For the past 25 years, the Mets’ AA team has called Binghamton, NY its home. Over the past 10 or so years, and despite winning a league championship in 2014, the Binghamton Mets’ attendance has been declining, often ending up down at or near the bottom of the Eastern League in average attendance.
Because of that, I wasn’t surprised early in 2014 when rumors surfaced that a deal had been worked out to move the franchise to Wilmington, Delaware (as well as moving the A-ball Wilmington Blue Rocks to Kinston, NC). At the time I would’ve bet you a blaster or two that the Mets AA team would be in Delaware for 2016. Without getting into the legal details, the deal fell through.
The B-Mets did eventually get sold to another group whoare working to making baseball succeed in Binghamton. Even though the player development agreement with the Mets has been extended through the 2020 season, the team wants to jettison the “Mets” name for something with more local significance. As the old ownership tarnished the team’s reputation by repeatedly denying the team was for sale when it became quite apparent that it was, I can’t blame the new owners for doing everything they can to distance themselves from the prior bunch and get some publicity in the process.
Now before I get into the six name candidates announced for the team, I want to point out that naming the team has a lot more significance than just what shows up on the scoreboard and the player’s chests.
Merchandising can have a profound effect on a team’s bottom line, especially when the name and/or logo appeal to people outside of the area. I’ve got an Albuquerque Isotopes shirt and hat, despite the fact that I live 2000 miles from Albuquerque, have never been to New Mexico and have no fondness for the current or prior parent club… I just think it’s an awesome name and logo.
It can also be important to have a team name which appeal to kids (and the parents of kids). There are a number of youth baseball leagues who use minor league team names and logos because it’s more cost-effective than using the Major League equivalents. I’ve seen T-Ball players in my area wearing the logos of minor league teams from around the country (Muckdogs, Volcanoes, Sand Gnats, etc.)
Naming a team also has some trademarking challenges. One of the steps in a “name the team” contest is always checking trademarks to make sure that none get infringed, or even tread somewhat within the vicinity. I don’t know this for sure, but I would imagine that if one decided to call a minor league the Vikings, you’d get a call from the Minnesota Vikings’ lawyers. Even if the football team doesn’t have a case, is that a fight you even want to get into? Again, this is non-legally based conjecture on behalf of a blogger who knows nothing about nothing (and is willing to admit it).
One last factor that I’ll bring up is the promotional aspect… A good branding company and front office can use the team name as a jumping-off point for many things, including ballpark food items, between-innings entertainment, mascot races, and so on.
And with that in mind, here are the six candidates for the name of the Eastern League franchise based in Binghamton:
Bullheads, Gobblers, Rocking Horses, Rumble Ponies, Stud Muffins, Timber Jockeys.
None of them jump out at me, but it seems like every minor league team which has a “name the team” contest goes through something like this… Names are announced, people get apoplectic, things settle down.
A bullhead is a kind of catfish native to the local river…. This is probably the most traditional of the six names, but the owners should take note: “Bullheads” can easily be changed to “Buttheads”. Use this name at your own risk.
“Gobblers” is a reference to the turkey hunting which takes place in the area. The other four names are supposedly derived from the fact that Binghamton is the “Carousel Capital Of The World”, although I haven’t been able to find out what “Stud Muffins” has to do with carousels. Perhaps one of you fine people can enlighten me.
I do have some words of mild reassurance to any B-Mets fans who may be reading this.
First off, anyone who says “We’ll be the laughingstock of the league!” hasn’t been paying attention. The league has RubberDucks and Flying Squirrels. The team in Reading, PA has a relatively non-goofy name (Fightin’ Phils) but features an ostrich named Rodrigo in it’s logo. The rest of the league is not going to be laughing at you. Your young players are also not going to feel emasculated by a goofy team name; they’ve already been on or played against other goofy team names at a lower level. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (figuratively if not literally).
Some of the media is having fun with the team name candidates, but they’ll move on once they find something else to talk about… in about another 14 minutes.
Also, more likely than not, you’ll get used to whatever name you end up with, and maybe even grow to like it. A lot depends on what kind of logos and such come afterwards. Questionable names have been rescued by excellent logos and uniforms. Conversely, cool names have been sabotaged by awful branding. Even if you don’t care for the name, any minor league front office worth their weight in Dippin’ Dots will make sure that there is team merchandise that emphasizes Binghamton over the team name.
As for any New York Mets fans who are concerned about the turn that the AA team is about to make… Admit it, once people have moved on from this story, you’re never going to use the team’s nickname anyway. You probably already refer to the AAA team as “Vegas”, you’ll keep keep referring to the AA team solely as Binghamton. You and I never refer to the AAA team as the 51’s, so it really doesn’t matter.
Given the events of the last 18 months, the fans in Binghamton might want to leave well enough alone, but considering the alternatives it’s a win for baseball in the tri-cities.
Shlabot-Notes: We’ve got another new lowest print run for Topps Now: Card #79, Evan Gattis’ 11th inning go-ahead homer, sold only 212 copies, selling slightly less than the previous low of 215 for #67 Chris Ianetta. How low can it go?