Question: What Do We Call the Team This Day? (National League)

Almost any team name would be better than what Atlanta has now. (via David Berkowitz)

 

What if you had one day, and one day only, to name a big league team?

And for that one day, and that day only, the team would bear that name?

Some time ago, while hopped up on discount anesthesia from a cut-rate dentist, I wrote a piece with this title: Question: What Would We Name the Team Today? In response, some readers offered to perform free dental work on my own personal mouth and without the benefit of said anesthesia. But maybe — just maybe! — those otherwise level-headed fans were outraged because I had pinned a permanent name on the team that wears their preferred laundry. But what if it weren’t permanent? What if it had the lifespan of the average mayfly, which, as you’ll recall from the assigned reading, is the arthropodal equivalent of a one-day pass to SeaWorld? What if, as suggested Monday, Houston’s much-scorned team could be the Ashtrays; just 24 hours and then we butt out.

***

West Division

Arizona Diamondbacks

In every sport, there’s a team I forget exists.

In football, it’s the Jaguars. Upon being reminded they do exist and, secondly, they represent Jacksonville, I ask how the Canadian Football League can field a team so far south.

In basketball, it’s the Kings. I’m sorry, your highness. I just don’t see you living in Midtown Sacramento. In hockey, it’s…every team. I don’t pay attention to hockey because I don’t understand how grown men skate on frozen tap water, especially backward, so I think it’s an illusion jointly perpetrated by the Houston Ashtrays and the Boston Astros. I am serious.

In baseball, it’s the D-Backs. I realize they won a World Series and remain among the league leaders in air-conditioning, but if I go to a pub quiz and am asked to name every team in the NL West, it’s the D-backs I draw a blank on.

Here’s a solution: the Arizona Mnemonics.

Never forget.

Los Angeles Dodgers

At this point, the Dodgers are pretty much the puppies in those ASPCA commercials voiced by Sarah McLachlan. At the moment they appear onscreen, you start weeping and begin taking measures to adopt Enrique Hernandez and Walker Buehler.

It’s a tragedy, really, that the team from Chavez Ravine got jobbed out of two October trophies. The Houston Ashtrays and Boston Astros should at least offer to clean Max Muncy’s pen and take Corey Seager for a walk. If you want to anthropomorphize the players again, if you want to restore them from dogs to Dodgers, begin by applying a Wittgensteinian construct to the exercise. Said Ludwig, “We name things and then we can talk about them.”

Question is, name them what?

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

The Victims? The Casualties of an Unjust War?

The Sacrificial Lambs? The Patsies?

Nope. Call ’em the Puppies In That @$&!$ Commercial, You Know The One.

San Francisco Giants

I wanted to call ’em the Snot Rockets.

Sounds great, does it not? The San Francisco Snot Rockets.

But then Madison Bumgarner, the Snot Rocketeer, went and signed a free-agent contract with the Mnemonics. I mean, the Diamondbacks. And now the squad from San Francisco is without its would-be namesake, the man who made mucus delivery a nostrilized artform of Pollockian scale.

So…what now?

With MadBum out of the picture, we could still honor M-initialed Giants of yore by calling them the McGraws, the Mathewsons, the McCoveys, the McGanns, the Mancusos, the Mel Otts or, less flowingly, the Mayses.

But forget the M and embrace the D, just as I forgot the Mnemonics and embraced the Diamondbacks. No. Wait. Wasn’t it the other way around?

Anyway, for a day, I give you the Dirty Jack Doyles. Snot rockets leave stubborn stains.

San Diego Padres

I used to live in San Diego. More specifically, I lived in La Jolla.

Mind you, I didn’t live in Deepak Chopra’s La Jolla.

He lived in the salad-fork La Jolla, the soup-spoon La Jolla.

I lived in the spork La Jolla.

What I most remember is that the team, at times, seemed incidental. The ballyard was smack-dab in the Gaslamp Quarter, meaning if you preferred a killer Tuesday-night special to another dollop of Padres baseball, you could skip from the fifth and get yourself a mojito. From the park you could see the Pacific. Nobody could fault you for using the seventh-inning stretch to stretch on down to the yellow sands of Mission Beach.

I’m callin’ ’em like I see ’em, or saw ’em.

For one long summer day, they’re the Secondary Concerns.

