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MiLB

Sport Change promised some baseball posts in April, and it looks like they’re coming toward the end of the month.  Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up the ranks.  Time to catch up with the summer collegiate Northwoods League.

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The Northwoods League is the most successful summer collegiate baseball league in the country, and has helped many college ballplayers keep their skills sharp throughout the summers between school years.  Sport Change has weighed in on the NWL a few times before, and this post lays out the details of the league pretty well.  For now, we’re going to catch up on off-season developments and throw in our two cents.

What’s New?

KENOSHA EXPANSION

The biggest piece of news in the Northwoods League is that an expansion franchise will be placed in Kenosha, Wisconsin, for the 2014 season.  Kenosha was ranked third in Sport Change’s list of potential NWL expansion sites, published last summer.  Of course, the team needs an identity!  Ownership in Kenosha has taken the well-worn (and often treacherous) path of a name-the-team contest.  Sport Change specializes in deconstruction of name-the-team contests, so let’s have at it.  Here are the name options being put up for consideration:

Kenosha Comets – The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League team that played in Kenosha from 1943 thru 1951 was named the Comets. The team played at Simmons Field, where the new Kenosha Northwoods League team will call home, from 1948 thru 1951.

Kenosha Esox -Esox is the name of the category of fish that includes the Pike. Esox also ties into one of the previous names for the City of Kenosha, Pike.

Kenosha KingFish – KingFish offers a unique combination of a tie to Lake Michigan, royalty and even a little nod to the King, Elvis Presley.

Kenosha Coopers – Traditionally, a cooper is someone who makes wooden staved vessels, bound together with hoops, for instance a beer barrel or cask. The name also connects to the Cooper’s Hawk that is native to the area. Lastly Samuel T. Cooper founded the iconic Kenosha company that became Jockey International.

Kenosha Sockets – Sockets connects to the automotive history in Kenosha as well as Snap-on Tool Company, which is another iconic company based in Kenosha.

Kenosha Lake Bears – Lake Bears is a memorable name that ties nicely to Lake Michigan and summertime in Wisconsin.

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Ok, that’s quite the range.  Here’s the Sport Change take on each one:

Comets is a great sport team moniker in general, and the alliteration is terrific.  The name, however, is highly inappropriate.  The AAGPBL Kenosha Comets are part of baseball lore, and let’s keep it that way.  I have no problem with a team like the St. Cloud Rox borrowing an identity from a bygone team, but this suggestion is too over the top.  It’s been about 70 years since the AAGPBL was around, and comparing it with a Northwoods team is like comparing apples and Rockford Peaches.  If you want to see the Kenosha Comets, watch A League of their Own.  Seriously.  That movie holds up.  (also currently on Netflix streaming.)

Esox is a great concept, and I tip my cap to whoever came up with that idea.  Plays on the ‘sox’ phenomenon are staples in minor league baseball (Everett AquaSox, Amarillo Gold Sox, Utica Blue Sox) and they’re a hoot.  That ‘esox’ is the pike family and Kenosha was once called Pike only sweetens the deal.

KingFish isn’t terrible, but there are a few faults here.  For starters, I hate the “camel-case” wording; where the capital F is like a camel’s hump.  Why?  Also, nicknames that aren’t in plural form are terrible.  It goes without being said, but the phrase: “a unique combination of a tie to Lake Michigan, royalty and even a little nod to the King, Elvis Presley.” should be an automatic disqualification   A better name would be Kingfishers, after the badass blue bird.

Coopers combines two qualities that make for a stellar minor league name: alliteration and reference to a bygone blue-collar trade.  If you ever look back at minor league names from around the turn of the century, you get great names like Furnituremakers, Clamdiggers, and Farmers.  These names tell a great story, and Coopers lends itself well to the nearby Brewers and the roll out the barrel phenomenon.  The Cooper’s Hawk thing is a bit of a stretch, but a hawk perched on a barrel would make a cool logo.

Sockets is certainly fun and ties in with the city, but it’s a tired idea.  The Lansing Lugnuts are an uber-popular MiLB team, and Sockets seems like a facsimile of the original.  The American Association (independent) team, the Wichita Wingnuts, have already gone this route.  That being said, “socket to me, baby” could be a good slogan.

