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The MLB Name Game: Baseball’s Best Hypothetical Matchups

The MLB Name Game: Baseball’s Best Hypothetical Matchups
Drew Troller

DISCLAIMER: Even if you don’t like baseball, you can read this article. Believe me, it has SHOCKINGLY little to do with the actual sport.

This year, professional baseball is taking a huge step by shifting its American and National Leagues to two leagues of 15 teams each. This means that on any given day, an AL team will be playing an NL team, and interleague play will no longer be a special small stretch of the season. The Reds vs. the Angels will open the season as the first-ever Opening Day interleague game, and this season promises to create some new never-before-seen rivalries in baseball.

Looking over all the teams in baseball, something occurs to me: some teams have WAY cooler names than others. Teams are named after animals, American traditions, or in some cases just colors of socks. So in preparation for this season, I preview matchups not of actual baseball teams of players, but of team names themselves. Some matchups just make SENSE based on their names – who would win in a fight between a Cub and a Tiger? Which color Sox is the best? I will use any asinine criteria I wish to determine the outcome of these logical (and also sort of insane) hypothetical games.

Orioles vs. Cardinals: Battle of the Birds
There are an estimated 6 million Baltimore Oriole birds, known scientifically as icterus galbula. Meanwhile, there are 100 million cardinals, named cardinalis cardinalis (a scientific name so nice they scientific-named it twice). So in a knock-down drag-out fight, cardinals win by sheer numbers.

An actual Oriole and Cardinal. Not baseball players.
An actual Oriole and Cardinal. Not baseball players.

Red Sox vs. White Sox: The Sock Hop Rumble
Fun fact: The word “sox” is used both as a plural for the team, and the singular way of identifying an individual. So both teams are tied in terms of over-use of the letter “x.” Meanwhile, think about this rationally: who wears red socks on any occasion? White socks are far more practical as a clothing item. White Sox win.

Do you see how absurd Red So(x/cks) are?

Braves vs. Indians: Native American Knockout
It’s two of America’s most racist team names (topped only by the Washington Redskins in football)! Neither the Braves nor the Indians refer to a specific tribe of Native Americans, and yet both of them have broad and offensive team insignia (the Braves with a tomohawk, the Indians with a red-faced feather-wearing character). Lifelong fans of these teams will be quick to point out that the teams do not behave at all racist or inherently condone bigotry. Still, seems a bit weird to name a team after a race of people, right? Hard to tell who wins in this battle, and I’m not sure I want to perpetuate any images or imagining of war-faring tribes. No one wins. Or they both win. I don’t know. I just don’t want to offend anyone!

I don't know which of these is MORE offensive, but I don't think I can root for either one.
I don’t know which of these is MORE offensive, but I don’t think I can root for either one.

Cubs vs. Tigers: The Fierceness Fight
This comes down to a battle between two of the world’s most ferocious beasts: the bear and the tiger. Ask yourself which animal you’d rather come across in the wild. Personally, I’ll take my chances playing dead against a bear instead of tangoing with a tiger. Plus, the cubs are just baby bears. They’re more cute than scary. Victory: Tigers.

This would be really cute mid-inning entertainment at a Cubs vs. Tigers game.

Marlins vs. Rays: Under the Sea Slugfest
The largest marlin ever caught weighed 1,656 pounds and was 17 feet long. The largest stingray ever caught weighed 564 pounds; its tail alone was over 3 feet long. While stingrays are way scarier to me than fish, even the best representative of the rays is outweighed 3 to 1. I’d forecast this as a long, brutal fight, but in the end I think the Marlins come up winning.

Nationals vs. Yankees: The Nation’s Pride Cup
There are no two team names more American than the Nationals and the Yankees. This contest can’t be decided based on a preference for Washington or New York; it comes down to pure, unadulterated patriotism and representation of America’s values. On one hand you have the Nationals, a relatively new team on the scene with the 20th-largest payroll out of 30. The Yankees, on the other hand, are an old establishment with a history of domination, one of the least-liked teams in all of sports, and the single biggest payroll in baseball. Like it or not, the Yankees are a better representation of America’s standing in the world.

Paying for wins might be the most American thing ever.