Colorado Rockies

I once went to a Rockies game in the Mile High City, and let me tell you what: I saw one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on a big league field, a blooper of slow-mo proportions. A Rockies batter stroked a sharp line drive to an outfield gap. The ball exploited the Mile High air and soared all the way to the wall. The batter rounded first. He rounded second. As the outfielder heaved the ball toward the infield, the batter rounded third.

It was at this point, in the insufficient air of mile-high Denver, he began to fade. En route to what might have been an inside-the-park home run, this guy was done. He was about halfway down the line when he started to look like one of those Ironman guys who crosses the finish line on his face. He stumbled, staggered and finally kerplunked into the catcher’s mitt for a long-awaited out. I think the catcher checked his bank balance while he waited. Then the runner just lay there, on his back, panting, his triple secure but his air intake precarious. The man’s oxygen debt resembled Venezuela’s actual debt: dangerous, is what I am trying to say.

In the wake of that Mile Hi-larious moment, I want to call the team — wait for it — Wheezer. It would be my one nonplural name, like the Chicago Fire of the 1974 World Football League. But I fear a lawsuit from the band Weezer.

If you want to destroy my story, hold this narrative thread as I walk away.

So, how about the Pulmonary Function Tests?

The Lactate Metabolizers? The Anaerobics?

I have a better idea: the Mouth Breathers.

Central Division

Milwaukee Brewers

I like beer.

One reason I like beer is because it tastes like beer.

The other reason I like beer is it feels like beer.

I don’t mean beer feels wet, and then, when dry, beer feels sticky. I mean a couple of cold ones can provide the soothing effect of discount anesthesia without all the messy side effects such as telling pigeons your favorite color is beef bolognese. But one thing I noticed, and your mileage may vary on this, is whenever I have a little too much of the brewers’ brew, I rarely rise at 4 a.m. to do one-armed push-ups in the rain.

Then again, once you’ve gone one beer over the line, a wee hangover might be the best of all possible outcomes. Example: In the off chance you go a bit overboard, you might stumble into a late-night Taco Bell and choke down seven Quesaritos and one Cheesy Gordita Crunch; immediately vomit onto an old man’s toupee; attempt to clean the toupee by running the Roomba over it; try to pry the vomit-covered hairpiece from the rotating brushes but lose balance and fall backward into a vat of refried beans; extract yourself from the refried beans but fall forward into the nacho cheese; extract yourself from the nacho cheese but trip over the Roomba and stumble sideways into the trashcan beside the diaper-changing station in the women’s restroom; get hit over the head with a purse; stagger out with a used diaper stuck to each bean-and-cheese-covered cheek and return to the cash register to order seven Quesaritos and one Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

What do you call it? The Aristocrats!

St. Louis Cardinals

When a team called The Aristocrats! is playing just 376 miles up the road, it might be hard for a St. Louis player to feel special, let alone aristocratic. Our job, then, is to make the players formerly known as the Cardinals feel not only special but — dare we say — dignified. Let us begin by recognizing the obvious: The St. Louis team, like the Milwaukee team, plays in a park named for a big domestic brewer. Up north it’s Miller, and down south it’s Busch.

But let’s be honest. When going for “dignified,” you don’t think beer and you definitely don’t think mass-market domestic beer. Calling Bud Light dignified is like calling corn dogs dignified. It’s like calling buffalo wings distinguished.

These days, the descriptor “dignified” is most often associated with intelligent, accomplished gentlemen who boast gray temples. It helps quite a lot if they are not named Cletus. It helps quite a lot more if they are British. Bonus points go to those conferred a knighthood.

Ladies and gentlemen…the St. Louis Sir Andrew Lloyd Webbers.

Chicago Cubs

It’s hard, if not impossible, to be a lovable winner. Just ask the Yankees. They’ve won 27 titles and currently rank No. 1 in Hate Mail Above Replacement.

Conversely, the Cubs served an uninterrupted term as baseball’s Lovable Losers until they went and ruined it all by winning the 2016 Fall Classic. No longer the warm ’n cuddly Cubbies, they’re now just another big-market team with bottomless pockets and limitless reach. Their enormous fan base often turns out-of-town stadiums into home-away-from-home stadiums and does so without apology. I once went to a Cubs-Braves playoff game in Atlanta, and the whole place had a Chicago accent and Mike Ditka vibe.

Oh, and somehow, it smelled of deep-dish pizza and corrupt politicians.

The problem for the Cubs is this: Though no longer lovable, they’re not nearly as hateable as the New York incumbents or the Houston arrivistes. Indeed, when it comes to being deplorable, the Yanks have laid claim to the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Ashtrays to the Best New Public Enemy No. 1.

