Staten Island Yankees Won't Rebrand After All
With the recent spate of minor league rebranding going to a level that it caught the eye of Minor League president Pat O'Conner, the Staten Island Yankees on Monday announced they're scuttling plans to change their name for the 2017 season.
"We had a favored name, logo and branding plan. We were prepared to move forward but encountered obstacles that unfortunately delayed the process beyond industry deadlines. These delays also would have compromised the quality of the product we aim to bring our fans," Staten Island Yankees president Will Smith said in a statement. "I always said that until there is a new name, we are the Yankees. That remains true today."
The Yankees' short-season affiliate has used the Yankees name since the team began operating in 1999. But as more and more minor league teams began rebranding in an effort to gain attention—and sell more merchandise, naturally—the Staten Island franchise opened itself up for a change.
Staten Island allowed fans to narrow the choices to five finalists—Pizza Rats, Killer Bees, Heroes, Rock Pigeons or Bridge Trolls—some of which did not delight residents of the already-maligned borough. In fact, Staten Island city councilwoman Debi Rose said the choices for the team’s new name “sound like something out of a zombie apocalypse.”
On Monday, after the team made its announcement, councilwoman Rose issued a statement praising the decision.
"When the five finalist names were unveiled in September, I was vocal in my opposition, pointing out that rats, pigeons and trolls sounded more like the apocalypse than a representation of Staten Island. As we prepare to welcome millions of visitors to developments on either side of Richmond County Bank Ballpark, it remains paramount to me that we start with a name that Staten Islanders can be proud of. I am pleased to hear of today’s decision not to go forward with a rebranding in 2017, and I would like to think that my vocal opposition helped stop a rebranding that my constituents were universally opposed to. I hope that should the Staten Island Yankees seek a new identity in the future, it is one that represents our borough in a positive, uplifting light."In an interview with Josh Norris during the Winter Meetings, O'Conner admitted some of the new team names—such as Fire Frogs, Jumbo Shrimp, Baby Cakes, Yard Goats and Rumble Ponies—made him uneasy, but said he was conscious not to overstep his bounds and infringe on what he terms as the “state’s rights” of each team.
“There is a line—and I don’t know where it is, but I think we’ve at least pushed up to it if we haven’t crossed it—where, in you exercising your rights, (do) you harm your league and the other members. That’s my concern,” he said during the Winter Meetings.
In a statement, Smith blamed logistics for at least temporarily ending the search for a new name.
"Since the announcement, our organization enthusiastically devoted its full effort into the research and planning related to this endeavor, but over time it became clear that the approval and acceptance of the new name and artwork would take longer than initially anticipated," Smith said. "Nevertheless, the passion and enthusiasm for our community's team that surfaced during this process has not gone unnoticed."
O'Conner agreed that logistics at least temporarily delayed the plan, saying that all merchandise would not have been ready for Opening Day—even for a short-season team.
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"They may have bitten off more than they could chew," to be ready for 2017, O'Conner said.