Exactly What's In A Name, MLB Edition

A very literal approach to assessing the effectiveness and logic of Major League Baseball's team names.
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Image via Bleacher Report.

The pro ball team in Cleveland used to be called the Naps. Which sounds like a bad choice at first, or at least one not being terribly evocative of a hustling, high-energy ballclub, at least until you learn that the name came from the team’s Hall of Fame second baseman-and-sometime-coach, Nap Lajoie. It was Nap’s club. The Naps. So it was, give or take a missing apostrophe, a totally sensible, straightforward name reflecting the team.

Then they had a contest in the newspaper and the team became the Indians. The moral of the story: people who respond to those sorts of contests have always been stupid. But there’s another lesson, here, in the sad decline of the legitimately literal baseball team name. How many baseball teams actually have players that reflect the team name? How many Yankees are yankees? What major league team today even comes close to the Naps?

Enter: science. To answer this question – how many players on the Xs are actually an X? – I did a little digging, based on four simple rules.

  1. The team’s name must be interpreted as literally as possible.
  2. The application of the name to the player must be as accurate as possible.
  3. The count must use the team’s 40-man roster (as of May 29) because minor leaguers are fun.
  4. I may break any and all of these rules if it amuses me.

I did the math, determining how many members of the 40-man roster fit the club name. Also I made pie charts. Please feel free to use this data for any and all purposes, including betting.

American League

Baltimore Orioles

An oriole is a bird. There's not a lot of gray here. There is (well, was) a provincial electoral district in Ontario, Canada, called Oriole, but there are as many Canadians on this roster as there are birds.

0 of 40

Boston Red Sox

Red socks are part of the Boston uniform. So while the players are not literally socks, we'll count it.

40 of 40

Chicago White Sox

Figure 1.1White socks are not part of Chicago's uniform because, why would it be? Why incorporate your team's name, a name that explicitly refers to an item of clothing, into the clothing your team wears? What is this, Boston? So, while the players probably wear white socks at some point, I cannot confirm that even after spending minutes looking at photos.

0 of 40

Cleveland Indians

None of the Cleveland's roster is from India. Oh, and neither are any Native American.

0 of 40

Detroit Tigers

According to my research, none of the Detroit players are actual tigers, Bengal, Sumatran, or otherwise. They are all human beings! Even Gerald Laird!

0 of 40

Kansas City Royals

No players for Kansas City are actual members of royalty (probably). Quite the opposite. One guy is a "Butler." There’s even a "Bourgeois" on the extended roster. Bourgeois!

There is a Dyson, and the Dyson vacuum guy was knighted, but that's not really close enough.

0 of 40

Los Angeles* Angels

Albert Pujols actually is an angel.

1 of 40

* Etc.

Minnesota Twins

Did you know that 2% of the population is a twin? I read this online somewhere, so it might be true. If it is, it means there’s a slight chance that one of the Twins’ roster might be a twin!

But none of them are. The Twins press guy asked around the office (which is honestly more effort than the question probably deserved) and not only are there no current Twin twins, there probably never were. Once again, statistics are useless.

0 of 40

New York Yankees

A "yankee" is one of two things: an American or a Northerner. There are a lot of smart people who think that the Yankees should have their citizenship stripped by virtue of the team's history and ethos, but that's a discussion for another time.

Northerner: 12 of 40

American: 28 of 40

Oakland Athletics

You'd think: they're all athletic, right? These are literally professional athletes. Well, you are wrong. I’m sorry, but you are. Athleticism can be assessed using a government-approved tool called the body mass index. And if your BMI is over 30, you're technically obese. Of the A's 40-man roster, six are obese.

34 of 40

OR we could just count people whose names include an A, if we wanted to be cool and casual like we hang out on the "BART" and go to "Jack London Square." There are three, two of whom are also obese!

3 of 40

Seattle Mariners

Let's do this, to make this interesting. Since none of these guys are professional sailors or, if they are, that fact is buried more than one link from the ESPN homepage, let's pretend that there are no airplanes. How many of these guys could only get to America to play baseball by boat?

9 of 40

Tampa Bay Rays

No one on the Tampa Bay 40-man roster is named Ray.