So, where does that leave the Cubbies?

It leaves them with your choice of a less cuddly animal.

The nominees are:

– Spiny Lumpsucker

– Pleasing Fungus Beetle

– Pink Fairy Armadillo

– Tasselled Wobbegong

– Blobfish

My choice? For one day, North Siders will sing Go, Blobfish, Go!

Pittsburgh Pirates

When the Pirates last won the World Series, it wasn’t We Are Pink Fairy Armadillos booming from the speakers. It was We Are Family. Not only did it reach No. 1 on the ’79 Billboard dance club charts, it galvanized the Willie Stargell-led Pirates and sent their fan base dancing in the Steel City streets.

In efforts to reach the World Series for the first time in four decades, the Pirates just might embrace a ’79 redux. For that one day, and that one day only, they could blast any number of songs from that one year. ABBA’s I Have a Dream would be a good one. Little River’s Band’s Lonesome Loser would not. Blondie’s One Way or Another and Judas Priest’s Take on the World would give the small-market, underdog Bucs a chip-on-the-shoulder soundtrack. And GQ’s Make My Dreams a Reality could really seal the deal.

Still, my money’s on Nami Nori Pirates by the Japanese duo Pink Lady. Translated into English, the title means Surfing Pirates. Like the Pirates hope to become, the lyrics are unbeatable.

Even a wave like a devil
Manages without a rein.

So, what do we call them? The Nami Nori Pirates, of course.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds, like the Bucs, were a stalwart of 1970s baseball.

So ’70s were they, so utterly synonymous with the decade, they could have inspired an animated cop show starring Karl Malden as Johnny Bench, Jack Klugman as Pete Rose and Richard Roundtree as Joe “Little General” Morgan.

The Big Red Machine would have bumped Fat Albert from the top spot, that’s for sure. When Joe Morgan is driving a Ford Torino through the mean streets of Cincinnati and Johnny Bench is firing baseballs from the passenger window, the average criminal is gonna give up. “Pete, read him his rights!”

As it stands, The Big Red Machine is merely the nickname of those ’70s Reds. In that 10-year stretch, they won four pennants and two World Series. And then — poof! — the nickname pretty much vanished. Unlike the Bombers, Bucs, Redbirds, Friars and Tribe, the Big Red Machine is a thing of the past.

Historically speaking, Cincy’s coolest nominal artifact is this: From 1954 through 1958, they actually changed their name from Reds to Redlegs. Why? Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare had Americans seeing Pinko Commies behind every locker room door.

So, as a one-day tribute to mass hysteria, let’s call ’em the Comrades.

Would you prefer Trotskyites?

East Division

Atlanta Braves

The Braves are baseball’s oldest franchise.

How old are they?

They’re so old that in their inaugural season of 1871, in the now-defunct National Association, closer Fernando Rodney earned Super Two status.

Okay, that’s not true. Rodney was just a rookie back then.

Equally untrue, at least according to some observers, is the claim the Braves are baseball’s most senior. But they really are. Though in various incarnations, they’ve been running uninterrupted since that Red Stockings campaign of 1871. If you must know, Al Spalding led the ’71 team in WAR while Harry Wright, true to his name, paced the Red Stockings in facial hair.

In honor of their advanced age, what shall we call them?

The Prokaryotes? The Eukaryotes? The Bartolo Colons?

The Mosasaurs? The Plesiosaurs? The Jamie Moyers?

The Cro-Magnons? The Neanderthals? The Julio Francos?

The Satchel Paiges? The Hoyt Wilhelms? The Unicellular Lives?

We could go a different way: the Targeted Demographics.

I can see them now, on a beach, their white linen pants rolled calf-high as they make plans to open a boutique winery in Sonoma.

Nah. Let’s go with the Mall Walkers.

Miami Marlins

Be Kind: Please Rewind.

Go back to 1993.

When the Florida baseball franchise began, it did so on Blockbuster bucks. Owner Wayne Huizenga co-owned the video-rental franchise that would give the world employee picks (Thanks, Gene, for that Jim Jarmusch recommendation!), late-fee refund coupons and waaaaaaaay too many copies of Mrs. Doubtfire.

These days, the Marlins perform only marginally better than Blockbuster stock. Last season, under sideburns aficionado Don Mattingly, the Fish won just 57 games. In Vegas, Caesars Sportsbook puts the over/under on their 2020 wins total at 63.5.

