adam Johnson, a Minnesota state hockey star who died in a horrible on-ice collision in England. Predictably, Johnson’s death has resulted in fierce debate among hockey fans about additional safety equipment. Unfortunately, there are elements of bogus “culture war” aspects being stirred up as well; the other player involved in the collision was Black.

What I didn’t expect? That these arguments are raging… in England. For Hibbing to be passionate about hockey, and for thousands of people to attend a memorial service honoring Johnson, you expect that in Hibbing. But not in… England.

Also Minnesota-related non-baseball news, the NHL refused to let Wild goalie Marc-André Fleury wear a custom-painted mask honoring Native Americans on Native American Heritage Night. Fleury’s wife is a Canadian Indigenous woman, and Fleury got an artist from Minnesota’s Prairie Island community to paint the mask. No way, said the NHL. Answering the question, “is there a league more clueless about public relations than baseball?” Yes, there apparently is.

(Fleury ended up wearing the mask anyways, in warmups. The dude’s 38, he’s won several Stanley Cups, he’s not gonna put up with the commissioner’s ridiculous s**t.)

And finally, this story from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about an family that runs a dogsledding thing out of Ely. Tourists can experience what it’s like to be on a fast dogsled in the beautiful Boundary Waters region. But the trend towards warmer winters, and unpredictable snowfall, is presenting a challenge; the family’s unsure if their children will be able to take over the business.

Here’s hoping they find a way, because look at these doggos!

Photo in MJS story, from the dogsledding company’s website.

Furthermore, the owner who wants to hand this business to his kids also founded Wildernesss Inquiry, a fine organization that began in 1978 as pushback to a US Senator who claimed people with disabilities couldn’t enjoy the Boundary Waters. Yes, they can, and some campers made a point of proving it, and today the organization helps kids with disabilities gain access to help them enjoy the outdoors. Yeah, I’m rooting for the same family’s dogsledding!