New Indy Club Needs To Own Up To Its Name




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The baseball offseason  means many things: player movement, front office shuffling, the Winter Meetings, working on Baseball America books, and of course, seeing the new minor league nicknames and logos that trickle out as the next season approaches.

This offseason we have the extra added excitement of a new major league team name and logo, with the Florida Marlins becoming the Miami Marlins. Because they're a major league team, that change was chronicled feverishly in the blogosphere, so there's really not much I could add to the debate. I think the new Marlins look misses the mark, but just by a little bit. With tweaks in the coming seasons, the Marlins should end up with a significant improvement over their dated black and teal look.

The home run display in the outfield of their new ballpark, on the other hand, redefines the term garish, at least in the renderings I've seen. I can't imagine it will actually be that bad in reality, but baseball fans will be waiting expectantly to see it for the first time. If you haven't witnessed the majesty of it, just Google "Marlins home run display" and you'll find about a million people trying to find new ways to decry it.

Deservedly Ripped

But we're more concerned with the new names and looks in the minor leagues. And our first case study brings up a lesson that I thought everyone already knew: When naming your team, do not—repeat, not—invoke the name of a serial killer noted for his violence against women.

The new London, Ont., franchise in the independent Frontier League decided to go with Rippers as its nickname, with a logo that features a shadowy figure holding a bat and ball. The team clearly is drawing a connection to Jack the Ripper, with a character named Jack on its Website and one of its secondary logos even features the main logo superimposed on a playing card: a Jack of diamonds.

The nickname and logo drew a flurry of responses on both sides of the argument, with some calling for the team to change the name and others, including Rush Limbaugh, saying that people were too easily offended.

The logo and name are in poor taste, and the team easily could have come up with something better, but my main problem is that the team makes a blatant tie to Jack the Ripper and then won't own up to it. Team owner David Martin called the brouhaha silly and said the team did not intend any association with Jack the Ripper, and was instead referring to ripping in the baseball sense, such as ripping the cover off the ball or ripping the ball down the line.

"We knew it could be taken in different ways," Martin told the Toronto Star. "Everybody has to be a little less sensitive and let our storyline play out."  

If you're going to be so edgy that you go with a Jack the Ripper-related identity for your team, don't also be so disingenuous that you don't own up to the connection. Benefiting from the firestorm while also saying, "Who, me?" is juvenile.

On the other side of the border, the most notable new name and logo will be in the Southern League, where the Pensacola Blue Wahoos debut. They replace the Carolina Mudcats, who are moving down to the Carolina League and replacing the Kinston Indians. (While the K-Tribe's departure is lamentable, the disappearance of that logo is not.)

The Blue Wahoos, whose nickname we have already praised, rolled out their look in November, and it's sort of a mess. The centerpiece of the look is a cartoon blue wahoo fish, and that's executed well, with interesting colors and a tough look. The lettering used in the main logo and the cap logos, however, is not as successful.

The team has two stylized P's that it will use on its caps, both of which are too busy. One is a bat with a version of the blue wahoo curled around it, while the other is a fish hook with a line attached, curled into sort of a cursive P.

The lettering on the main logo looks as if it was done by hand, and in alternate cap logs that feature the BW, the looseness of the design shows itself to poor effect.

Like the Marlins, however, there are enough elements there that aren't bad to make you think they could end up with a solid look in the next few years if they'll just make some tweaks.