Finally, the worst-kept secret of the summer got out: The National League's Montreal Expos are moving to Washington.
The leadership of baseball has somehow placated Peter Angelos, majority shareholder of the Baltimore Orioles, and he has acquiesced to the Montreal franchise moving into his backyard.But where exactly will they play, who will buy the franchise, and, finally, what will the new team be called are all questions to be answered.
Let's talk about names.
"Expos" is clearly finis. Too French. Too Canadian. Too '70s.The original Washington team was known as the Nationals (typographically, often shortened to the Nats) and, for decades afterward, the Senators. Sure, Senators would be the safe choice, but they suffered through so many years of mediocrity in Washington that the team was said to be "First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League."
In 1961, when the original Senators team stole out of town for Minnesota and became the Twins, they left the name behind. To appease Congress, a new Senators team was quickly installed. But they too fled, leaving for Texas after the 1971 season and becoming the Texas Rangers, the team that George W. Bush eventually headed.
So what to call the new team? The name "Washington Senators" is owned by the Rangers, but that could probably be had for a reserve infielder. Then there is the suggestion of D.C. mayor Anthony A. Williams to call the team the Grays, in honor of the Homestead Grays, the Negro League team that played in the capital for decades. While historically resonant, it is, well, bland-sounding. Like Browns, or Greens, or Off-Whites.
Undoubtedly an expensive marketing team will address this question. But here are a few suggestions for nicknames they might consider:
Whips. Certainly has a political ring to it, and it's a geeky baseball acronym for walks plus hits divided by innings pitched. It has a nice edgy quality too.
Pundits. D.C. is full of them. Why not?
Belt Ways. A sports writer's delight. A possibility.
Capitols. It might help students tell the difference between capital and capitol. Or should the team be the Capitals? Hmmm.
Reps. The full name would be the House of Representatives, but does anyone call the Mets the Metropolitans?
Interns? Okay, no. Same for Lobbyists, the Coalition, Diplomats, Donkeys, Elephants, Bloviators, Gerrymanderers, Do Nothings, and Neocons. Agreed?
Taxation without Representation.Huh? Get that on a uniform! Same problem with the Tax & Spends.
Foggybottoms. Very cute, but the root word "bottom" might come up a wee bit often in copy, certainly in the first few years. "Foggy" doesn't help much either.
My vote is the Filibusters. It is a Washington term, certainly; in fact, they've got a lock on it. And it won't be mistaken for any other city. Fillies is a solid moniker, though it might be confused with the Phillies. I can visualize a snorting mustang or filly on the sleeve, and "bust" gives it a good homerun sound.
I can't wait for the president to throw out the first ball.
Jim Charlton lives in New York City where he is the editorial director for the Society for American Baseball Research. For the past 25 years, he has spent every Christmas in Memphis.