Lake Bears makes we want to run for a barf bag.  Don’t get me wrong: I love lakes and I love bears.  The problem here is that this epitomizes the bland minor league brands that are ubiquitous from coast to coast.  Lake Bears is not much different than Bay Bears, Hillcats, RiverDogs, SeaWolves, River Cats…on an on.  Just say no.

Grades

Kenosha Coopers. (A-)

Kenosha Esox.  (B+)

Kenosha Sockets.  (C)

Kenosha KingFish.  (D)

Kenosha Lake Bears.  (D-)

Kenosha Comets.  (disqualified)

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Let’s keep a clean history here.

Look for the name-the-team results this summer.

ANCHORS AWEIGH

In other Northwoods naming news, the Alexandria Beetles were recently “saved” by the league taking control of the struggling team and reselling to a new ownership group.  Great!  Except that the new group is changing the team’s name from the terrific Beetles to the bland and perplexing Blue Anchors.  All I’ve got to say is…ugh.  Sport Change identified the Beetles as having one of the top Northwoods League nicknames, and one of the best in non-affiliated baseball.  It’s just a disappointment when people throw the baby out with the bathwater.  If the team couldn’t sell tickets, it was probably because Alexandria, Minnesota is a small city.  I have a hard time seeing the Blue Anchors doing a better job in the long-term.

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R.I.P. The Alexandria Beetle. 2001-2013.

KALAMAZOO NEWS

Now we’ll just get in to the realm of rumor and talk about some cities that may someday host a Northwoods League team.  First up is Kalamazoo, Michigan, which was ranked fourth in last summer’s Sport Change rankings of potential cities.  The city recently issued an RFP (request for proposals) regarding use of the ballpark, and the Northwoods League was the sole bidder.  It’s a bit surprising that the Frontier League made no efforts, but they tried and failed with the Kalamazoo Kodiaks in the nineties and the Kings, more recently.  Let’s see this happen!  Right now, Battle Creek is the lone Michigander franchise, and Kalamazoo is right near by just waiting to be a rival.  This would be a big step in expanding the league’s footprint, and may work to lure the successful Traverse City Beach Bums away from the Frontier League.  If Kalamazoo does get a team, the branding options are bountiful.  Many ideas could surface, but here are a few thoughts.  Kodiaks is solid, and could be reactivated, potentially.  Kalamazoo Kazoos was the name of an old MiLB team that played about 100 years ago.  Kalamazoo Kangaroos would be fun, though the name was used thirty years ago for a soccer team.  Kalamazoo Keepers is fun for the pun-loving among us.  In reference to Bell’s brewery, what about the Kalamazoo Brews?

BISMARCK-E

Bismarck, North Dakota, may get a ballpark together.  If they do, the NWL would love to expand westward.  Bismarck would be pretty far from current NWL teams, but then again, so is Thunder Bay.  Perhaps there is a master plan to add say, a team in Grand Forks or to poach teams form Fargo, Winnipeg, Sioux Falls…we’ll see.

ELKHART OF GOLD

Elkhart County, Indiana (near South Bend), may get a stadium deal; making the area an ideal candidate for the NWL.  This move would bring the NWL to a new state and also help with furthering the establishment of a colony of teams on the eastern side of Lake Michigan.  Only time will tell.

Yes, yes.  Many changes afoot for our growing Northwoods League.  It’s a brave wide world–the breathtaking endeavor of summer collegiate non-affiliated independent baseball.

SPORT CHANGE

Sport Change has just completed six full months of reporting and studying the subjects dearest to Sport Change’s heart.  Much of that work has built to articles that will come within the next four months–the Ideal Leagues.

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The premise

Like most random sports voices on the internet, Sport Change likes to opine and reimagine all sorts of things sports-related.  Though Sport Change has a steady group of followers and daily page-visitors, the voice of the site is just one of many with no actual say or sway.  As such, there is full creative license to reshape teams and leagues through the ever-available medium of fantasy.  The Ideal Leagues are simply what sports leagues (both pro and minor) would look like if Sport Change ruled the world–or rather if the world had independently arranged itself better to Sport Change’s liking.

