Monday, November 29, 2010

We Need More Nicknames

Growing up and loving baseball, one of the best things about the game was its nicknames. There was the Terminator and the Mick and Smokey and Yogi. We had Yaz and Nails and Rags and Pags. And of course, before them all was the Babe. We tend for forget that though baseball is big business, it's played by a bunch of young people. Young people always come up with nicknames for people. It's just the way it works. When this writer did a book report in the sixth grade on The Hobbit, sure enough, the writer became Bilbo. But maybe the players make so much money now, we've lost a bit of that kids stuff. Nah. We are just in a bit of a dry spell.

There is a preponderance of hyphenated nicknames these days. Blame that on two things: rappers and Hollywood gossip reporters. There is J-Lo and Run-DMC to blame for all the A-Rod, K-Rod, Dice-K, Car-Go, A-Gon, etc. While those are easy to remember and great for Headline writing, they lack a bit of imagination. We have a Pudge, but that's a retread of an earlier Pudge. Top headline players like Adrian Beltre and Joey Votto don't even have nicknames. Though you could make a case that "Joey" is a nickname for a Joseph Votto. That's not the same thing.

There are also too many abbreviations. Was there ever as many as we had today? We have C.C and A.J (at least three come to mind) and B.J. and J.D. and C.J. and R.A. We have so many of them that it has become acceptable not to put a space between the letters, which is a pain in the neck looking them up on stat sites.

We do have a Donkey. We have Hip Hip Jorge, which is clever. But there just isn't enough nicknames to spark our fancy. Sandman is pretty cool. Wandy would be a pretty cool nickname if that was his nickname. But it's his real name. Where are the Mookies and the Boogs? How many players do we have today that we know by their nickname rather than their real name? No fan ever called Berra by his given name of Lawrence and nobody called Wilson by his given name of William. And when you search stat sites, you don't search for Lawrence Berra, you search for Yogi. And there he is too! There are no Cookies but we do have a Coco, probably the best nickname in the game today.

In fact, the trend has gone to more formal name calling. We have Jonathan and Hunter and Clayton and Justin. Perhaps the formalities symbolize the kind of value proposition players have now. It would hard to be business-like negotiating with Smokey. But don't you long for more names like Crash, Maz, Joltin' Joe, Casey and even a Sandy? We need Wee Willies and Big Trains and Hammerin' Hanks.

Some of the nicknames we do have are a bit weird. Big Papi? What the heck is that? Doc Halladay makes sense, but it's not imaginative enough. How does Doc Halladay compare to Dizzy Dean? Limply. King Albert is the best we can do? No, we've got to do better. When J-Roll is the best nickname of the Phillies, we have a problem. We need nicknames for Ryan Howard. Chase Utley? Sounds like a lawyer. Ryan Howard, one of the biggest players in baseball who is gigantic in stature should have a nickname. He has none. There is something wrong with that.

We are in dire need of nicknames. Every blog that covers a certain team should have a nickname contest and create some. Or we need to find the living descendants of Charles Finley so we can invent some more Blue Moons and Catfish names. We should have top minor league players start to list their nicknames, or better yet, have their teammates nominate some. Those names should be handed to the franchise publicist to trademark and exploit. Baseball without nicknames is boring. And "boring" already comes up too much around the country when baseball is mentioned.

Come on, people! Let's get the ball rolling. We need nicknames and we need them now.


Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

We had some good ones in Toronto. Downs was Snakeface. Frasor became The Sausage King of the Bullpen. Travis Snider's known as Lunchbox. His Twitter handle is actually @lunchboxhero45, I believe.

bobook said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! And if the rest of the baseball world won't, I move, with your permission William, that we utilize this site for the advancement of baseball player nicknames.
My buddy, Tim, and I refer to Alex Gonzalez as 'The Corporal' in reference to F-Troop (Agarn-- get it???). Now I look up him in Baseball Reference and his nickname is 'Sea Bass'. Anybody know what that's about?

Josh Borenstein said...

I don't like Ryan Theriot, but I've always thought The Riot is a great nickname.

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