How often does a player compete against a team of the same name?
Last Friday, The Athletic’s Matt Gelb tweeted a hilarious comment from Phillies starter Ranger Suárez.
Ranger Suárez is scheduled to play against Rangers in Tuesday’s game.
“It happens, man,” he said. “2022. The world is crazy.”
— MatteYellow (@MattYellow) April 29, 2022
Tonight, when Ranger Suárez throws his first pitch against Texas, he will be the first player named Ranger to play a game against a team named Rangers.
To be fair, Suárez is the only player named Ranger in MLB history, and he had to start against Rangers ultimately. Still, it’s pretty cool.
But how cool is it?
Ranger’s start against Rangers got me thinking: How often does that happen? How often does a player play against a team of the same name? How often does a starting pitcher compete against his own name?
I was sure it must have happened before. Angel and Ray are pretty common names, and there were definitely a few players named Rocky as well. Almost everyone was nicknamed Red in the first half of the 20th century, and a guy named Cub played for a while in the 19th century. There were even a couple of guys named Marlin (in addition to two guys named Marlon, which I’m sure you’re familiar with) and one named Philly.
As for historical names, the Dodgers were called the Robins for short, the Guardians were once called the Naps, and there used to be a Negro League team called the Dayton Marcos. There were certainly baseball players named Robin, Nap, and Marco.
However, as I signed up with Baseball Reference and began researching, I realized that this was going to be a more unique event than I initially thought.
While there have been approximately 200 players named Ray in MLB history, most of them played before there actually was a team called the Rays. The Tampa Bay Rays franchise didn’t exist until 1998 and they were called the Devil Rays until 2008.
As of 2008, there have only been five MLB players named Ray. Only one of them has ever played against the Rays — Ray Olmedo, an infielder who had a plate appearance against Tampa Bay in 2012. No player named Ray has ever started a game against the Rays. There is currently an active player named Ray – Ray Kerr – but he’s a backup for the Padres and he’s currently playing in the minor leagues so it’s unlikely we’ll see him start against the Rays anytime soon.
The other MLB team that shares a name with many former players are the Reds. There have been many, many players named Red over the years, although since the 1960s there has only been one — Red Patterson, who started a game for the Dodgers in 2014 and never showed up at the majors again.
However, if we’re technical, none of those players were actually named Red. Red was always a nickname. Many of these guys are known as Red more often than their real names, and many of them are officially listed as Red on Baseball Reference. But technically technically Red was still just a nickname.
I don’t think it’s nearly as interesting for a player whose nickname is the same as a team’s name to start against that team. Maybe I’m just picky because I don’t want to sort through the many, many, many players nicknamed Red who probably started against the Cincinnati Reds at some point. But I really think it’s worth distinguishing between nicknames and actual given names for this fun fact.
Speaking of popular nicknames, there have been several major league players named Rocky over the years, but only four since the Colorado Rockies franchise was formed in 1993. Of those four, only two were actually named Rocky, and neither of them ever started a game against Colorado.
Both players named Marlin retired long before the Marlins were a baseball franchise, and both players named Marlon were position players (not that I would have included them anyway – spelling counts!)
Cub Stricker was a second baseman and Philly Holmes played his entire career in the Negro Leagues, so none of them make the finals either.
So, if we don’t count the Red name, there’s only one pitcher in major league history who has started a game against a team with the same name: Ángel Miranda.
Angel Miranda was a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers from 1993 to 1997. He appeared in 116 games and started 47. In 1996, two of his starts came against the California Angels.
It might seem hard to believe that only one pitcher named Ángel has ever pitched against the Angels. After all, there have been more than two dozen MLB players named Ángel over the years.
However, more than half of these players were position players. Of the 12 pitchers named Ángel, one played before the Angels were a franchise. Of the remaining 11, only four have ever started a game. Of those four, one played his entire career for the Angels (Ángel Moreno), one never played against the Angels (Ángel Guzmán), and one is a rookie for the Royals who has only made one start in his major league career (Ángel Zerpa ). The other is Angel Miranda.
Finally, there is a good chance that Ángel Zerpa could start against the Angels. But as it stands now, Ángel Miranda is the only pitcher named Ángel who has ever started a game against the Angels baseball team.
Angel Miranda. That’s it. The one pitcher starting against a team with the same name as him.
If you want to get Yes, really Technically, one could argue that Ángel Miranda doesn’t actually have the same name as the angels, since Miranda spells his name with an accent. Ángel is the Spanish spelling of the English word “angel”. And of course I didn’t consider the translations of every MLB team name into every possible language.
So if Ángel isn’t technically the same name as Angel, where does that leave us?
Well, when Ranger Suárez throws his first pitch against the Texas Rangers tonight, he’ll make Major League Baseball history by becoming the first pitcher to ever start a game against a team with the exact same name as his first name.
When I first read what Suárez said to Matt Gelb (“It’s happening man. 2022. The world is crazy.”) I have to admit that I thought that was a bit of an exaggerated reaction. But now that I know this is actually the first time in 146 years of Major League Baseball?
I totally agree with Ranger. It’s pretty crazy.