From the Name to the Logos, How Cleveland's Baseball Team Settled on the 'Guardians'
Cleveland baseball fans are getting ready for the Guardians. That’s the name that will replace the Indians next season. It comes from the Guardians of Traffic sculptures on the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, not far from Progressive Field.
WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto got all of the inside details about the decision.
Why not the Spiders?
It was last December when Cleveland announced it would officially change its name, likely at the start of the 2022 season. This spring the team announced it had considered more than 1,100 names, everything from the Spiders to the Buckeyes.
Many fans pushed for the Spiders name because of a professional baseball team that played Cleveland in the late 1800s. But Pluto said the team likely didn't want a trademark battle with the University of Richmond Spiders. And, he believes the team really didn't like the name.
“They thought, 'Is ‘Spiders’ going to do that much for us?' I think they kicked the Spiders off fairly soon," Pluto said.
At a press conference discussing the move, President of Business Operations Brian Barren said there were some great Spiders teams. But in its last season in 1899, the team went 20-134.
"They were worried it was going to leak out, and then they said, 'Let's just get going.'"
A random Friday in July
The organization revealed the new name and logos by surprise Friday.
"They were worried it was going to leak out, and then they said, 'Let's just get going,' [because] I heard that there are over 2,000 'Indians' references in Progressive Field alone,” Pluto said.
Trademark business, which Pluto says included a deal with Marvel Studios for its "Guardians of the Galaxy" franchise, was reportedly completed just a few days before the announcement.
The name, the colors and the logos
Pluto says sports team names usually come down to three categories: animals, objects, or colors. He said the “Rockers,” the “Guardians,” and the “Blues” all were considered frontrunners.
Ultimately, Guardians was the choice because of its cultural association to the city of Cleveland, inspired by the “Guardians of Traffic” statues near Progressive Field. The decision was complete with new logos.
"I believe the logo was rushed. [The team] told me 'No.' And you can change the logo. I think there will be more."
“We heard things like loyalty, pride, and resiliency in being from Cleveland,” Barren said at the press conference Friday. “They’re protective of our city. They’re protective of the land and everything about it.”
Barren and team owner Paul Dolan reached out to community leaders and some fans to gain insight on the name. One thing they came away from those meetings with was an understanding that the original color scheme had to stay.
“Every person I talk to, and these are top people from different teams, say the last thing the Indians need to do is change the color scheme,” Pluto said. “So many people are upset, and now feel they’ve lost this connection with the team. They want the red, white and blue colors.”
The new logos also drew some criticism from fans.
"I believe the logo was rushed. [The team] told me, 'No.' And you can change the logo. I think there will be more," Pluto said.
Taking all the hits
Despite the positivity from upper executives, the backlash to changing a name that’s been around for 106 years was strong but expected, according to Pluto.
“Remember, this is Cleveland. We don’t like a lot of change,” he said. “To a lot of people, it was bad enough with Chief Wahoo and then the name. I wanted to change Chief Wahoo in 1996. In retrospect, they should’ve just done it all at once.”
Chief Wahoo was retired in 2018.
Pluto said the team believes this is the year "they take the hits on everything." Cleveland's $50 million payroll is the second-lowest in the major leagues, and it has one of the youngest rosters, along with the name change.
"I've been told the payroll will get back to what Tampa Bay and Oakland are paying. And the idea being, next year with some more money and a new name, it's just something to give the fans something to look forward to instead of just looking in the rearview mirror.
And for fans wondering, the team announced Friday that Slider will be staying as its primary mascot. “You might have a Guardian or two. It’s kind of like pitchers, you can never have enough mascots," Pluto joked.