Leave it to the Marlins to win half a game, eh?

By half games or whole, they’re gonna be bad. How bad remains to be seen. So, before we watch, let’s peruse the Blockbuster-era’s most disastrous titles and apply a suitable name to the one-day Fish. We might choose the Ishtars; the Howard The Ducks; the Leonard Part 6s; the Troll 2s; the Showgirls; the Batman & Robins; the Battlefield Earths; the Freddie Got Fingereds (or the alternate name, the Freddies Got Fingered); the Glitters; the Swept Aways; the From Justin To Kellys; the Giglis; the Catwomans; or the Disaster Movies.

Me? I’m going with the Mrs. Doubtfires.

New York Mets

In their six decades of Gotham City existence, the Mets have enjoyed an amazing array of names, nicknames and various and sundry handles: the Metropolitans, the Miracle Mets, the Amazin’s, the Metsies and — little-known until now — Lenny Dykstra’s Temperance Brigade. Of course, of late, the name most frequently applied to the Queens borough nine is the LOLMets.

Alternate spellings include lolmets, LOLmets and LolMets.

They all mean the same thing. Onlookers are LOLing out loud.

Type it into your Google machine and you’ll get more than 30,000 hits. The supporting narratives and everlasting memes are too numerous to mention in this digest, but here are a salient few. The LOLMets traded Marlon Byrd just hours before Marlon Byrd T-Shirt Night; asked a “cougar” website to help vote David Wright to the All-Star Game; saw Lucas Duda get food poisoning from Citi Field’s Shake Shack; saw Mike Pelfrey fall off the mound for a balk; gave rise to the legendary Sad Mets Fan; and still pay Bobby Bonilla more than a million bucks per year. Oh, and Mr. Met once flipped off a fan.

Though it’s tempting to leave it at LOLMets, we must think of something new.

How about ROFLMets? Eh, it’s been done. It gets nearly 4,000 hits.

How about LMAOMets? Nope. It gets nearly 3,000 hits.

Even the Metrololitans gets some Google love.

So, with only slim pickin’s, I’m pickin’ the Metrohowlitans.

Washington Nationals

C’mon. This is too easy.

If Houston’s team is the Ashtrays, Washington’s is the Victory Cigars.

Philadelphia Phillies

Phinally, we come to the Phillies. It’s a great phit.

As great as it is, however, it compares unphavorably to the minor league names that have popped up in recent seasons, namely, the Isotopes, Mud Hens, IronPigs, Chihuahuas, Yard Goats, Biscuits, Rubber Ducks, Flying Squirrels, Blue Wahoos, Lugnuts, Nuts, Jumbo Shrimp, TinCaps, Muckdogs, BabyCakes, AquaSox, Rumble Ponies, RockHounds, Shuckers and Lake Monsters. Left off that list are the two temporary names — the Cherubs and Puffy Tacos.

Speaking of food, how about the Philadelphia Ham Phighters?

Okay, that’s enuph.

So, with the minors as our muse, what do we name this major league team?

Do we name them the Bluegills, Black Crappies, White Crappies, Yellow Perch, Brown Bullheads, Red-Breasted Sunfish, White Sucker Fish, Walleyes, Chain Pickerels,, Muskellunges, Mummichogs, Northern Pikes, American Shads, Shield Darters, Red Salamanders, Bog Turtles, Silver-Haired Bats, Short-Tailed Shrews, Hairy-Tailed Moles, Meadow Jumping Mice, White-Footed Mice, Red Squirrels, Southern Red-Backed Voles, Eastern Chipmunks, Striped Skunks, River Otters, Long-Tailed Weasels, Hoagies, Cheesesteaks, Strombolis, Scrapples or Tastykakes?

Right now, the answer remains a question.

Go ahead, local denizens. Phil in the blank.


John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.
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hombremomento
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New York Fughetta-Bout-Its

Pittsburgh Crackies

Atlanta Big Walls

Miami 5thers

Los Angeles Catchers

Philadelphia Cheesesteaks

San Diego Dads-At-Work

Arizona Heat Warnings

San Francisco Next Years

Washington We-Did-Its

Milwaukee Yelis

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Chicago Ivy’s

Cincinnati Freshies

Colorado Airheads

drewsylvania
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Might as well just skip Houston.

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Jimmie Foxxalorian

The Boston Betts

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Atlanta Crimson Tide Tiger Dawgs