The Washington Nationals

MLB to Rename The Expos ‘Soon’ (WaPo)

While D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp was proposing a new baseball stadium plan that could derail plans to move the Montreal Expos here, team officials continued working on details of the transition. Expos President Tony Tavares said the team expects to announce its plan to sell tickets on Monday. Fans should have a number to call to order season tickets by midweek, “We have to get that done,” he said. Two published reports stated that the team will be named the Nationals if they move to the District, and a source said any name could be a temporary one. Whoever buys the team from Major League Baseball will be allowed to ask to change the name in time for the scheduled opening of a new stadium in 2008, the source said.

The Washington Times and USA Today reported that baseball is likely to choose the Nationals, the name of Washington’s franchise in the 1870s and ’80s, over the Grays and Senators. A source told The Post that the Nationals is the favorite of at least one top baseball official, but no decision has been made. “It’s all speculation,” said Major League Baseball spokesman Rich Levin. “We haven’t made a decision. We are going to try to do it pretty soon. We’ve done some focus groups and at some point we will make a decision.” The choice of Nationals would not be unexpected. The Grays were a Negro League team that played games here but was actually based in Pittsburgh, and Mayor Anthony A. Williams is against using the Senators, the name of Washington’s franchise in its two previous incarnations, because the District does not have representatives in the Senate.

Levin said the World Series and other commitments have delayed a decision on a name. Baseball is also taking into account the opinion of Williams, who two sources said favors Nationals. One high-ranking baseball source who is familiar with the thinking of Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, said Selig actually favors Senators, but appears willing to acquiesce to Williams to expedite the process.

With the season five months away and tickets perhaps going on sale next week, team officials must begin marketing in the Washington area immediately, and the unveiling of a new name and logo — which should happen in the next two weeks — are essential parts of that plan. The uniform colors likely will be red, white and blue, a baseball source said. “We hope to have an announcement somewhere around the 15th,” Tavares said. “That’s a guess. And I’m not saying we’ll have uniforms in hand, but we should have renderings of what we’d like to do.” Tavares said baseball officials have used focus groups of Washingtonians to try to narrow the field of potential names. Sports marketing analysts said a name is essential in establishing a presence in the new Washington market, which has been without baseball since the Senators left for Texas in 1971. “The new name will be the most recent way to highlight that the market is coming together, and it would be something that the community would rally around,” said David Carter of the Sports Business Group, a Los Angeles-based sports marketing firm. “Whatever they ultimately want to choose, that name and the colors and the whole positioning of the franchise — the branding — is going to start here.”

I heard this on local radio a couple days ago, but had not seen anything in print before today. The “Washington Senators” is really a rather lame name and one associated with two failed teams. Honoring the Negro League’s “Grays” is a nice idea but the name is incredibly dull and, as noted, the team mostly played elsewhere.

See this Michael Wilbon story for an explanation of the Cropp issue mentioned in the first sentence.

Update: See also –

Washington Nationals Get Guillen from Angels (Nov. 19)
Washington Nationals Logo (Nov. 22)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. spd rdr says:

    I think the name “Washington Grays” is more than just a “nice idea.” Baseball is largely about tradition, and I think that it’s time that Major League Baseball, Inc., incorporated, if only by reference, the legacy of the Negro Leagues, a history that baseball has let languish in the dugout for far too long. What better place to do so than in Washington?

    And as far as “dull” goes, consider these team names:
    White Sox
    Red Sox
    Blue Jays and

    Pretty exciting names, huh? Fearsome enough to strike fear into the hearts on their opponents? Fer sure. But once you add tradition, suddenly playing a team named after a song bird or an article of clothing can become a pretty daunting challenge.

    No, I like the sound of the “Washington Grays,” and I like the feel of it, too. Jump start the team’s legacy by drawing on the past. Let the ghosts of Josh Gibson (C), “Cool” Papa Bell (OF), Judy Johnson (3B), Buck Leonard (1B) and Martin Dihigo (2B, P, OF) and “Smokey” Joe Williams (P) haunt the field of D.C.’s dreams. It not only gives the players a tradition to be proud of, it permits knuckleheads like Tim McCarver to prattle incessantly about the past. But that is a history worth learning, and baseball fans love their history.

    (Sorry for the lame metaphors.)

  2. dan says:

    washington patriots
    washington veterans

  3. Bill says:

    A name that I have not seen mentioned that seems obvious to me is the Washington Eagles

  4. Guy Smiley says:

    My favorite is the Washington Weasels

  5. CFish says:

    I think the name “Grays” is a terrific name – however – the Grays were really the Pittsburgh Grays. I’m partial to “Senators” and the last time I checked – there were a hundred of them in DC …. not zero. I mean no disrespect to the mayor, I understand his point, but we DO have Senators here.

    “Generals” would be nice as the initials “G” & “W” (as in George Washington) would be in the name.

    The new owner should pick the name, and the “Nationals” will do just fine until that happens.

    GO NATS!

  6. rpg says:

    Why not keep the Expos. Baseball is about tradition and the Expos have been in MLB for 36 years now. When the Minneapolis Lakers moved to L.A., they kept Lakers even though it had nothing to do with L.A. The same should go with the Washington Expos.

  7. waggss says:

    They want to call them the Nationals. Our new team the National League Nationals. That really sucks.

  8. nowhere says:

    These are some of the silliest comments possible. Calling them the Eagles or Patriots is a thoughtless and ridiculous suggestion, they would never use an NFL name.

    The Grays *is* a boring name and just because other teams have boring names (Reds, Browns) doesn’t mean there should be *another* boring name. Furthermore that team as mentioned was from Pittsburgh and your high-horse emotional nonsense is divorced from logic and fact.

    Keeping the name “Expos” is an even more absurd and childish suggestion. What kind of tradition does “Expos” represent? The name is a celebration of some long-forgotten world expo held in Montreal in the 1970s. The Expos legacy is outfields marked in inscrutable meters, incoherent French-speaking stadium announcers, and an antiseptic baseball played on green carpet under a dome before tens of thousands of empty seats. You want to preserve THAT legacy? You’re an utter fool.

    Generals is not a bad choice but in current conditions extremely unlikely. I favor the Senators and could care less what some mayor thinks, but the Nationals is an acceptable alternative.

  9. CHRIS CANNON says: