September 27, 2022

An Open Letter to Rob Manfred

August 30, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Louis Sockalexis

Native American, Louis Sockalexis

Dear Mr. Manfred:

I’m sure you are gratified by the decision of the erstwhile Cleveland Indians to rebrand themselves the Cleveland Guardians. At the same time, I’m sure you are disappointed that the Atlanta Braves stood pat, so the winds of change are batting .500. The focus on Native American nicknames, however, has deflected a lot of attention from other nicknames that are also insensitive, albeit less obvious. In fact, aside from the Cleveland franchise, no team is exempt.

The overriding problem – and not just in baseball – is using animals as nicknames or totems. This is speciesism. Animals cannot speak for themselves so people of conscience must speak for them. True, animals are not people – but some people are animals (e.g., the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium), so in a sense animal rights are human rights.

Commissioner, we can do better. To that end, I humbly submit my recommendations for nickname changes of major league franchises.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

Baltimore Orioles – At first, this might appear to be a textbook example of speciesism. But there is a more nuanced interpretation of this nickname. The word Oreo is a cognate of Oriole. Oreo is a pejorative term for a person who is African-American on the outside but whose behavior reflects European-American mores. More progressive alternatives are available. For example, how about the Baltimore Waters?  This nickname evokes the name of LGBTQ filmmaker John Waters, a native of Baltimore. Since the city sits on the Chesapeake Bay, the nickname Waters is particularly apt. An alternative is the Baltimore Divines in honor of the famed drag star Divine (Glenn Milstead), the trans icon who appeared in so many of John Waters’ films.

Boston Red Sox – This is not a bad nickname, and it is certainly better than the previous nickname of Pilgrims, which reeks of colonialism and insults the memory of the indigenous people in what we now call New England. A better nickname would be one used by the old National League franchise; namely, the Beaneaters. One could hardly come up with a more vegan-friendly nickname. It encourages fans to explore the benefits of a plant-based diet.

New York Yankees – If you think this nickname is a slap in the face to the hard-line old-timers in the former Confederate states, you ain’t just whistling Dixie!  In that regard, it should be a nickname beloved by all progressives. Unfortunately, the name also reeks of imperialism. How many third world countries have felt the sting of Yankee bombs and bombast?  The chant “Yankee go home” didn’t start at Fenway Park (though “Yankees suck” probably did). So we tentatively offer this alternative: the New York Crush, an apt appellation for the Bronx Bombers, and one that also evokes the multicultural throngs at Grand Central Station at rush hour or Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Tampa Bay Rays – This semi-enlightened franchise changed its nickname from Devil Rays to Rays in 2008. The sunburst logo on their uniforms is a fitting tribute to the potential of solar energy. Unfortunately, while speciesism has abated, it has not gone away. The franchise continues to offer the Rays Touch Experience, which doubtless causes severe stress to the resident rays in the touch tank. Clearly, there is no happy ending for the captives in this massage parlor. Setting them free and clarifying the team’s image by changing the nickname to Sunrays would be a big step forward.

Toronto Blue Jays – Yet another example of speciesism. The old International League Toronto franchise used to be known as the Maple Leafs. This name is now in use by the local National Hockey League franchise, but it never hurts to remind Canadians that trees are a renewable resource!  So how about re-naming the Blue Jays the Maple Syrup?  Pretty sweet, eh?

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox – The white privilege in this nickname is all too obvious. Sox come in a rainbow of colors and it is wrong to exclude any of them. Black Sox is also problematical, so the solution is to incite a color revolution with the Chicago Rainbow Sox.

Cleveland Guardians –The new nickname deserves a gold star as it not only dumps the old Indians nickname on the ash heap of baseball history, it reminds fans of The Guardian, the most progressive newspaper in the world!  There is still work to be done in Great Britain, however, as the Red Devils is a popular nickname for Manchester United. Talk about a renegade nickname!

Detroit Tigers – This is a particularly egregious example of speciesism, as the various subspecies of tigers are all on the endangered list. Detroit is renowned for its automotive industry, but it would certainly be wrong to employ a nickname (e.g., the NBA Pistons) that evokes the internal combustion engine during our transition to electric vehicles. At first blush, the Detroit Juice sounds like a winner, but that word carries too much baggage from baseball’s steroid era. Chargers is already in use in the NFL, so perhaps the Volts, the Watts, or Amps, or more cleverly, the Voltage , Wattage, or Amperage, would work. The ideal would be the Ohms, a measure of electrical resistance, which calls to mind the worldwide resistance to fascism.

Kansas City Royals – This is clearly an elitist nickname, enthroning connotations of inborn privilege . Kansas City Kommoners has an alliterative, egalitarian ring to it. Thus the fan base would not be Kommoners Nation but the Kommonwealth.

