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Some Little Leagues are banning teams named ‘Astros’

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Has the MLB brand been damaged enough for them to have to rebrand?

Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

News item from Orange County, California last week:

In Long Beach, for example, the Minor B Astros finished third among 10 teams last season. The league’s executive board had informal talks in the offseason and put the word out that no one should ask to be the Astros this year.

A more permanent ban may be added to the league’s official bylaws next year.

“Parents are disgusted,” Long Beach Little League president Steve Klaus said. “They are disgusted with the Astros and their lack of ownership and accountability. We know there’s more to this scandal. What’s coming tomorrow? With the Astros, you’ve got premeditated cheating.”

News item from Pennsylvania Thursday — very close to Little League’s headquarters in Williamsport:

“Right now, in our leagues, the Astros are suspended,” said Bob Bertoni, head of District 16/31 Little League.

Bertoni is recommending that no teams in the 23 leagues he oversees use the Astros team name this season after it was discovered Houston took a live camera feed to steal signs en route to a 2017 World Series title. He said a few teams used the name last year.

”I think about our Little League pledge; that’s the first thing that comes to my mind. Part of the pledge is, ‘I will play fair and strive to win,’” Bertoni said.

”Our kids emulate and idolize major league players,” he added. “I don’t think we as an organization should be idolizing teams that have decided not to play by the rules.”

I’ve got to say, I like what these leagues have done. They are trying to send the right message to kids who play youth baseball. It seems to me that other Little Leagues and kids’ leagues might follow suit.

Which raises the question: If the name “Astros” is so poorly regarded that it’s having kids’ leagues make these choices, is their brand damaged enough that they might eventually have to rebrand their team?

They won’t think so, of course, especially given this:

It has blown UP instead of blown over. I mean, fixing this was so, so easy. All Jim Crane and the Astros players had to do was admit they cheated — which is a proven fact based on the Commissioner’s report — say it was wrong, say they won’t do it again, and have players give heartfelt apologies instead of the rote statements they issued, and most people likely would have given some forgiveness. The reason so many are angry, including many players on other teams, is that the response from Astros players and management up to now has basically been “circle the wagons” — and I chose that language because the way I really feel about it would have broken my own no-profanity rule on this site.

So beyond the fact that Astros players are becoming disliked around baseball for attitudes like this:

“[The teams talking trash are] going to have to play us,” [pitcher Lance] McCullers told The Washington Post. “Except for the guys who are popping off the most.”

That was a thinly veiled reference to the Dodgers, whose stars have torched the Astros. Justin Turner argued “they shouldn’t have rings,” and Bellinger delivered one of the harshest rebukes by arguing Altuve “stole” the 2017 MVP award from Judge like the Astros “stole” the World Series title from the Dodgers. The teams aren’t scheduled to face each other this season.

... could the Astros help themselves come back from this, in part, by rebranding their team with another name?

The Houston franchise did have another name when it entered the National League in 1962: Colt .45s. That was named after a gun. I doubt that would play well these days, especially since “Colt 45” is also the name of an alcoholic beverage.

But what about “Colts,” as in a young horse? That’s a name used by the NFL Indianapolis franchise, and there are other examples of names used by multiple teams in different sports (Giants, Jets, Rangers, among others). That could give them a new brand which would give a hat tip to their original one.

The name “Buffaloes” was used by various Houston minor-league teams most of the time from 1907 through 1961, the last year before Houston was a big-league city. That would have historical value.

Or what about resurrecting the name “Oilers,” which the Houston NFL team abandoned when it moved to Tennessee in 1997. The current Houston NFL team is known as the Texans.

Truth be told, the name “Astros” was chosen because the space program and astronauts were a big deal in the mid-1960s. It’s true that NASA still has a large space facility, the Johnson Space Center, right outside Houston. But that program doesn’t have the impact it did 50 years ago.

Obviously, the Astros franchise has a lot more cleaning up to do to its image than just its nickname. But perhaps changing that could also help restore this franchise to respectability among its peers.

Poll

The Houston Astros franchise should change its name to...

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Buffaloes
    (11 votes)
  • 10%
    Colts
    (23 votes)
  • 13%
    Oilers
    (28 votes)
  • 57%
    Astros — they shouldn’t change it
    (121 votes)
  • 12%
    Something else (leave in comments, and please keep it clean)
    (27 votes)
210 votes total Vote Now