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Baseball Analysis  Mike McCann / Minor Leagues

December 2002


By Mike McCann

I don't know about you, but I am a big fan of The Simpsons. Not only do I watch the new episodes each Sunday night, but I often watch the syndicated rebroadcasts. There was an episode not too long ago where the minor league baseball team on the show, the Springfield Isotopes, was going to move to Albuquerque. The episode contains a good amount of satire on the entire minor league baseball industry, so I really enjoyed it. I also recommend that everyone see this episode even if you aren't a fan of the show normally.

For the 2003 season, the Calgary Cannons are moving to Albuquerque. When they had the name the team contest, guess what they chose to name it... the Isotopes. When I first heard this, I had to laugh. When I told people about this, they wouldn't believe me. An actual minor league team could not use the name of the team on The Simpsons. It just couldn't be true. If I mention something about a minor league team being added in Albuquerque, the most common response I get is somebody saying in a joking voice, "are they going to call the team the Isotopes?" And when I answer yes, people burst out laughing.

There has been a bit of debate over this name though. The baseball traditionalists hate the name. The teams in Albuquerque have almost always been called the Dukes. Albuquerque is known as the Duke City, so it only makes sense. But the marketing people rarely seem to follow tradition. They only care about what will sell the most merchandise and bringing people out to the stadium. Even if it means naming the team after a fictional minor league team on a popular animated television show which got its name from the fictional nuclear power plant.

Personally, I think it is an excellent name. I just hope that people remember the origin of the name for years to come. But most likely, after the merchandise sales start to lag, the name will be changed to something else. And if I were a betting man, I would think that the name would become the Dukes. The owners of the Portland Beavers franchise currently own the rights to the Dukes name, but I'm sure Albuquerque could get it back. Hmmmm... Portland Beavers, they didn't stray from tradition there.

A few years ago when Sacramento got its team, I thought that they would also take the traditional route and name the team the Solons. The Sacramento Solons were members of the Pacific Coast League for many years. But instead, they chose to name the River Cats. In my opinion, one of the worst possible names. I guess they combined the Quad City River Bandits, Charleston RiverDogs, New Britain Rock Cats, Michigan Battle Cats, Carolina Mudcats, and Charleston Alley Cats into one name. Or maybe it's just easier to do a cat logo than a solon logo. (I looked it up, a solon is a wise lawgiver or legislator.) Personally, I like to see a good combination of tradition and originality with team names. So if there is ever a team in Selma, Alabama not named the Cloverleafs, I will be greatly saddened.

Now if things are taken too far, you end up with the new name for the San Bernardino franchise, the Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino. Terrible in my opinion. Maybe I should write up some rules for minor league team names and send the out to each team. Team names should always follow the city name then nickname pattern. None of this Mighty Ducks of Anaheim stuff. Wait, that's probably where they got the idea from. Nicknames should always be one or two syllables. We can make an exception for three or four if the name can be shortened easily, for instance, calling the Norwich Navigators, the Gators. Team names should try to capture something about the city where the team is playing. Some names have some pretty interesting stories behind them. Although I'd like to hear the story behind the Americus Pallbearers sometime.

To make things easier on everyone, I will refer to the team as the San Bernardino 66ers. I know that the city is in the Inland Empire area, and historic Route 66 goes right through there, but I definitely prefer the San Bernardino Stampede. I'm sure this is being done to drive up merchandise sales, but I can barely fit the name of the team on the page.

The team name does have an impact on how much money the team will bring in, so it must be chosen carefully. If the fans don't like the name, or colors, or logo, then the team won't sell as much merchandise which means the team is bringing in less money. The folks in Albuquerque really hit it big with this one because the name is so talked about the people will have the team in their head and people will want to buy merchandise. All because a popular television wanted to move its team to Albuquerque.

I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an email and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.

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