In the latest installment of Sport Change’s Moniker Rankings, we’re going to take a good look at nicknames in an organization that just wrapped up play for the year: Major League Baseball. Here are the combined moniker rankings of the American and National Leagues.
For the Sport Change explanation of what makes a good or bad moniker, click here. For the purposes of ranking MLB nicknames, here are those criteria:
Factors that make a good moniker: history, generality, regional relevance, and alliteration. In the non-contact sport of baseball, intimidating nicknames are not so important. Sure, there are plays at the plate, line drives, bean balls, and bench-clearers….it’s just not as important as football or hockey.
Factors that make a bad moniker: overspecification, overdependence on alliteration, blandness, disrespect, and inappropriate cleverness.
Using our criteria, Major League Baseball has only a few truly good monikers. Several skate by on history alone, and in baseball’s rich annals that is often enough. By the way, I’m a believer in starting with number one and working our way down. “Countdown” lists just make the reader want to skip to the ending. Let’s get right into it:
1. Pirates. Just an all-around great nickname, and one of the best in all of pro sports. It’s universally respectable, historic, intimidating, and the alliteration puts over the top, matey.
2. Tigers. An old moniker that ages well. As animals, tigers will always be respected and Detroit has retained their ties to history admirably.
3. Giants. If they were still in New York, this would be on par with the football Giants. Moving an historic team (no matter how many decades ago) taints the history a bit. That said, ‘Giants’ is just a great pro team moniker.
4. Reds. It’s blunt, simple, and easy to color-coordinate. Sport Change is a big fan of color-based nicknames, and ‘Reds’ is the best of the bunch.
5. Rangers. Not a whole lot of history, but an ideal name for a team in Texas. The best use of ‘Rangers’ in any sport.
6. Yankees. It’s a weird name, really. At face value, it’s more of a joke than a respectable moniker. However, the most historic of any pro team in any sport will be rated high based on history alone.
7. Red Sox. Another one that skates by on history. It’s actually a little embarrassing for a pro team to mention undergarments in their nickname. It’s so indoctrinated that nobody notices.
8. White Sox. See number 7.
9. Cardinals. Here’s one that certainly gets an historic boost. Baseball is probably the most appropriate sport to have a songbird as a mascot, and St. Louis wears the moniker better than any. But still….it’s a songbird.
10. Cubs. This would be a perfect minor league nickname for a pro team called the Chicago baseball Bears. In fact, that would be pretty terrific. ‘Cubs” is somewhat awkward in the pros, but history is history.
11. Dodgers. This would be a unique (if bush league) moniker for a pro team in Brooklyn, due to the trolley-dodging reference. In L.A., it has little meaning (traffic dodgers?) though is fully indoctrinated.
12. Brewers. A newer team that gets no extra points for history. The points come from being a regionally-relevant, blue-collar nickname.
13. Mariners. A bit obscure, maybe, but it makes sense for a team in a port city. Seattle Sailors would be better, though, and Seattle Pilots was a great moniker.
14. Orioles. This is a songbird nickname that gets by on a few things: 1. History, 2. the fact that there is actually a bird called a Baltimore oriole, and 3. the team colors reflect the colors of the actual bird. Baltimore has gone all-in on the Oriole brand, and that gives them a boost. Even with a silly songbird name that would be better served in the minors.
15. Angels. The name matches the ‘Angeles’ in the city name. It’s clever, I suppose. It works just alright…middle of the pack.
16. Royals. KC wears this moniker pretty well, though Kansas City Kings would be more effective.
17. Blue Jays. For a newer team, this was an odd choice for a nickname–especially considering the other songbirds already perched in the Majors prior to Toronto’s AL ordination. That said, the name meshes well with the color blue and at the end of the day it’s a pretty good nickname.
18. Athletics. There’s history here, though it’s hard to pick a more bland sports nickname than Athletics. The diminutive “A’s” works much better.
19. Braves. There is certainly plenty of history here, and at face value there is nothing wrong with the Braves moniker. Points deducted for the tomahawk chop.
20. Indians. A lot of history is disregarded due to the presence of smiling Chief Wahoo.
21. Rays. If it were still the uber-specific Devil Rays, this nickname would be in the bottom three, easy. Selling the name Rays as sunbeams makes it more general and more respectable.
22. Marlins. Like the Dolphins, the Marlins get away with having a goofy nickname since it is an accurate reflection of stereotypical Floridian culture. Changing from ‘Florida’ to ‘Miami’ brought in the alliteration factor and relinquished control of an entire state in the process.
23. Phillies. This moniker is so bland that it hardly goes noticed. It’s like if there was a team called the Chicago Chitowns. Or the Washington DCs.
24. Mets. Another random nickname that means very little. If they were officially the New York Metropolitans (like Knickerbockers) that would make more sense. It’s cute how Mets, Jets, and Nets rhyme, but it’s also a little corny.
25. Nationals. It’s not bad, but this moniker loses points for utter blandness. It makes sense that they’re in the National League and also the Capitol, but it’s just a cop-out of a nickname. The words do sound good together, though, due to the ‘sh’ sound within the first syllable of each word.
26. Rockies. Bland, boring, blah. Regionally relevant, sure, but that doesn’t mean a team called the Memphis Mississippi Rivers would have a good nickname.
27. Twins. It just doesn’t make sense for a pro sports team name. I get the Twin Cities reference, but this is a moniker that causes more confusion than intimidation.
28. Diamondbacks. Too specific. The ‘diamond’ may reference a ballfield, but this team would be much more respectable if they were simply the Arizona Snakes.
29. Padres. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a lovable moniker. I especially enjoy the classic Swinging Friar and the mustard yellow and brown digs. This would be a great Minor League Baseball nickname. Minor league.
30. Astros. A reference to the old Astrodome. Yeesh. A while back, the new Astros owner let it slip that he was considering a name change. People were upset, but it was not a bad idea. Maybe Houston Mustangs? Even Houston Horses, straight up.
So there you have it. I don’t feel totally satisfied with this list, and there is much to debate. Feel free to comment and give your own disputes or rankings. Major League Baseball is tough; mostly due to the rich history and proliferation of bizarre monikers, both new and old. Next up, we’ll tackle something easier….
….how about hoops?
For NBA moniker rankings, click here
For NFL moniker rankings, click here
For NHL moniker rankings, click here