MLB Nickname Evaluations: Whose Names Should Change?

The baseball offseason is long and difficult. It is not for the faint of heart. This season of slow news usually sees all kinds of articles pop up from sportswriters grasping at straws (and/or trying to keep their jobs). I’ve seen anything from the best beards in baseball to the most attractive players to a ranking of players’ eye colors to discussions of team uniforms. Sportswriters do this because they are desperate.

We are all desperate to talk baseball in some form or other by the time January rolls around. And in this year’s longer-than-usual-feeling offseason, I’ve been pondering MLB team names and have decided that a few of them could use some updating. In this process I ended up eventually reflecting on all thirty MLB team names and deciding whether the names should stay or change. And so, here below, I present my analysis of MLB’s thirty current team names. The list is in no particular order, but AL & NL are separated, and the teams are listed by division. You’ll also notice there are significantly fewer change suggestions in the AL. I don’t know what that’s about, but I don’t have a bias, I promise. If anything, as far as rules are concerned, I actually tend to lean NL. For what that’s worth.

AL Central

Kansas City Royals (Verdict: Keep)
As a Royals fan, of course I am going to discuss this team name first. It is, of course, perfect. It has ties to the city’s history, the livestock show with accompanying rodeo called American Royal, which has been an event in Kansas City for years. And, perhaps coincidentally, its theme of royalty/nobility matches prior Kansas City sports teams’ names like the Monarchs (Negro Leagues) and the Kings (NBA) and, of course, the current NFL team, the Chiefs (ignoring for the moment that “Chiefs” is a culturally insensitive nickname that should probably be changed). The Royals have been the Royals since 1969, and the accompanying logo has hardly changed at all. The typeface and color scheme are slightly plagiaristic of the Dodgers, but other than that, the Royals are perfect (in every way except on-field success, of course, 2014 season excluded).

Detroit Tigers (Verdict: Keep)
The tiger is a ferocious, scary, exotic animal. It’s perfect for a mascot, and it’s not offensive to any people group. In fact, its city’s sports team names (Pistons, Red Wings, and Lions, in addition to the Tigers) are about the only good thing Detroit has going for it at the moment, so we’ll just leave them be.

Chicago White Sox (Verdict: Change)
Suggestion: Chicago Grizzlies
Sox? Really? Come on. That’s not even a word. It’s like you let an illiterate person name your team. I know the team name has been around for a long time, but nobody even knows how to singularize it. If a player from Kansas City is a Royal, is a player from Chicago South Side a Sock? A Soc? A Sok? A Sox player? Nobody knows. There are many different opinions out there, and “Sox” is just a dumb spelling, plus they have that whole “Black Sox” scandal following their name around. Shed your tainted skin and start fresh, White Sox. I suggest Grizzlies for a variety of reasons. Like Detroit’s Tigers, Grizzly bears are scary. Plus, it matches Chicago’s sports nickname theme. They already have the Bears and the Cubs. Why not get in line and take a potshot at the Cubs, your crosstown rival, while you’re at it? Nobody is afraid of baby bear cubs, after all. They’re so cute and cuddly. C’mon, White Sox. You’re a laughingstock. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and be the GRIZZLIES! Oooh, scary.

Cleveland Indians (Verdict: Change)
Suggestion: Cleveland Jaguars
The Indians definitely need to change. Not as fast as the football team in Washington needs to, but still. The most obviously offensive aspect of this nickname is that it’s an inaccurate description of America’s indigenous populations. Their little mascot, Chief Wahoo or whatever he’s called, is a pretty offensive caricature too. Come on, Cleveland. You don’t have much more going for you than Detroit. You at least could be politically correct. As for why the Jaguars? Simple. Jaguars are scary. Also, Cleveland doesn’t have much chance of having too many of either the animal OR the car in what I’ve heard is rather a dump of a city (haven’t been there myself), so we might as well shoot for the stars and give them Jaguars in baseball.

Minnesota Twins (Verdict: Keep)
There isn’t much that needs to be said about this name. It’s an obvious nod to the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul – and to be honest with you, I’m not even sure which of those cities the stadium is located in. I think Minneapolis, but I’m not sure. Is that as bad as people not knowing whether the Kansas City Royals play in Kansas or Missouri? Hmm. Well anyway, Twins is a great name. Good job, Minnesotans.