Minnesota Twins – This nickname is a reference to Minneapolis and St. Paul, who gave the metro area the Twin Cities nickname. Indeed, they are the two biggest cities in the area but Twins is not inclusive enough. What about Bloomington?  St. Louis Park?  Edina?   Minnetonka?  Brooklyn Park?  Richfield?  And let’s not forget Apple Valley!  Stopping at nine is reasonably inclusive, as that’s as far we can go with single digits. Also, the most live births ever recorded at one time happened in Mali. The nonuplets were born there on May 4, 2022. Hence the Minnesota Nonuplets, a tribute not just to the tapestry of municipalities in the metro area but a multicultural nod to a marginalized African country.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

Houston Astros – Houston, we have a problem with your nickname. To be sure, Astros is nowhere near as problematic as Colt .45s., but this is damning with faint praise. Given the presence of NASA, it is understandable that such a nickname would take hold, but it is shameless cheerleading for a government agency that wastes billions on outer space when our needs here on planet earth go unmet. Also, Houston is renowned for its urban sprawl (637.4 square miles – perhaps another reason Houston is known as Space City) in all directions (memorably, one writer likened Houston’s growth to that of a carpet stain). Houston, of course, is the team that introduced artificial surfaces (i.e., Astroturf) to professional baseball. Given the nonstop migration of Yankees to Houston, how about the Houston Carpetbaggers?

Los Angeles Angels – This nickname is offensive to women because men have been known to use it as a sexist term of endearment (most egregiously by Humphrey Bogart in reference to his secretary in The Maltese Falcon). Just as important, the name is a huge turnoff to pagans, Satanists, atheists or anyone who does not follow one of the Abrahamic religions. For that reason, the Los Angeles Agnostics is a suitable alternative – and one that maintains the alliteration!  Of course, the name of the city itself is problematic, but that is for the citizens of the City and County of Los Angeles to rectify.

Oakland Athletics – This nickname offends the uncoordinated, non-athletic members of the East Bay community, hurting the feelings of people who haven’t a prayer of attaining the elite status of professional athletes. The Oakland Non-Athletics would hardly be appropriate for highly paid professionals, however. For that reason, the Oakland Intramurals might be a good alternative to honor all the A’s fans who have never gotten more than a participation trophy.

Seattle Mariners – At first blush, this might seem a benign nickname, but overfishing is a severe problem globally. Also, the shipping industry has played a part in environmental degradation by importing, albeit unintentionally, alien species to new habitats and disrupting ecosystems. But there is an alternative. Seattle and coffee are intertwined. Social justice also plays a major role in the Emerald City. So the ideal nickname would be the Seattle Fair Trade Coffee.  As an added bonus, T-Mobile Park would thenceforth be known as the Coffee Grounds.

Texas Rangers – In an era when defunding the police is trending, it is highly inappropriate to employ a nickname that honors law enforcement. Today the Rangers are part of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Now I don’t think the Texas DPS would be a good team name, but the Texas Safety Patrol is a less toxic nickname worthy of your consideration.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Atlanta Braves – The Braves have refused to change their nickname, so when the All-Star Game was ripped out of their grasp in 2021, it served them right. Lest we forget, the Braves used to employ a mascot with the hideous name of Chief Noc-a-Homa. It was horribly stereotypical but thankfully he has been retired. As the saying goes, the only good stereotype is a dead stereotype. If Atlanta management ever sees the light, other nicknames are out there. The Atlanta Peaches promotes a plant-based diet but it stirs up memories of Ty Cobb, nicknamed Peach, who reeked of toxic masculinity. The nickname Peachtrees is slightly better, but that name suffers from overuse in Atlanta. For that reason, we offer this variation: the Atlanta Peachy Keens!

Miami Marlins –Perhaps one day the team’s nickname will no longer honor the barbaric practice of putting stuffed, dead fish on display as sports trophies. Keeping in mind the swath of coral reefs that parallel the South Florida coastline and the drug smuggling that takes place there, the Miami Reefers would surely be a bang-up nickname.

New York Mets – A shortened version of Metropolitans, this nickname is probably the least offensive of any currently in use. Given the NY metro population (almost 20,000,000), it is certainly appropriate. That doesn’t mean it can’t be bettered. As a tribute to Gotham’s gender-fluid community, the New York Metrosexuals would be a decided upgrade.

Philadelphia Phillies – Since fillies is sometimes an offensive reference to young females, the cognate Phillies is problematic. Given the city’s history, there are any number of alternatives available, but so much of that history deals with dead white males. So let’s suggest something more appropriate and contemporary: the Main Liners. At first blush, that might sound like a tribute to the elitist suburbs northwest of Philly, but it would actually be a tribute to the city’s burgeoning number of drug users.

