New Astros’ owner says he’s considering changing team name

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New Astros owner Jim Crane unveiled some fan-friendly initiatives earlier today, including lower ticket prices, partial rebates for season ticket holders, lower concession prices and relaxed policies on outside food and beverage. While those are all well and good, they were overshadowed by some interesting comments about the team’s future as they prepare for a move to the American League next season.

According to the Associated Press, Crane indicated that they are currently mulling over changes to the uniforms and most interestingly, whether to change the team’s name.

“We’re going to study the information both from the fans and from all sorts of marketing people,” Crane said. “I’m not saying we’re going to change. We haven’t made the decision yet whether we’re going to change.”

The Astros were originally known as the Colt .45s when they were introduced to the National League as an expansion team along with the Mets in 1962. The team’s name was changed to the Astros when they moved to the Astrodome in 1965. There’s a lot of tradition there, but with the Astrodome in the rear-view mirror and the team about to switch leagues, the possibility of a new identity hasn’t been dismissed.

“We had the Colt .45s and everybody liked that one,” Crane said. “So you can imagine how upset they were when we switched that. What you get when you look at the fan base is the older we get and I’m old, you don’t like to change. But the younger fans are very receptive to change and the older ones aren’t, so that’s what we saw with the American League.”

I almost feel like this is out of bounds for me to discuss since I’m not an Astros fan, but switching back to the Colt .45s could have some appeal. While I haven’t heard much clamoring for a name change, this could be a way to find some middle ground between traditionalists and those hungry for something new. Edit: I’m aware that this will probably never happen for a wide variety of reasons. Thanks to those of you who filled me in on the copyright infringement situation, for example. The franchise was also named after a firearm and had this logo. The world is a very different place now than it was in 1962, so I agree with many of you who say it would just be too controversial. The name is unlikely to change at all. Still, it’s a fun possibility to think about on this cold January night.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