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Ongoing and participative

Though each Ideal League will be presented as something resembling a finished product, each league could become subject to change due to real-world changes or through the uncovering of previously undiscovered knowledge.  Additionally, Sport Change readers can make their voices heard by posting opinions on our message boards.  These opinions may work to effect Sport Change’s Ideal Leagues, so don’t hesitate to participate.

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The gist

To begin the Ideal Leagues, we will be starting toward the top of the American sports pyramid with the Big Four professional sports (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB) and top minor-league or semipro leagues.  Each league will exist in a fantasy world of sorts, and decisions made about one league are to be informed by decisions made in another.  The primary topics covered will be realignment, rebranding, relocation, and other forms of reimagining; in the context of both historic narratives and real-world scenarios.

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The schedule

February is for football.  The NFL will be first up, followed by an scenario for a resurrection of the USFL.  Teams such as the Houston Oilers and San Antonio Gunslingers will be mentioned.

March is for basketball.  There won’t be much NCAA March Madness talk, but Sport Change will weigh in on an Ideal NBA and NBA Developmental League.

April is for baseball.  While teams take to the field, Sport Change will be unrolling the Ideal MLB.  Additionally, there will be several posts on Minor League Baseball and independent ball.

May is for hockey.  Expect an Ideal NHL and perhaps AHL as well.

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Throughout all of this, there may be the occasional stray post to weigh in on a hot topic or an idea that just can’t wait, such as a Territorial Mock Draft for the NFL in April.  If you’re curious about the Sport Change take on the New Orleans Pelicans’ logo, all I can say is…meh.

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Sym-meh-try

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Thanks for reading.  Stay alert for the Ideal Leagues–it should be fun.  Have a great day!

SPORT CHANGE

Which North American markets are second tier?

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My city is second tier, baby.

In the last Sport Change post, we revealed the rankings for the first tier of sports markets in North America–the top 30.  Now we’re taking a good look at the second tier–the next 30.  The second tier is perhaps more interesting as it reveals the general lack of viable unused pro sports markets.   The original plan was to rank the top 100 split into three tiers, but the dregs were hit just trying to fill out the top 60.

For information on what defines a sports market and our criteria for selection, please read the introduction in our previous post.

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Let’s get right into it::

31. Indianapolis.  Indy just barely missed the first tier, so it’s a bit of a disappointment to think of this market as a secondary option for pro sports.  Let’s think of them as a C+ market–just about as good as a B-.  The Colts have a promising team and a sparkly new stadium, though attendance is middling.  The Pacers have trouble filling seats as well.  That said, I think Indy is a viable pro sports market.  If not, there is always the Hoosiers.

32. Montreal.  Ignore the Expos debacle for a moment and consider this: the NHL’s Canadiens are probably the most historic, supported, and successful hockey team on Earth.  I doubt any other Big Four league will come knocking, but there’s an outside chance at a second NHL team.

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The Canadiens are synonymous with pro hockey. Just ignore that whole baseball thing.

33. Tampa Bay.  The Tampa/St. Petersburg area boasts three teams in the Big Four.  So why is it a second tier team?  For starters, the Rays and the Buccaneers are unable to fill seats despite having exciting teams.  Within a few years, it’s likely that one or the other will have relocated.  The NHL’s Lightning do better, but was putting a pro hockey team in Florida a good idea in the first place?

34. Portland.  The Trailblazers are the lone rep on the pro circuit, but they are a simply outstanding smaller market franchise that (as of this writing) draws 4th best of all NBA teams.  It remains to be seen if the state of Oregon can support another pro team, but the Oregon Ducks football team is also a powerhouse–both on the gridiron and in the ticket booth.

35. Utah.  Salt Lake City is similar to Portland in that the city only supports an NBA team in the Big Four.  The Jazz draw surprisingly well–just a shade below the Blazers.  In other athletics, the AAA minor league baseball Salt Lake Bees fill seats.  Brigham Young’s basketball and football teams also enjoy success.  That said, I think the Jazz will remain the lone Big Four rep indefinitely.

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The Spurs have earned their keep, but Texas is a bit crowded.

36. San Antonio.  San Antonio is a very large city that is often brought up in relocation/expansion talks for MLB and the NFL, despite Texas having a good foothold in pro sports.  The NBA makes it work with three successful Texan franchises, but I’m unsure about baseball or football.  Both sports are popular in Texas, but the Cowboys have a wide-reaching influence and the Astros make it clear that a team in a large Texan city can struggle.

37. Oklahoma.  The newish Thunder were extremely fortunate to begin their run in the NBA with such young talent.  We’ll see how it plays out over time.  Oklahoma is well represented on the amateur levels by the AAA RedHawks in baseball, and the Sooners and Cowboys in college athletics–particularly football.

38. Vancouver.  The Grizzlies idea took a faceplant, but the Canucks hold steady in the NHL.  Vancouver is a decent-sized city that has an appetite for sports.  The B.C. Lions are a top draw in the Canadian Football League.

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Vancouver is a fixture in the NHL, but I don’t think they’ll be in any other Big Four league after the Grizzlies debacle.

39. Columbus.  Ohio’s largest city gets ranked this high mainly due to the presence of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  The NHL’s Blue Jacket experiment hasn’t panned out very well, so Columbus will need to work hard to hold on to it’s only Big Four team.

40. San Jose.  Against all odds, the Sharks have been a staple in Californian hockey for over twenty years.  There has been talk of the Golden State Warriors relocating to San Jose, which would be essentially unnoticeable in the bigger picture of sports.  They wouldn’t even have to change their name.

41. Calgary.  The Flames are a successful NHL franchise, but that will remain the lone Big Four representative.  That’s fine–there’s the CFL’s Stampeders.

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Calgary stamps on the competition.

42. Jacksonville.  It may be Florida’s largest city, but I’m not so sure the J-Ville is much of a sports town.  Shad Khan is trying to breathe new life into the Jaguars, and hometown hero Tim Tebow seems likely to return.  We’ll give that some time and see how it pans out.

43. Orlando.  Despite the relative support for the Magic, I do not consider Orlando to be viable or acceptable pro sports market.  Too much about the city is contrived and newfangled.  I expect the Magic to wear off as the team plummets further into mediocrity.

44. Sacramento.  The Kings are at the forefront of every whisper about NBA relocation.  They are likely to move–probably to Seattle.  Mayor (and former Phoenix Sun) Kevin Johnson has been trying to lure the Oakland A’s to Sac-town, but for the foreseeable future the biggest ballclub in town will remain the AAA Rivercats.  At least they’re one of the top draws in the minors!

 

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More like the kings of a group of cities that have no business hosting a pro sports team.

45. New Jersey.  For the record, this doesn’t include the Meadowlands.  The lone representative in the Big Four is the New Jersey Devils of Newark.  Jersey is still stinging from the Nets’ departure, but the state as a whole enjoys a good measure of success in minor league and collegiate sports.

46. Ottawa.  The Senators are fairly respectable, but there is a marked lack of a CFL team–at least for now.  As such, Canada’s capital is our fifth ranked Canadian market.

47. Edmonton.  The Oilers have shown a remarkable ability to maintain a presence in Edmonton despite many obstacles over the years.  The CFL’s Eskimos round out the market.

 

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The Oilers keep it greasy in the NHL.

48. Winnipeg.  The Jets happily returned to Manitoba recently–hopefully ticket sales will pick within a few years.  The Winnipeg Goldeyes, an independent pro baseball team in the American Association, do very well.

49. Kentucky.  The last section of our list features teams that do not currently have even one team in the Big Four.  This is where things get interesting.  The state of Kentucky doesn’t have much precedent for pro sports, but the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels come to mind.  On the collegiate level, UK and Louisville dominate fan interest in basketball.  The schools both have successful football programs as well.  In Minor League Baseball, the Louisville Bats are typically the 2nd biggest draw in all the minors, and the Lexington Legends rank around 25 out of about 150.  Louisville is a sizable city with more denizens than dozens of cities in the Big Four.  Even Lexington has more people than Cincinnati, Buffalo, or Orlando.  The Bluegrass State should not be overlooked in discussions of pro sports relocation or expansion.

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I’m Kentucky. Hear me roar.

50. Alabama. The Crimson Tide and Auburn are two of the top draws in college football.  There is peripheral interest in basketball and baseball as well–but if Alabama could support a pro team it would have to in the NFL.  The question is whether or not Alabamans would split allegiance between Saturday and Sunday.