Pirates vs. Mariners: The Maritime Match-Up
Real-life mariners have a proud history of seamanship (don’t giggle) and must be skilled in a variety of fields including navigation, weather, ropework, communications, survival, engineering, and even law. Pirates don’t give a f*** about any of that. They want money, and they live life as they please. Despite the ongoing piracy in some parts of the world, these days the term “pirates” is more often used to refer to people downloading episodes of “Game of Thrones” onto their laptops. Meanwhile, seafaring people endure. Advantage: Mariners.

Padres vs. Angels: The Holy War
The Padres get their name from the tradition of friars in Southern California. They were devout agents of social change and commitment to their faith in God. Angels, whether in Heaven or In The Outfield, are still more powerful than even the most bada** monk. There’s really no contest here between a few guys in a monestary and an army of immortal beings. Angels win.

Phillies vs. Mets: The Inter-City Showdown
It’s like two teams couldn’t think of any mascot to represent them and just decided to name themselves after their cities. “Yeah, we live in a metropolitan area, why not call ourselves the Mets?” they said in New York. And in Philadelphia, the legacy of Founding Fathers and cheesesteaks must’ve been hard to distill into a logo, so the Phillies were born. But if you’ve been to both cities, you know Philadelphians (even these guys) are too polite to handle New Yorkers. If it’s a battle of whose city would eat the other alive, the Mets win.

Brewers vs. Rockies: The Beer Bowl
The great showdown of suds. The Rocky Mountains are home to some of the best beer you’ve ever tasted – just look at the friends of in the Rocky area. From coast to coast, knowing a beer was brewed in the Rockies is a good sign it’ll be good. But they named an entire baseball team after beer brewing! The Brewers’ namesake comes from Milwaukee’s history of brands like Miller, Schlitz, and Pabst. History may be on the side of the brewers, but when it comes to my own personal favorite beers, there’s no place like the Rockies.

Reds vs. Blue Jays: The Color Clash
I’m tempted to make this a matter of national pride as well, since the Reds are the country’s first professional baseball team, and the Blue Jays aren’t even from America. But this is about colors. Red vs. Blue. If you’ve ever played Halo or seen Coke and Pepsi next to each other on a shelf, you know how epic this battle is. My money goes to the Reds, not just because of history, but because I believe red trumps blue. What arbitrary criterion am I basing this on? The fact that baseball seams are red. Go Reds.

Go red guy.

Giants vs. Dodgers: The Ex-Pat Experience
Both the Giants and the Dodgers are West Coast teams who vacated New York years and years ago. The New York Giants (think Willie Mays, not Eli Manning) moved to San Francisco in 1958, and the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles that same year. But in terms of which team namesake would win in a head to head battle, a giant is an enormous human-like creature capable of wreaking havoc. A dodger is someone capable of jumping out of the way of a trolley car. No contest. Giants win.

Diamondbacks vs. Royals: The Jewels Jubilee
Yeah, this matchup makes no sense. The Diamondbacks actually base their name on a venomous snake, and yet I’m just going with the first two syllables and making this a showdown between royalty and its diamonds. Fun historical fact: when Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of England in 1653 in the wake of the English Civil War, the country was in such dire straits financially that he auctioned off the crown jewels of England. The highest-priced item: the Tudor Crown, with 28 diamonds, 19 sapphires, 27 rubies, and 168 pearls. It was bought for a price that today would be just over 1.75 million pounds. Based on this inane story of history, it appears the diamonds win; even royalty needs the diamonds more than the diamonds need the royalty.

Diamonds don’t care about royalty, but royalty sure does love diamonds.

Athletics vs. Astros: The Alliterative Altercation
I don’t know what an Athletic is, or what an Astro is. But I’m guessing the A’s are named for just, you know, athletic people, whereas the Astros are a reference to an amazing space program that has allowed man to see and experience out-of-this-world things beyond earth. Space is cooler than athleticism. Astros win.

Rangers vs. Twins: Saturday Morning TV Smackdown
Neither the Rangers nor the Twins were named after Saturday morning TV characters. But their names do make me think of the Power Rangers and the Wonder Twins. How great of a matchup would that be? The Power Rangers – a bunch of teenagers who morph into fighters of evil and protectors of earth. The Wonder Twins – super-powered shape-shifters who combine forces to kick butt. The Power Rangers certainly have cooler costumes and better equipment, but the Wonder Twins got to hang out with the Justice League. If we’re talking about who is on the stronger team, the winner is the Twins.

The other horrible joke I was going to make was about a Rangers bed set for a Twin bed.

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