Washington Football

Andruw Jones signs with Rakuten Eagles in Japan

Andruw Jones signs with Rakuten Eagles in Japan

TOKYO (AP) Andruw Jones is headed to Japan.

The five-time All-Star outfielder has finalized a $3.5 million, one-year contract with the Rakuten Eagles of Japan's Pacific League. The team announced the move on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Jones became a free agent after spending the past two seasons as a part-time player with the New York Yankees. He appeared in 94 games this year, batting.197 with 14 home runs.

Once one of the premier players in the big leagues, Jones broke into the majors with the Atlanta Braves in 1996 and won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves from 1998-07 as their center fielder. He has 434 career home runs over 17 seasons in the majors and could provide a boost for the Eagles, whose 52 homers were the fewest in Japan last season.

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Making a case for Red Wolves as Washington Football Team's new name

Making a case for Red Wolves as Washington Football Team's new name

It's been several weeks since the Washington Football Team announced it was retiring its former name and logo after more than 80 years. Ever since FedEx became the first known sponsor to formally ask Washington to change its name, fans have taken to social media to voice some of their favorites among potential replacements. I spoke with several marketing experts about a few of the fan-generated names, and will use their responses to make a case for some of the most popular suggestions. This is the case for Red Wolves.

Case for: Red Wolves

The previous story in this series made the case for why a DC-themed name would be the best option for the Washington Football Team. One of the reasons marketing professionals said it would be a good idea is because teams that have a name connected to their city have stronger brand equity. So, it’s easy to see how those same experts weren’t as thrilled about names without a deep connection to Washington, like Red Wolves.

However, the marketing professionals weren’t against the idea that Red Wolves could work. And a big part of that has to do with the very reasons former Washington cornerback and unofficial leader of the Red Wolves movement Fred Smoot brought up.

“I can just see FedEx Field and the 80,000 people just howling like Wolves. That would really be something," Smoot told NBC Sports Washington last month.

That very atmosphere described by Smoot is why the name could be a good option. While a good name contributes to strong brand equity, it isn’t the only factor, according to Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. The fan engagement opportunities with that brand is also important, and those opportunities definitely exist with Red Wolves.

RELATED: 5 NEW AND IMPRESSIVE FAN-GENERATED RED WOLVES LOGO AND UNIFORM DESIGNS

“Absolutely, that’s certainly a dimension that you’re concerned about is what environment, what atmosphere, what engagement can you get from the fans when we can go back to these games, hopefully sooner rather than later,” Derdenger said. “And so what is that experience like? If you have really good fan experience, that is going to elevate brand equity and in the end make the organization more valuable.

“I think [Red Wolves] lends itself to a pretty interesting and maybe amazing fan experience with maybe the howling and everything.”

A good amount of fans are already fond of the Red Wolves name. It was a runaway favorite in a poll conducted by NBC Sports Washington, which also included Red Tails, Warriors and Red Hawks.

 

The poll didn’t include ‘other’ as an option, so it’s possible fans just chose the best of the names provided, but they aren’t alone in favoring the name. Harry Poole, VP of client services at RedPeg Marketing, also named Red Wolves among his favorites, along with Red Tails and Warriors.

“Each of these names has a story that can be told, rolls off the tongue and gives a nod to themes that represent the franchise -- strength, power, fight, courage, tradition and heroes,” Poole said.

He agrees that the team’s rebrand is about more than the name, but as the team undergoes the process, he thinks the name change can work in conjunction with an improving team on the field to create a better fan experience.

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“When the product on the field is strong, it makes the business side of things a lot easier as it relates to sales, marketing and community relations,” Poole said. “If I were selling tickets, merchandise, sponsorships or creating the gameday experience, I would be thrilled about the opportunity this presents for each of those functions.

“This is a momentous decision for the franchise, and it will impact every facet of their business. It needs to be treated as more than a creative project to identify a new moniker and logo, but instead, an exercise to reshape the entire fan experience.”

RELATED: TEMPORARY NAME CHANGE A POSITIVE STEP FOR THE RED WOLVES MOVEMENT

If Washington were to go with Red Wolves, it would only be the first step of a rebrand that would need to include creating the experiences described above, but also defining what the team’s culture will be and what the brand represents going forward. In attempting to do that, RedPeg Marketing CEO Brad Nierenberg thinks Red Wolves is a name “you can run with.”

“A name is an important starting point, but it’s all about what is the pieces of the puzzle, what you build around it,” Nierenberg said. “It’s about what culture you create, what is the brand known for. And I think that it’s interesting, I think the Redskins have an incredible opportunity to start a new narrative. They really do. There’s definitely a silver lining that you can take from this. And I think they have an opportunity, and to create a new narrative about the brand, and they’ll always go, this is the new brand.”

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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