51. Virginia.  It may be a little broad to use the whole state of Virginia as a market.  The Virginia Beach/Norfolk area in particular hosts millions of people and is sports-crazy.  Richmond is also worth mentioning.

52. Nebraska.  Omaha, specifically, is a large enough city to support a pro team–at least in theory.  The Lincoln-based Cornhuskers dominate the state’s sports attention at present, but I could see a pro team in some league sticking in Nebraska.

53. Iowa.  This is a long shot for pro sports, but Iowa’s dedication to baseball, football, and basketball is undeniable.  The Iowa Cubs are a very popular MiLB team, and the Hawkeyes draw fans to the gridiron and the court.

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The Hawkeyes are popular, but would a pro team fly?

54. Las Vegas.  This is the city that is always brought up in any talk about expansion or relocation.  The main reason is that Las Vegas is the largest metro area in the US without a team in the Big Four.  Here’s the problem: Vegas is not a major sports city.  They can barely support a minor league baseball team.  The best they can muster for football is the UFL’s Locomotives.  The UNLV Rebels do well, so if any league goes to Vegas I’d say the NBA has the best shot.

55. Arkansas.  The Razorbacks are wildly popular in college football and basketball.  I’m not so sure that the state could support a pro team, but it’s worth mentioning.

56. Hamilton.  Hamilton, Ontario is a large city in a very densely populated area on Lake Ontario’s west coast.  The city currently hosts the CFL’s Tiger-Cats and the AHL’s Bulldogs, among other teams.  Hamilton is possibly the best candidate for relocation or expansion in the NHL.

57. Quebec City.  Quebec is presumably still hurting from the NHL’s Nordiques leaving for greener pasture in Colorado nearly twenty years ago.  I could see the league returning at some point–but the language barrier remains an obstacle.

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The Nordiques fled Quebec City for Denver nearly twenty years ago. Will the weird N thing return?

58. Saskatchewan.  The two largest cities in the province are Saskatoon and Regina–fairly close to each other.  Saskatchewan has hosted the CFL’s Roughriders for many decades, and has an outside chance at a future NHL team.

59. Connecticut/Rhode Island.  They’re pretty much the same state, so I lumped them into one.  College basketball jumps to mind, with Uconn, Providence, and Rhode Island U leading the charge.  Providence and Hartford are fairly large cities with a short history in the Big Four.  Notably, the Hartford Whalers used to call the NHL home and the Providence Steam Roller (or Rollers) had incarnations in the NFL and NBA.  Minor League Baseball teams in both states are quite successful as well.  Occasionally there’s talk of a pro ball team in Hartford, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

60. New Mexico.  We’ll round out the second tier with an underdog that has yet to sniff the pro leagues.  Albuquerque, New Mexico is the 32nd largest metro area in the US, and is larger than about half of the markets in the Big Four.  The AAA baseball Albuquerque Isotopes (named after a Simpsons episode) draw in the top ten of all ~150 minor league clubs.  The New Mexico Lobos are a very popular college basketball team.  We’ll call New Mexico the the distant wildcard in Big Four discussions.

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I’ll show you second tier.

So there is the second tier.  You can see how the list gets thin at around 50 and then the wildcards come out of left field.  We’ll be referencing this study in several future posts, including our upcoming Ideal Leagues series.  The Ideal Leagues are an in depth exploration of what the Big Four pro sports leagues would look like if Sport Change ruled the world.  Stay posted.  Thanks for reading.

SPORT CHANGE

Time for another quick check on current events that interest Sport Change.  It’s the early December Newsflash!

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His Airness airs some intriguing news.

His Airness airs some intriguing news.

1.) Last week, Michael “Air” Jordan of the Charlotte Bobcats let an intriguing comment slip past his teeth.  When asked if the Bobcats would consider a reversion to the Hornets moniker of old in the event of a New Orleans rebranding, Jordan said more than ‘no comment.’  Here’s an excerpt: “It’s definitely an interest down the road, but right now it’s the New Orleans Hornets,” Jordan told the Charlotte Observer. “We would definitely entertain the opportunity. That’s as much as we can say right now. We’ve heard the community ask the question, and we would listen.”  Aha!  Now that’s music to Sport Change’s ears.  This announcement came fortuitously only one week after a Sport Change post that suggests the same thing.  In fact, the timing of that post led to a significant spike in site hits and page views.  That’s great, because Sport Change is quite proud of that post.  Of course we want to see this taken even further and expanded into a four-way moniker swap that give the Hornets back to Charlotte, the Jazz back to New Orleans, the Raptors to Utah, and the Bobcats to Toronto.  It might happen…..

