national league eastNew York Mets – In what seems to be a New York tradition, with basketball’s Knicks being short for “Knickerbockers,” football’s Jets having evolved from “Jetsams,” and hockey’s Rangers shortening their name from “Rangerettes” in 1962, baseball’s Mets team name is really the Metropolitans, which is about as hard to fit on a jersey as “Saltalamacchia.” But the full name is also avoided because of its association with the sort of stuffy, pretentious, and pedantic New Yorkers portrayed in Whit Stillman’s 1990 film Metropolitan, who are much more likely to be Yankees fans.

Atlanta Braves – This is the only team name in Major League Baseball with no negative associations. Absolutely nothing offensive here… what’s that? The “Tomahawk Chop”? <cringes>

Philadelphia Phillies – Most people assume that the name “Phillies” is simply a diminutive for the city in which they play, but most people are wrong, so very, very wrong. Philadelphia may be the City of Brotherly Love, but it’s always been a union town, top to bottom. In their early history, the Phillies played second fiddle to the Athletics and struggled to succeed on the field and at the turnstiles. Looking for any edge, while at the same time always trying to keep costs low, the team excelled at locking out any player who even hinted at holding out for more money, and filling their roster spot with strikebreakers. In 1887, the team fielded an entire team of “fill-ins,” who may have been horrible players, but cost very little. The nickname stuck, eventually evolving into “Phillies,” and losing its connection with scab labour.

Miami Marlins – As the nascent United States expanded and sought to exert its control over the North American continent, one of its most frequent opponents were the various Native tribes that predated the arrival of European settlers, including the Seminoles in the area that was to become Florida. Young and inexperienced soldiers made up the bulk of the troops sent to pacify the newly-acquired territory, and they were particularly brutal, especially the infantry, many of whom were accused of zealously bayoneting their opponents, even in cold blood as they kneeled to surrender. Similarly, the modern Marlins baseball team is known to steal signs.

Washington Nationals – Although Washington, D.C. had a long, if not proud, baseball tradition (“first in war, first in peace, last in the American League” aptly describes the futility of the city’s teams), the city had been without a Major League team since the Senators left in the 1970s. Although there was general excitement at the prospect of the return of the national pastime to the nation’s capital, it came at a time of rising xenophobia and protectionism, and many fans were less than impressed that the team chosen to represent Washington would be a foreign import: Montréal’s struggling Expos. The decision to ignore history and name the relocated team “Nationals”–rather than the historic “Senators”–has led many disillusioned fans to decry their team as “Foreign Nationals” and “Immigrants in the Ootfield” (an inaccurate and unfunny attempt to make fun of supposed Canadian accents), particularly when they’ve struggled to win games.

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