AL West

Oakland Athletics (Verdict: Keep)
I have no problem with the name “Athletics.” It’s a good description of baseball players. They ARE athletic. Plus, the name has a history that goes back to Philadelphia via Kansas City. If they changed their name, they’d lose some of their ties to Kansas City, and we don’t want that. Our allegiance is to the Royals now, but people like my grandpa like to remember when the A’s played in Kansas City and were our team.

Los Angeles Angels (Verdict: Keep)
This nickname comes directly from the translation of the city’s name. Therefore, there’s no reason to change it. Their logo is a little hokey, and they really need to get rid of that whole “of Anaheim” thing because that’s weird and super confusing, but other than that, we’re all square here.

Seattle Mariners (Verdict: Keep)
Brilliant nickname! The team is on the coast, Washington is rainy, and “mariner” is such a cool, bad-a name for a sailor. It’s so old-timey and hardcore-sounding. When I think of a “mariner,” I envision a dude with a huge, long, gray beard standing on the deck of an old wooden ship in the middle of a raging ocean storm, wearing a black rain coat and hat, and yelling instructions to his crew. How is that NOT hardcore? Plus, Seattle’s old logo involves a trident (upside down to make an M, actually). Not only should they keep this nickname forEVER, they should bring back the trident into prominent use.

Houston Astros (Verdict: Keep)
I’ve got no beef with this one. I assume it’s a nod to NASA’s headquarters, and everyone likes NASA and outer space and astronauts. Keep it up, Houston.

Texas Rangers (Verdict: Keep)
This one is so essentially Texas it’s almost embarrassing. The only way you could get more Texas with a sports team nickname is if you called them the Texas Ranch Hands or the Cowboy…wait. I don’t know if I’m entirely sure what a ranger is in regard to the state of Texas, but it sounds to me like a scary dude on a really big horse with a gun in each hand. If that ain’t Texas, I don’t know what is.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles (Verdict: Keep)
I like orange, and this bird (at least in the team logo) is squat and cute. I don’t know if it has specific ties to the city, but I’m good with it just the same.

New York Yankees (Verdict: Keep)
The Yankees, love ’em or hate ’em, are a baseball institution. They’ve been around forever, and the term yankee is both historic and insulting. The word wasn’t always derogatory, but it evolved to be that way at some point. So it keeps the team’s fans happy while allowing the rest of us a chuckle at their expense. I’m good with that.

Toronto Blue Jays (Verdict: Keep)
Let’s face it; half the time I don’t even remember this team exists. They’re in Canada, for crying out loud. I can’t remember the last time I cared about a single thing Canadians did. Pass.

Tampa Bay Rays (Verdict: Keep)
I’m iffy on this one, especially since they dropped “devil” and tried to pretend that “ray” was a reference to sunlight and not a ferocious, lethal ocean animal. But what are they gonna change it to? Plus, without “devil,” the rhyming is kinda fun.

Boston Red Sox (Verdict: Change)
Suggestion: Boston Marathoners
Many will say that if I’m going to let the Yankees stay because of how long they’ve been around with that name, I should apply the same rule to Boston. Sorry. Nope. Not gonna happen. For the same reason I expressed about the White Sox, the Red Sox should act like they are literate and change their name to something that isn’t a piece of clothing. I suggest Marathoners because it’s the thing that Boston is known for that doesn’t sound completely moronic as a baseball team nickname. Trust me; I considered “Marketeers,” “Baked Beans,” “Tea Partiers,” etc. Those are just dumb. Plus, Marathoners works on multiple levels. It can be a sort of tribute/nod to the tragedy of 2013 that shut down the city for a couple days after the marathon bombing (the year that was also packed chock full with narrative, and watched Big Papi curse on live, national TV and the team go on to win the World Series, by the way). It also works on a baseball level because baseball games can be long and grueling and tough to finish, just like a marathon. A “short” baseball game tends to last three hours or just under. Plus, a marathoner is athletic, and socks aren’t. Bam. Perfect rationale. Go ahead, Boston. We’re waiting.

NL East

Washington Nationals (Verdict: Change)
Suggestion: Washington Cosmopolitans
I don’t like the Nationals as a nickname simply because it’s boring. I considered suggesting “Politicians,” but then that made me think of the Senators, which I think is kind of a silly name too, so I went away from politics altogether. I’ve been to Washington DC only a couple of times, but on my very first visit there, the main impression that city made on me was its international diversity. Everywhere I went, I heard conversations being had in languages I couldn’t always identify. In the Midwest, the main language you hear in addition to English is Spanish. There are pockets of other cultures, but they are small and concentrated, and you don’t hear those languages regularly. In DC, there were a couple of times I just went ahead and asked people what language they were speaking because I was so fascinated. I got answers like German, Dutch, Swedish, Polish, etc. It was great. DC, for reasons that are obvious, is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in our country, perhaps surpassed only by New York City. Hence, the Washington Cosmopolitans (plus, Cosmos for short is fun).

Atlanta Braves (Verdict: Change)
Suggestion: Atlanta Badgers
I’ll be honest with you. I struggled with this one. Atlanta has a LOT of history, and it’s a really great city, actually, but a lot of its history is rooted in how strong of a Confederate city Atlanta was before the war. So it’s not like you could choose something like “Confederates” or “Rebs” (which some southern school has already taken anyway, and it’s awfully offensive; “Hey, let’s celebrate and commemorate how incredibly racist we used to be, and how some of us still are!”). No thanks. That is, by the way, the same reasoning with getting rid of Braves and, with it, the stupid tomahawk chop (yes, Chiefs fans, it’s offensive in Kansas City too). I mean, how hard is it, as a public organization, to just NOT be offensive? Apparently pretty hard. So anyway, I am going with badgers because badgers are scary little suckers you don’t want to meet on a deserted road at night. I don’t know if Atlanta (or the state of Georgia in general) has badgers, but who really cares. Anything is better than Braves at this point.

New York Mets (Verdict: Keep)
As far as I can tell, this nickname is not a nod to “The Met,” the art museum in New York City. I believe it was adopted in homage to a former team called the Metropolitans, and simply shortened. Either way, however, the connection(s) are nice. I like their colors too.

Miami Marlins (Verdict: Change)
Suggestion: Miami Lionfish
My main beef with the Marlins is that the name itself is grammatically incorrect. The plural of marlin is like deer, moose, and fish. You can have one marlin or you can have eight marlin. I think some official dictionaries have allowed the evolution of improper use to rule in this case, but I’m unwilling to budge. If they can’t be grammatically correct, they should change. And if they want to be a scary ocean animal, why not lionfish? Those things are terrifying. I actually came in close proximity to one while diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and let me tell you. I could not get away fast enough. (Little red squigglies are telling me that “lionfish” isn’t a word, so maybe it’s lion fish? Hmm. Better not go from grammatically incorrect to incorrect spelling. That would defeat the whole purpose of changing in the first place. Miami front office officials, do your research on spelling before changing to lion fish, please and thank you.)

Philadelphia Phillies (Verdict: Change)
Suggestion: Philadelphia Bells
Come on, Philly. I know that’s a nickname for the city, but it feels like you’re just being lazy at this point. Philadelphia is one of the most historically interesting cities in our nation. It used to be the capital, for crying out loud! You could do a lot of things with a team nickname (although I wouldn’t suggest Cheese Steaks). They do have the Liberty Bell, and even though it is cracked and some might infer weakness from that, it’s still there, isn’t it? It hasn’t crumbled into dust. A noble namesake, if you ask me.

NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals (Verdict: Keep)
I don’t like the Cardinals, so I’ll keep this short. I have no problem with their name. I don’t know if cardinals are mean birds, but they are pretty and I like them (the birds, not the MLB organization). Besides, if you changed the name, the self-proclaimed BFIB would be in a ridiculously annoying uproar. So let’s just keep them quiet and try to forget they exist.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Verdict: Keep)
Pirates are cool, and tough, and even trendy. They are scrappy too. No problems with this name.