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2.)  In other pro sports moniker news, it was announced that the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes will now be known as the Arizona Coyotes.  Excuse me…I just yawned so loudly it sounded like a coyote yip.  Word is that they are also changing their logo as well, which is kind of a shame considering that their current logo is about as cool as a coyote logo can possibly look.  If you’re wondering, this does nothing to change the team’s status in any of our recent moniker rankings–for the record, Coyotes ranked 105th of 116 unique nicknames in the Big Four.  Ouch.  Considering that the Coyotes have the worst attendance of any NHL team in recent years, it may be fair to assume that this is a last-ditch effort to revitalize a team that is likely destined for relocation.  As painful as relocation can be for fans, I can’t say that I shed any tears over a hockey team leaving the desert.

Coyote ugly?  Actually it's hard to imagine an improvement.

Coyote ugly? Actually it’s hard to imagine a logo improvement.

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3.)  In lighter news, three interesting new logo sets for Minor League Baseball teams were unveiled recently.  First up, we have the West Michigan Whitecaps; a single-A Midwest League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers based in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.  The Whitecaps are a popular team, in no small part due to the fact that they play in the home state of their parent club.  The Whitecaps came out with a few new logos that reflect their ties to the Tigers, none more memorable than their transformation of their current logo (a wave with eyes) into a wave-tiger.  This is one of the many reasons why Sport Change loves the Minors.

A wave created by a tail-wind.  (ha.)

A wave created by a tail-wind. (ha.)

Next up is the Aberdeen Ironbirds, a popular Maryland-based short-season A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.  The Ironbirds are owned by Cal and Billy Ripken, and the name Ironbirds is a reference to “Ironman” Cal.  The Ironbirds formerly had a cartoonish logo with Cal’s #8 on the wing.  Their new logo is much more…serious.

Fear the bird.  He's made of iron.

Fear the bird. He’s made of iron.  He’s literally an iron bird.

Finally, we have the Eugene Emeralds.  The Ems (as they’re affectionately known) have always had a nice classy brand with a great minor league moniker.  That said, they’ve never really had a logo to speak of.  Their former logos were simply a letter ‘E’ or ‘Ems’ with some stylistic embellishments.  They always looked good, but were lacking something.  Goofiness reigns supreme in the Northwest League, with the Everett AquaSox and the new Hillsboro Hops leading the charge.  So the Emeralds hired a design company that completely reworked their image; changing colors, fonts, and logos.  Their new logos feature our old cryptozoological friend Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch) in a variety of poses wherein he his running while clutching a tree, swinging a tree like a baseball bat, or simply chewing on a tree.  Ah, life is good.

Is he swinging it like a bat or trying to open it like an umbrella?

Is he swinging it like a bat or trying to open it like an umbrella?

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Yes, life is good today here at Sport Change.  Good news all around.  Check back or become a follower of the page to stay updated on some of the great new posts in the hopper.  Thanks for reading.  Leave comments as you leave.

SPORT CHANGE

Sport Change takes a break from Moniker Rankings (NHL coming soon!) to weigh in on two fresh pieces of news.

You can bet that there are some baseball fans in Pennsylvania who are fightin’ mad. Or at least confused.

1.)  As predicted by Chris Creamer, the former Reading Phillies (AA Eastern League affilate of Philadelphia) will now be known as the Reading Fightin’ Phils or Reading Fightins.  Alright.  I like the Fightin’ Phils moniker.  It’s a way to stay connected to the Phillies name, but has much more MiLB spirit than the straight copy of the parent club.  The Reading Phillies were the only Phillies affiliate to share the same name.  Followers of this site may know the Sport Change stance on this.  I think that generally speaking, farm clubs shouldn’t have the same nicknames as parent clubs unless all of the farm clubs of a team share the name–like the Braves and Cardinals nearly accomplish.  Got it?  Of course, things are not nearly that simple.  First of all, the idea of calling a team the ‘Fightins’ is laughable.  Can you really see fans following that lead?  My guess is that most of them will call them the ‘Phils.’  Now to discuss the perplexing conundrum that is the Fightin’s’ branding materials.  Their new primary logo is an ostrich.  This is an inside reference to the Phils’ mascot, some dude who rides an ostrich puppet around the field and hurls hotdogs into the stands.  Just let that sink in for a moment.

