Union finally working on a new addition this offseason: A mascot (yes, seriously)

Union finally working on a new addition this offseason: A mascot (yes, seriously)

The only soccer mascot we could think of is Manchester United's "Fred The Red" (he's on the right).

Philadelphia Union fans are getting punchy this offseason waiting for the team to do SOMETHING to improve for 2014.

Well, apparently there is a pulse at PPL Park, and some research being done about a new acquisition. Problem is, it's not a left back, an attacking midfielder, or anything else the team really needs.

It's a mascot.

According to The Brotherly Game -- an SBNation blog focusing on the Union -- a researcher from St. Joseph's University sent out an invitation Thursday to some season ticket holders.

Hello Season Ticket Holders,

Philadelphia Union would like to invite you to a focus group on January 9th, 2013 at 6PM. The Philadelphia Union has partnered with the Survey Research Center at Saint Joseph's University to conduct preliminary fact finding on concepts for a team mascot. We would like to include your opinions, if you are available to participate.

There are not strong enough words for me to describe how much I hate this idea.

Up to this point, the Union have stayed away from the superfluous crap that takes away from the action on the field.

Matchday at PPL Park is a blast, not because of cheerleaders, or a marching band, or "MAKE SOME NOISE" pleas on the video board, or the world's largest T-shirt cannon. The team has gone out of its way to make the live experience all about what happens between the lines. Heck, even the halftime entertainment is usually quick soccer games between youth teams, which is awesome. It's something many people LOVE about Union games at PPL.

I'm not saying a mascot would cause fans to ditch their season tickets, but it's the first step down a road that most wouldn't like. Build a winning team and you don't need a mascot.

[Editor's note: Enrico disagrees! Check out his counterpoint post: The Union mascot is a great idea (as long as it's a moose!)]

While mascots are commonplace in American sports (and apparently common in Europe, even in the English Premier League), they are not ubiquitous in the soccer world. And as much as I hate the fans who insist MLS should be more like the rest of the soccer world and less like basketball, football, etc., this is one case where I wish the league would stop feeling a need to appeal to the "average" sports fan.

Fortunately, this just seems to be a survey to see what fan reaction would be like, and no decisions have been made just yet. Let's hope that the right season ticket holders respond, and the team shifts its focus to players who actually wear uniforms.

More than some of the Union- and MLS-centric websites (which will likely despise this idea), the Level here is geared more toward Joe Philly Fan who sort of follows the Union on the fringes, or watches a game or two each season. I'm genuinely curious, would a mascot make you more interested in attending a game? Would it make you more excited to take your kids to PPL Park?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Finally, if there is a mascot in our future, I demand that team CEO Nick Sakiewicz is the one inside the suit.

Tim Tebow's baseball bid 'kind of a slap in the face,' says Phillies reliever

Tim Tebow's baseball bid 'kind of a slap in the face,' says Phillies reliever

CHICAGO — David Hernandez has great respect for what Tim Tebow did on the football field.

But as for Tebow's bid to become a major-league baseball player at age 29 after not having played the game since he was a junior in high school — well, Hernandez has some strong opinions.

The Phillies' relief pitcher first voiced them on Twitter when Tebow announced his intentions two weeks ago and echoed them when it was announced Tuesday that the former Heisman trophy-winning quarterback had scheduled a private showcase for major-league scouts to be held next week in Los Angeles. As a matter of curiosity and due diligence, the Phillies will have a scout peek in on Tebow's workout. As many as 20 other teams are expected to be on hand as well.

"I think it's ridiculous," Hernandez said of Tebow's bid to reach the majors. "Hats off to him for getting an opportunity, but I just don't think it's very plausible that he'll get anywhere.

"Nothing against him, but just from the standpoint that getting to the major leagues is a long grind. It's not easy. There's a lot of work that goes into it. 

"It's kind of a slap in the face for him to say, 'I think I'll grab my things and go play pro baseball.' It's not that easy."

Hernandez, 31, pitched in high school and college then spent more than four seasons in the minors before getting to the majors with Baltimore in 2009. Before signing with the Phillies last winter, he pitched for Arizona and survived Tommy John surgery. 

In other words, he's put in the time. He knows how difficult it is to make the climb to the majors.

So does catcher Cameron Rupp. He was recruited to play linebacker at Iowa, but baseball was his first love and playing in the majors his goal. He played three years for his home state Texas Longhorns before being selected by the Phillies in the third round of the 2010 draft. 