0 of 40

Texas Rangers

There is only one true Texas Ranger. He is a gentleman that goes by name of Walker. Cordell Walker. (Cordell!) Cordell Walker doesn't play for the Rangers, nor does anyone with the name "Cordell," "Walker," "Chuck," "Norris," or "karate."

0 of 40

Toronto Blue Jays

No one on the Toronto 40-man roster is named Jay. But there's a Jason (pronounced "JAY-son") and he wears blue, so.

1 of 40

National League

Arizona Diamondbacks

Diamonds are expensive. You'd need, like, a million dollars to afford one, I imagine. So I'm coining the term "diamondback" to apply to any person who makes more than $1 million in salary annually.

17 of 40

Atlanta Braves

You wake up aching, sore, in a hotel. It's already light because last night went 14 innings and you have to be at the park in two hours to start again. And you just came back from a strain, two weeks in intense physical therapy just to patch you up enough to be able to go 0-for-5. You, sir, coming off the DL to play again? Brave.

There are four hearty souls on this roster that have done that this season. But we don’t count you, Chipper. You make $14 million a year. Nothing brave about it, at that price.

3 of 40

Chicago Cubs

It would be fun to use cub as a pejorative for a very young person, wouldn't it? Say, 23 or younger? That would be fun.

8 of 40

Cincinnati Reds

A red, as residents of Cincinnati were embarrassed to admit a few decades ago, is a Communist. So we'll count anyone born in either Cuba or Massachussets.

The Reds do have a J. Hoover, which almost led me to deduct one point just for how anti-Communist the guy was, but, look, this is a professional operation and we count correctly.

1 of 40

Colorado Rockies

It's only May, but some Colorado players are off to a bad start. Uneven performances. Shaky appearances. Some pitchers have ERAs over 5 and some batters have averages under .200. Rough going! Bumpy terrain! You see where this is going.

19 of 40

Houston Astros

Baseball has an elegant system for identifying players that are its stars—its Astros, if you will. Every year, fans select their favorite players to represent teams in the All-Star Game. And even if no player is popular enough, teams send a guy anyway.

Last year, the Astros sent Hunter Pence as their sole All-Star. He's in Philly now.

0 of 40

Los Angeles Dodgers

Most baseball players enter the bigs through the annual draft. But not all. Some—often your more rebellious or politically engaged players—avoid the draft altogether. They are counted here.

6 of 40

Florida Marlins

Pardon the marine biology jargon, but a marlin is a fish sort of thing. A marline is a rope. Marl is a type of fertilizer. Anyway, none of these people are fish.

0 of 40

Milwaukee Brewers

The most fun part of compiling a list like this is when you encounter very specific, very literal words that are almost impossible to apply to people. That is the most fun part.

0 of 40

New York Mets

A metropolitan is a denizen of a large city. There's generally some implication that the person also has a bit of savoir faire, but that's hard to ascertain when simply eyeballing the roster. So, for our purposes, if a player is from a large metropolitan region, we'll assume he knows his burgundy from his merlot.

10 of 40

Philadelphia Phillies

If you are from Philadelphia, you are a Philly. If you are named Phil or Philip, you are a Philly. If you are from Telford, Pennsylvania, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, we will count it.

1 of 40

Pittsburgh Pirates

There are four Pittsburgh players who are from the Caribbean.

4 of 40

San Diego Padres

The nice thing about the press offices for baseball teams is that they're used to—or, maybe, simply more tolerant in response to—strange inquiries. So when you ask, “hey, Padres media guy, how many of your players are fathers?” the Padres media guy comes up with an estimate. I figured asking him how many were fathers and also spoke Spanish was pushing my luck.

13 of 40

San Francisco Giants

A graph I found online labeled American males who are 6'4" or above "very tall." VERY TALL.

10 of 40

St. Louis Cardinals

A cardinal number is one that indicates quantity (one, two) as opposed to order (first, second). Since every St. Louis player is represented by a cardinal number, it seems safe to count them all. Except the infielders, of course. (Furcal, the shortstop, gets a pass.)

31 of 40

Washington Nationals

Are you now or have you ever been an American?

29 of 40


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