Washington Nationals – Nationalism is an offensive, outdated ideology that has no place in today’s world; so the nickname Nats has to go. Nevertheless, it is possible to retain the nickname phonetically without the stigma. Since Washington, D.C. is often referred to as the Swamp or Foggy Bottom, the Washington Gnats would certainly be appropriate.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

Cincinnati Reds – In the 1953 the association of Reds with communism was so strong that the nickname was temporarily changed to Redlegs. Today the color red is interwoven with right-wingers, Republicans, and fascists. The detour around this thorny problem is to be more inclusive: color-wise. To that end, how about the Cincinnati Rainbow Coalition?   After all, Cincinnati is informally known as the Queen City.

Chicago Cubs – Though the young of various animal species are referred to as cubs, the Chicago National League franchise has narrowed it down to bears. Whatever, the totemic exploitation of animals is inexcusable… indigenous people aside, of course. There is no need to do so anyway, as the Windy City offers an ideal opportunity to promote clean energy: consider the Chicago Wind Turbines.

Milwaukee Brewers – Granted, the nickname honors one of the city’s major industries, but it also could trigger recovering alcoholics and result in relapses. Healthy Suggestion: Milwaukee Brewers Yeast. This commodity, available in health food stores everywhere, is renowned as a rich source of B vitamins, as a probiotic, and for its salubrious effects on balancing blood sugar. Definitely a healthier choice when it comes to nicknames.

Pittsburgh Pirates – This name is inexcusable because it evokes cutthroat capitalism. Similar nicknames, such as freebooters and privateers, are also redolent of greed.  So why not do an about-face and pay tribute to labor instead of capital?  As the locale for the notorious 1892 Homestead Steel strike, the obvious answer is to rebrand the team the Pittsburgh Strikers. Rather than Strikers Nation, the fan base could be called the Picket Line.

St. Louis Cardinals – Speciesism aside, this nickname is a thorny one as it evokes images of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and could be interpreted as an endorsement of same. Of course, the city is named after a saint, which only complicates matters. In fact, there are rumors that the Gateway Arch has inspired local Catholics to petition the team to change its nickname to the Arch Bishops. Obviously, this is would only make matters worse, but there is a secular solution. In keeping with the promotion of plant-based diets, and as a nod to native son Chuck Berry, how about the St. Louis Berries?

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

Arizona Diamondbacks – This is an example of speciesism at its worst. Through some sort of serpentine logic, the franchise is equating athletic potency with the supposedly lethal nature of rattlesnakes, reptiles that have been defamed by humans for millennia. The wanton slaughter of rattlesnakes, not to mention the hideous rattlesnake roundups held in western states, demeans the dignity of the species. A lesser issue is that the name Diamondbacks evokes the hideous working conditions in the diamond mines of South Africa. There is no need to stick with this abominable nickname given the availability of an apt alternative, one that pays tribute to sustainable energy. Arizona’s abundant sunshine means that the Arizona Solar Panels would be the ideal nickname!

Colorado Rockies – To some people the Rockies equate to purple mountain majesties; to others it means various types of mines (coal, gold, silver, zinc, copper, lead), which have despoiled the landscape for decades. For that reason, I suggest eschewing the Rockies and going for equity: after three decades of the Rockies nickname, I say it is high time to provide equal time to Rocky’s partner: ladies, gentlemen, and those of you somewhere in-between, I present the Colorado Bullwinkles.

Los Angeles Dodgers – As most seamheads know, this nickname arose in Brooklyn as a shorter version of Trolley Dodgers, inspired by the borough’s numerous trolley lines and the hazard they posed for pedestrians. Today, however, the name evokes the game of dodgeball, once ubiquitous on playgrounds across America. In our more enlightened times, however, numerous school districts have banned it, as it favors strongarm tactics and could be gateway behavior to bullying. So I suggest a kinder, gentler nickname: the Los Angeles Mr. Rogers

San Diego Padres – As is the case with the Cardinals, this nickname is linked to Catholicism. Even worse, it evokes the exploitation of indigenous Americans at hands of the padres of old. It might be tempting to promote equity by changing the nickname to Madres, but there is a better way. In a city with 70 miles of coastline, the San Diego Sea Levels would be a fitting reminder of the hazards of global warming, melting icecaps, and deep-fried polar bears.

San Francisco Giants – Psychological studies have shown that people perceive taller people as more competent. Given that inclination, it is incumbent upon Major League Baseball to combat sizeism in all its manifestations, including team nicknames. This does not mean the Giants should become the Midgets (whoops, I mean Little Persons). Given that the average height for American males is 5’9”, how about the San Francisco 59ers?  It not only strikes a blow against sizeism, it beautifully complements the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.

So, Commissioner, I hope you will take these recommendations to heart. I realize that team owners may be reluctant if not recalcitrant when it comes to  rebranding their franchises. Given that likelihood, you may have to exercise the power of your office to effect regime change.

I hasten to add that the benefits of changing nicknames go beyond doing the right thing. If every MLB team changes its nickname, fans will line up at team shops to purchase new T-shirts, caps, pennants, and souvenirs. The revenue stream for all 30 teams will be at floodtide!

I thought that would get your attention!

Very Truly Yours,

Frank Jackson

/fj

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