Los Angeles Dodgers introduce terrifying mascot, say he's 'not a mascot'
Mascots aren't an essential part of baseball, which is probably a good thing. Aside from the Phillie Phanatic, the San Diego Chicken and the Expos' Youppi — icons that were popular in the medium's heyday in the 1970s and 1980s — most of them are ill-conceived and vaguely terrifying. Even so, coming into the year, just three of the 30 teams didn't have mascots. The list is now down to two, though the Dodgers are in denial about joining the bemascotted majority.
Take a look at this hypercephalic monstrosity, which as SB Nation's Mike Bates pointed out bears a vague resemblance to Lard Lad from a Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" episode. Dodgers executive VP of marketing Lon Rosen told the Los Angeles Times that the creature lurking in Dodger Stadium's plazas and upper-deck kids' areas since this past weekend is "not a mascot" but a "a unique performance character," which sounds like one of the awkward euphemisms disapproving scribes have broken out to describe Yasiel Puig.
According to Rosen, three more "performance characters" will be released on unsuspecting patrons in the coming weeks, though as with this as-yet-unnamed one, they'll remain on concourses instead of being visible from the playing field. That appears to be the distinction via which the Dodgers use to separate the not-mascots from mascots.
At the end of last season, only the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers and Angels lacked mascots; the Yankees dabbled with a horrendous one called "Dandy" back in 1979, but it was mercifully mothballed due to its resemblance to Thurman Munson, who died in a plane crash during Dandy's inaugural season. The Cubs introduced the cartoonish Clark in January, but he quickly became a target for ridicule (link NSFW) and hasn't won fans over since. In further mascot news, the Mets — who introduced Mr. Met in 1964 — attempted to rebrand by giving him a female counterpart, but her introduction around the league via photos with other mascots shared on social media created widespread interpretations of marital infidelity.
Within baseball, the gold standard for mascots is the Brewers, whose Bernie Brewer used to emerge from a beer-barreled chalet to slide into a beer stein in Milwaukee County Stadium anytime the home team homered or won. Bernie now descends a corkscrew slide in Miller Park every time a Brewer hits a home run. Check the great short video of his history here. The Brewers, of course, also have the Klements Racing Sausages, something I know more about than your average hot dog.
The Dodgers' mascot has avoided the scandal of Mr. and Mrs. Met, but the likelihood is that he'll never achieve Bernie Brewer-level stardom, to say nothing of the famously transcendent Chicken. From here, the team would be better off wrapping longtime Phanatic sparring partner Tommy Lasorda in blue shag carpet and send him out to greet the masses. What could possibly go wrong?