Milwaukee Brewers (Verdict: Keep)
Brewers is a nod to a city tradition. Milwaukee is known as a beer city. No reason to change that. Plus, they should bring back their old logo, the one where the “m” and the “b” formed a baseball mitt. That was a great logo.

Cincinnati Reds (Verdict: Change)
Suggestion: Cincinnati Skyliners
The name “Reds” is, I believe, a shortened version of what the team used to be called, the Red Stockings. So again, we are referencing not only a team’s uniform but specifically their SOCKS? COME ON. Ten percent of MLB team names reference a sock?! That’s absurd. Cincinnati is known for their skyline chili (which I personally find disgusting, but other people seem to love it). Plus, skyliners is just a pretty cool name, if you ask me.

Chicago Cubs (Verdict: Keep)
Even though, as previously mentioned, baby bear cubs are in no way scary (unless you’re talking specifically about Clark, the new mascot), the Cubs are, like the Yankees, an institution. They’re historic. The name might be kinda dumb, but it should live until baseball dies. It’s just too classic.

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers (Verdict: Keep)
Ken Burns taught me that this name comes from when the team was still in New York and there was a common practice in the city of crossing streets by dodging trolley cars. It was, essentially, real-life Frogger. Historic, classic, strong & solid name. Leave it.

San Francisco Giants (Verdict: Keep)
The Giants kept their name from New York as well. I don’t know its roots, and I’m not terribly crazy about it (or about the team itself, after the 2014 season…still a fresh wound – that’s fresh, not flesh). But it’s an old team with an old name, and besides – what would they change it to? The San Francisco Streetcars? Please. (Wait that actually could be cool…maybe.) But Giants are scary too, and super intimidating. Have you ever met one? I mean, I hear Andre was nice and all, but he was probably the exception to the rule. Hagrid too.

San Diego Padres (Verdict: Keep)
My first inclination was to change this one because it (and especially its logo) is just kinda silly. But then I figured, you know what, the whole swinging/chubby friar thing is kind of adorable and hilarious. And I don’t have anything against religion in baseball. If the Angels can stay, so can the Spanish priests.

Colorado Rockies (Verdict: Keep)
Now, someone’s first thought about this nickname might  be, What’s scary about a mountain? To which I say… Umm, only EVERYTHING. Do you know how many people die at the hands of mountains every year? Neither do I, but it’s more than zero. Mountains are big, dangerous, and scary. Mountains are basically the boss of everyone who goes near them. They have a lot of power and control. If mountains don’t like you, they can just avalanche a crap ton of snow or gravel toward you and you’re basically dead at that point. So. I’m not gonna mess with the Rockies.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Verdict: Change)
Suggestion: Arizona Snakes
This is team #30, so I’m a little short on steam at this point. But I hate the nickname Diamondbacks for more than one reason. First of all, their colors and logo design are super ugly. The snake head thing in the “db” is clever and all, but one clever logo design does not forgive an entire bad name. Second, commentators shorten this nickname to “DBacks” all the time. I don’t know about you, but every single time I hear a commentator say “DBacks” I hear “DBags,” and I think we can all agree that’s inappropriate. Besides, Arizona is basically a desert full of snakes, with a few people scattered around. There are a lot of types of snakes there, not just diamondbacks. If you want to be a scary reptile as a team, that’s fine. But just be the Snakes. What’s scarier than one snake? ALL THE SNAKES. Blech. I’m getting shivery just thinking about it.

So there you have it. My plan for improving the future of Major League Baseball. (In my opinion, it’s better than the new commissioner’s desire to eliminate the defensive shift.) I only suggested nine teams change their names. That’s not even a third. That’s not bad. Surely this is doable. Especially if everybody does it all at once. We still have some time before spring training starts. This could totally happen in time for the 2015 season (unlike the Chicago Cubs bleacher renovation, hardyharhar).

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1 Comment

Filed under baseball, bloggy, irreverent

One response to “MLB Nickname Evaluations: Whose Names Should Change?

  1. Perhaps other consideration for evaluation would be hometown connection (ex: Rockies=Rocky Mountains) in essence tapping into the tradition of the game. But I agree, what is a Sox?

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