Rupp laughed when he first heard of Tebow's intention. 

He remained skeptical when he heard Tebow had lined up a showcase.

"If that's what he wants to do — good luck," Rupp said. "Guys play a long time trying to get where we are. And those that are here are trying to stay here. Staying here is the tough part.

"High school is one thing. A lot of guys play high school and were good and get to pro ball and are overmatched. He's an athlete, no question. But you can't go 10 years without seeing live pitching and all of the sudden some guy is throwing 95 (mph). That will be a challenge. 

"I don't know if he thinks baseball is easy. It's not. It'll be interesting."

Bench coach Larry Bowa is a huge sports fan, loves football and loves what Tebow did on the field at the University of Florida. 

But Bowa has been in pro ball for 50 years. He played in the majors for 16 years and has managed and coached in the majors. Like Hernandez and Rupp, Bowa is skeptical about Tebow's chances and he wonders about the former quarterback's overall understanding of the challenge he faces.

"Whosever idea it is, they don't respect the game of baseball," Bowa said. "It's a hard game. You don't come in at age 28 or 29. I'm not saying he's not a good athlete, but this is a hard game and there are a lot of good athletes in pro ball that never get to the big leagues. 

"I don't think it can happen. There are guys 28 or 29 that are getting released everyday. How can you take 10 years off and all of the sudden be facing guys throwing 95, guys throwing sliders?"

Tebow did show some baseball tools as an outfielder/pitcher in high school. He hit .494 with four homers and 30 RBIs as a junior at Nease HS in Ponte Vedra, Florida, before giving up baseball to focus on football. He played three seasons in the NFL with the Broncos and Jets but failed to stick. 

Clearly, he still has the competitiveness, desire and work ethic that he took to the gridiron. It's just difficult to see that ever getting him to the major leagues. 

But if he ever does ...

"Who knows, maybe I'll face him," critic David Hernandez said with a laugh. "Hopefully he doesn't hit a home run off me. That would be the ultimate comeback."

MLB Notes: Angels closer Huston Street has season-ending surgery

MLB Notes: Angels closer Huston Street has season-ending surgery

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Angels closer Huston Street has undergone season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.

Street had surgery to repair a torn meniscus Wednesday in his native Texas.

The surgery puts an end to the least impressive season of Street's 12-year career. The three-time All-Star is 3-2 with a career-low nine saves and a 6.45 ERA.

Street hasn't pitched since July 31. He missed significant playing time earlier this season with an oblique muscle injury.

Street is expected to be healthy for next season. He is under contract for $9 million in 2017.

He is the sixth player to undergo season-ending surgery for the Angels (52-73), who are on pace for their worst season in 23 years.

Nationals: Katie Ledecky to throw out 1st pitch
WASHINGTON -- Swimmer Katie Ledecky is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch Wednesday night as the Washington Nationals host the Baltimore Orioles in game three of a four-game series.

The 19-year-old Bethesda native returned from the games in Rio with four golds and a silver medal. It will be the third time Ledecky has thrown out the first pitch at Nationals Park.

The Nationals have lost the first two games of the Beltway rivalry series.

Ledecky set world records in winning the 400m freestyle and 800m freestyle. She also won gold in the 200m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay, and silver in the 4x100m freestyle.

She will be a freshman at Stanford in the fall.

Phillies beat writer promises to 'eat his shoe' if Tim Tebow ever plays in MLB

Phillies beat writer promises to 'eat his shoe' if Tim Tebow ever plays in MLB

The Philadelphia Phillies are among the teams who will go give Tim Tebow a look during his baseball workout for roughly 20 MLB teams.

That's according to Phillies beat writer Jim Salisbury who writes that the chances of Tebow making it to Major League Baseball as "extremely thin."

Then, when appearing on Philly Sports Talk on Tuesday evening, he tossed in the added bonus of shoe eating.

"I think this is more of a due dillegence thing just to say that you were there," Salisbury told Michael Barkann. "This guy hasn't played baseball in more than a decade. Before that it wasn't like he was a standout. He was more of a tools plalyer, a good athlete."

"If he ever plays a day in the big leagues I will eat my shoe," Salisbury said.

I think it's safe to say we are all pulling really hard for Timmy to make it now.