This past week we had a couple of minor league teams announce new team names (and, in two examples, their logos), and since I had discussed the pending change for the AA Binghamton Mets back in May, I thought it was worth a follow-up.
I’ll start with the former B-Mets. That team’s new name is the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, which somehow relates to Binghamton as the Carousel Capital Of The World. You can read about the name change and see the logos here.
To the people of Binghamton and surrounding areas… You are not the laughing stock of baseball because the trend in the minors is to go with names which are more and more… shall we say “Unique”? At any rate, once the furor dies down, you’ll get used to it and either refer to them as just “The Ponies” or just keep calling them the B-Mets. Life will go on.
Besides, it could be worse. You could live in northeastern Florida, where the team changed its name to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. I kid you not. The team had been known as the Jacksonville Suns, which is a perfectly fine name, and apparently the team ownership did the branding change without consulting the fan base, which rankled many… but you’ll notice that teams which have “name the team” voting will only announce a “winner”, they never release the voting breakdown, so you can take that as you will.
The third rebranding of the week was the Down East Wood Ducks (Kinston, NC), which seems relatively sedate in comparison.
You may be wondering why minor league baseball is rife with odd names these days. Well, there’s an excellent reason for this, best summed up by a certain ancient, short, pointy-eared, Muppet-like character from a well-known movie…
No! Not Yoda!
That’s right, Yogurt… Merchandising! Like it or not, merchandising has become a significant revenue stream for a lot of minor league teams, especially the teams which have names and/or logos with appeal outside of their territory. While you get some traditionally-named teams which sell a lot of merch, like the Durham Bulls and Charlotte Knights, the fact remains that the annual list of Top 25 Merchandising Teams often feature names like RubberDucks, Isotopes, Mudcats, Chihuahuas, TinCaps, IronPigs, Blue Wahoos and Flying Squirrels.
Like anything else, however, this is a trend and it’s bound to run out of gas at some point. Back in the 1990’s, minor league teams in every sport were going with the “Adjective Animal” template… River Cats, Sea Dogs, Valley Cats, Beach Dogs. That trend burned out after a while, and sooner or later the pendulum will swing back on these branding exercises… You can only out-outrageous each other for so long before people no longer get worked up about the Atlantic City Sea Anemones or the Porcupine City Fluorescent Knights and the merchandise stops selling. At that point, maybe we can reign it in a little bit and bring it back to more baseball-y names.
Maybe then we can bring back the Piedmont Boll Weevils.
Update: The New Orleans Night Owls? It’s sure looking that way, the New Orleans AAA team tweeted “Our new name is a real hoot!” and the date 11/15/2016. I know someone who should like that name better than Rumble Ponies.