What's in a Name?

Mike GerdwagenCorrespondent IOctober 16, 2008

The Tampa Bay Rays are in a great position right now, heading into the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. This is their first trip to the playoffs, and they were a great story all year, winning the AL East by 2 games. How come they all of a sudden righted the ship?

I have noticed a bit over time, the effects that logos and colors have on a team psyche. Sometimes they are just animals or pictures that someone decided long ago to put on a helmet or jersey, and it stuck.

However, if you look at teams that have made some changes, it seems like the changes were the key to their successes:



1. Tampa Bay changed their name this year, exorcising the devil, as it were. Now, as of writing this, one game from the World Series. Already defying the odds, they reached their first playoff and won the ALDS.

2. The Angels found new ownership and a new set of jerseys in 2002. Coincidentally, their new jerseys got some World Series champagne on them the same year.

3. Arizona won a World Series with its original color scheme in 2001 but did not do it again until changing things up in 2007. That got Arizona the NL West division crown and a trip to the NLCS.

4. The Astros still have not won a World Series. Since changing their color patterns in 2000, though, they went to their first NLCS in 2004 and the World Series in 2005.

5. The Florida Marlins came into existence much like the Diamondbacks. They won a World Series in 1997 after only being in the league since 1993.

Then, in 2003, they changed some colors and jerseys again, that being the franchise's 10th anniversary. Their new pinstripes beat the old pinstripes of the Yankees and won another World Series, becoming the only Wild Card in history to win it all.



1. The Buccaneers shared miserable seasons before dumping that awful orange and big feather plume in 1997. Of course, Jon Gruden's experience of the Raiders helped, and the Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII.

2. The Patriots also suffered many losing seasons and an embarrassing run-in with the music video-making '85 Bears. However, since "firing" Patriot Pat in 1992, they have enjoyed success, like the '96 AFC crown and of course the mini-dynasty inspiring Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, and XXXIX.

3. The Ravens, in fairness, didn't exist until 1996. However, they were the hapless Cleveland Browns, technically, and they moved and turned purple. Eventually, it led to a Super Bowl XXXV win.

4. The Denver Broncos had a neon orange and blue N.Y. Mets scheme with a sneezing horse until 1996. Their current logo and a timely veteran named John Elway took them to back-to-back NFC titles in 1997 and 1998.

5. The Titans are another franchise that moved as a struggling team. The Houston Oilers' new look in Tennessee in 1999 almost gave them a Super Bowl XXXIV ring to go with their AFC title that year. If only a ring was a yard. (See: The Tackle.)

6. The St. Louis Rams probably should have left well enough alone. They changed their  logo and colors after winning Super Bowl XXXIV. The next time they made it was the XXXVI loss to the Patriots.

7. The Seattle Seahawks also were a pushover team until 2002. That year they changed not only their colors and logo but also moved into brand new Qwest Field. Since then they have won the NFC North four consecutive years (2004-2007) and went to Super Bowl XL, eventually losing to the Steelers.



1. The Anaheim Ducks dropped the "Mighty" Disney as well as the eggplant and teal in 2006. The Ducks went on to handily win the Stanley Cup in 2007 as the first team from California to do so.

2. The Nordiques left Quebec (one could say they separated from Canada) and wound up in Colorado. Changing to the non-living Avalanche helped usher in success. The Avs won two Stanley Cups in '95-'96 and in 2000-'01 and won eight consecutive division crowns (1995-2002).

3. The Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997.  They won the division in the 1998-'99 season then started a string of sunny Stanleys (say that alliteration five times quickly) by winning the cup in 2005-'06.

4. The Calgary Flames moved from Atlanta in 1980. Being named after the burning of a state during a bloody American Civil War maybe isn't as inspiring as it sounds, but keeping the fire going (pun intended) in Canada has helped.

The Flames won a Cup in the 1988-'89 season and have been to the finals three times, in '85-'86, '88-'89, and '05-'06.



1. The New Jersey Nets changed their patterns in 1998, and it took them to the finals twice, in 2002 and 2003. They have yet to win a championship, though.

2. The Detroit Pistons didn't really change. They went back to an original-looking design after changing to a teal and red pony show. The switch-back in 2004 led to an NBA Championship in 2004 as well as another conference championship the next year (2005).

3. The Cleveland Cavaliers changed their colors in 2003, and, with the addition of Lebron James, won the conference title in 2007.


Something should be said for consistency, however.

The three most winningest teams in all of sports, hockey's Montreal Canadiens with 24 championships, basketball's Boston Celtics with 17, and baseball's New York Yankees with 26, haven't differed all that much from their original logos. The three most successful dynasties in football, the 49ers, Steelers, and Cowboys—all with five golden rings—haven't changed much, either.

Is this the year that Tampa Bay wins the World Series? If so, maybe the Cubs should consider changing their colors and logos. It couldn't hurt.


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