……….uh………..

To make matters even more complicated, the Phils (I’m not calling them the Fightins) have an alter ego.  That identity is simply known as Baseballtown  and that logo features a fierce, baseball bat-wielding hotdog who is squirting yellow mustard into the shape of letters.  All in all, the Fightin’ Phils now have SEVEN different cap designs and one huge identity crisis.  This is ridiculous.  Calling a team the Fightins and having an ostrich logo is brazen enough.  The hotdog thing just puts this over the top.  Rather than opening this can of worms all at once, why didn’t Reading release each concept one by one.  Now, us MiLB fans have to digest this brave new brand all at once.  It’s like a meal of ostrich burgers with a side of hotdogs, and when you’re done…..all you feel like doing is fightin.’

Seven logos. Now that makes sense.

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2. In other news, rumors are swirling that Maryland and/or Rutgers could be joining the Big Ten.  If they do, that’s it.  No more Big 10.  If the decision is made to sacrifice history and identity in favor of dollars, it is inexcusable.  If the masterminds behind college football are hellbent on treating the NCAA like a pro league, then why not cherry pick 30 of the top teams in the country, divide them into East and West, and have them duke it out like a minor league NFL.  You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  What’ll it be?  History or money?

Trying to preserve historic legacy and generate maximum profits is two-faced and untenable. If the Big Ten adds Maryland and Rutgers, they’ll be choosing the latter.

That’s all for today’s Sport Change news update.  Stay alert for more moniker rankings punctuated by the occasional newsflash.  Thanks for reading.  Leave comments.

SPORT CHANGE

Breaking News:  The AAA-level Yankees affiliate based in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania just announced the results of their name the team contest.  The newest nickname in Minor League Baseball is…the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.  (sigh)

Wow.   Wowed by mediocrity.

 

Railing Against the Riders

Followers of Sport Change may remember a post on this topic back in August.  S/W-B had announced a name the team contest, and gave six options: Blast, Black Diamond Bears, Fireflies, RailRiders, Porcupines, and Trolley Frogs.  In that post each nickname option was analyzed using specified criteria and then ranked.  The rankings went, from best to worst: Trolley Frogs, Fireflies, Porcupines, RailRiders, Black Diamond Bears, and Blast.  In these rankings, RailRiders was fourth of six, and was certainly the most bland, mediocre, generic of the pack.  As such, the S/W-B fans voted it right in.  Here’s the Sport Change description of the RailRiders option from that post:

RailRiders.  That is about as mediocre of a nickname that they could come up with.  You can’t fling a jockstrap in America without it hitting a MiLB team with a similar name.  In PA, there’s already a railroad nickname: the Altoona Curve.  RailRiders reminds me of a mashup of two Rangers affiliates: the RoughRiders and the Round Rock Express.

So it’s not that it’s a terrible nickname (like Blast) but it’s not inspiring or interesting in any tangible way.  Let’s assess what we can from the logo spread:

-It’s no surprise that the lengthy Scranton/Wilkes-Barre place name is still attached.  That was never a part of the contest, though it should have been.  With a longer double name like RailRiders, this is the second most long-winded nickname in the minors; only behind the cheeky Angels affiliated Inland Empire Sixty-Sixers of San Bernardino.

The S/W-B RRs are the second most annoying-to-type nickname in the Minors.

 

-RailRiders is not only a generic train (trolley?) related name, it has the always-annoying two word, double-caps fusion effect that is far too common in the minors.  Why not Railriders?  Or Rail Riders?

-Moving on to the logo….wow.  I knew it was porcupine instantly due to the fact that Porcupines was a contest choice, but that animal could also pass for a ground sloth, gerbil, muskrat or any number of common rodents and prehistoric megafauna.  It’s a bit bizarre that another contest option was co-opted into the new moniker.  Why not just be the Porcupines?

