Defining a Franchise

Defining a Franchise

This has always been a bit of a grey area in MLB and thoughout all sports. But when an organisaion relocates or changes its name does this really constitute a new “franchise” with no regard to continuity; or does it absolutley without question create a new franchise and require a fresh start in the record books?

During the last season, the Washington Nationals decided that they will not use the records that were accumulated when they were they played as the Montreal Expos. Thus designating the Nats, literally, an expansion club. Should a team be able to arbitratily decide which records it recognises?

It seems to me that it depends on the management of a club how much ties to old teams that a certain club has. In San Francisco and Los Angeles it is obvious that those clubs have deep roots to their New York past. The retired numbers and the pennants that the storied Giants and Dodgers won are flying or displayed on outfield walls.

In Oakland, I am sure their are a significant amount of fans that cannot make the connection between the Philadelphia Athletics, Kansas City A’s and today’s Oakland club dispite the abundance of history in the City of Brotherly Love. The Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers both borrow on the legacy of the Milwaukee Braves. However, neither club seem to play up a lineage with previous incarnations as the Boston Braves and Seattle Pilots respectively.

Other clubs, the LA Angels, SD Padres and Kansas City Royals have borrowed names from famous Minor League franchises (Royals is a play on Monarchs from the Negro Leagues). They take from this leagacy only what they need. While the Royals often dress in Satchel Paige unis I am curious if there are PCL pennants at Angel Stadium?

When I was in St. Louis a few years back I loved to see amongst the numerous red NL Championship pennants a lonely brown 1944 AL Champs pennant (1944 was the only season the Browns, the laughable St. Louis American League entry won the pennant). Can a similar lone banner be found at Camden Yards? I doubt it.

In other sports teams borrow heritage as they seem fit. The Ottawa Senators of the NHL have Stanley Cup banners and retired numbers from a franchise of the same name that folded in the 1930s. In 1927 the Toronto Maple Leafs changed their name from St. Patricks. The St. Pats were a successful team and merely changed their team nickname. It was only in the past few years that the Maple Leafs recognised this past and that teams records. Other storied NHL clubs, Red Wings, Blackhawks, Rangers and Bruins were relocated from a western pro league that folded but show no recognition of these previous incarnations. However, in Edmonton #3 Al Hamiton is retired in the rafters amongst the juggernaught names like Gretzky, Messier and Coffey. Al who? Al Hamilton was a star with the Oilers before the club joined the NHL.

Even in the NFL, sportscasters will often conjure the old Decatur Staleys, where the historic Chicago Bears began life. When the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore at the drop of a hat, the new expansion* Cleveland Browns adopted the record of the previous incarnation whereas the Baltimore Ravens look like an expansion club historically.

It seems that modern franchises will use history if it is important to the mystique. While the LA Dodgers can use the historically significant Brooklyn Dodgers to improve the aura of the modern team whereas the Montreal Expos have nothing to add to modern Washington Nationals club. If a team wants a clean break they will change the team nickname. Yet, the Boston Red Sox claim to be the first winners of a World Series whereas it was an incarnation known as the Americans. Who knows? What do you think?

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2 replies on “Defining a Franchise”
  1. says: Kman

    As you’ve pointed out, its probably based upon a mixture of success and the way in which the franchise left.

    In the case of the Expos (and maybe the marlins soon) the fans didn’t really support the clubs in the dying days. Conversely, looking at the mystique of the Dodgers, the fans fought to keep the club and it was somewhat like a death in the family.

    As you pointed out, the Browns in the NFL have a weird kind of history going on, where they take the past of the now baltimore franchise and tack it onto the back of their expansion team.

    Personally, I think the Washington team will see the Expos as a separate entity and attach the past Senators teams to their identity.

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