-I’ll quit railing for a second to see what is redemptive here.  The color scheme is nice, the script in the logo looks good, and at least the name doesn’t stand out as being terrible.  Bland nicknames are common in AAA, and as the level closest to the Majors, the name shouldn’t be too far out.

The RailRider porcupine doing his (her?) best Janet Jackson impersonation here.

 

What Could Have Been

I’m shocked that Trolley Frogs didn’t win.  It’s instantly fun, if a little corny.  A trolley frog is part of a trolley track mechanical system, and Scranton is apparently famous for trolleys.  The Everett AquaSox have largely moved away from their old tree frog logo, and it would be fair game.  Many other fansites I came across were also in favor of the nickname, and even the local paper in Scranton endorsed the T-Frogs.

Fireflies could’ve also been an excellent and unique name.  Imagine twilight blue or black jerseys with glow-in-the-dark graphics.  Yes, glow-in-the-dark is tacky, but a name like Fireflies really justifies it.  The logo could’ve been a cute looking fly catching a pop fly or something to that effect.

Suffice it to say: I’m disappointed, but not outraged.  This nickname is just OK, and will quickly fade into the MiLB background.

In other MiLB moniker news, the Reading Phillies will be announcing their new name change very soon, so stay tuned.  Rumor has it that the two possibilities are the Reading Fightin’ Phils and the Reading Railroaders.  You know what would be better than Railroaders?  The Reading RailRiders!  Oh, wait….

SPORT CHANGE

As previously reported and explored by Sport Change, the Northwest League’s Yakima Bears have relocated to Hillsboro, Oregon.  The team just announced their new moniker and unveiled a new logo.  The Hillsboro Hops.  Brilliant!

Meet the next terrific MiLB brand.

Denizens of Hillsboro, denizens of Portand, denizens of Oregon, and denizens of the whole damn U S of A should be pleased that a good brand was achieved.  Let’s dissect it:

MONIKER: Spectacular.  If you’re still scratching your head, this is a reference to hops (humulus lupulus) the medicinal herb used that gives beer it’s distinct floral bitterness.  This is a great name for several reasons:

1.) Food/drink related MiLB brands are terrific.  The Hops share the table with the Modesto Nuts, Montgomery Biscuits, Cedar Rapids Kernels, and Jamestown Jammers.

2.) It’s alliterative!

3.) It’s regionally relevant.  Nearly all the hops grown in America come from the Pacific Northwest.  Additionally, the Portland area is renowned for microbreweries.

4.) Opens up MiLB to a whole new demographic: hipsters!  If they’ll shell out for designer skinny jeans and fancy hoops for their earlobes, watch them fork over for Hops hats.

5.) It’s fun and goofy.  Nothing like getting small children excited about beer.  Alright, so there’s maybe one drawback.

LOGO: Sublime.  That little hop cone is instantly lovable.  He reminds me of the Lansing Lugnut and the Modesto walnut.  I love how the ears are little leaves.  It would be great if their cap logo is just the hop cone guy and nothing else.

COLORS: Perfect.  I used to live in the PNW, and always thought that the theme colors of the area are bright green (mossy forests), blue (ocean and sounds), and grey (sky).  Without even knowing where Hillsboro is, you could probably guess that the Hops play in the Pacific Northwest.

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Nuts about the Hops

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Good for Hillsboro!  I was very concerned a few months ago that they would hold a name-the-team contest and choose a crappy nickname.  In that post, I analyzed all the names that were suggested by the Hillsboro online newspaper.  Hops wasn’t listed, but if it were I would’ve likely ranked it second.  I still like Hedgehogs better, but am very pleasantly surprised by the Hops.

I am so stoked that Minor League baseball added such a terrific new brand.  The Hops are easily in the top fifty best brands in all the minors, and may be even in the top 20.  Hats off!  When the Moniker Monitor casts it’s gaze toward ranking all monikers in MiLB, it will be fun to see where the Hops land.  Until then, I’ll probably be ignoring Minor League Baseball.  Until Scranton/Wilkes-Barre decides on a name, that is….

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SPORT CHANGE