mlb

Ballplayer Aliases: What’s Your Real Name?

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I recently came across a list of MLB players on the Internet that listed players by their full names.  I thought some of these were interesting, so I’m listing some of these below:

Don’t Call Me David

David ‘Bud’ Norris
David ‘Homer’ Bailey
David Adam Laroche

Laroche’s brother Andrew also played in the majors.  I always thought that the Laroches were named alliteratively, and that if there were more younger Laroche siblings that also played baseball, their names would be something like Amos, Alan, Ajax and Azrael.  I am slightly disappointed that this is not the case.

Homer Bailey has the worst name for a pitcher ever.  He must really hate being called Dave.

Don’t Call Me Robert

Robert Allen ‘R.A.’ Dickey
Robert Alex Wood
Robert Andrew ‘Drew’ Stubbs
Robert Chase Anderson

No one named Robert goes by ‘Bob’ or ‘Bobby’ anymore.  I miss Bobby Higginson.  There aren’t any active Bobs in the majors, other than Bobby Abreu.  But his legal name is actually Bob, not Robert.  Abreu could instead go by his middle name, ‘Kelly’.  Johnny Cueto’s middle name is ‘Brent’.  I find it hard to believe that the birth certificates of Venezuelan Abreu and Dominican Cueto really say ‘Bob Kelly’ and ‘Johnny Brent’.

Don’t Call Me James

James Anthony ‘J.A.’ Happ
James Brian Dozier
James Gordon Beckham III
James Evan Gattis

Happ goes by ‘J.A.’, which is apparently pronounced like “Jay”.  In other words, the ‘A’ is silent.  So Happ should actually go in his own category: “Don’t Call Me James and Don’t Call Me J.A.”

Unless Gordon Beckham’s great-grandfather was a huge comic books fan, Beckham’s name probably has nothing to do with James Gordon of Batman fame.  But at the least, we probably should start referring to Beckham as “Commissioner Gordon”.  On second thought, Bud Selig would never stand for that.

Shorter Is Better

Maxwell Scherzer
Tomaso Milone
Colbert Hamels
Clifton Lee

I know someone who named their kid ‘Max’.  Just Max, not short for anything.  At first, I thought this was kind of odd, because isn’t Max usually short for something?  But what is Max short for?  Maximilian?  Maximus?  Maximum?  In Scherzer’s case, it’s Maxwell.  Regardless of the choice, there is absolutely no chance that your kid would ever be called anything but ‘Max’.   So might as well do away with all those bothersome extraneous letters at the end.

Clifton Lee sounds like someone who could have been a lesser-known general in the Confederate army, perhaps a distant cousin of Robert E. Lee.  And if Robert E. Lee played major league baseball today, since no one goes by just ‘Robert’ anymore, he’d be known as Marbles Lee, utility infielder extraordinaire for the Atlanta Braves.

The Ones You Probably Already Knew

Covelli ‘Coco’ Crisp
Carsten Charles ‘CC’ Sabathia
Gerald ‘Buster’ Posey
Melvin Emanuel ‘B.J.’ Upton

If you haven’t heard it mentioned before, Upton’s name stands for “Bossman Junior”, his father being Bossman.  Bossman Junior is a pretty sweet name.  But like how the usage of the nickname ‘Dick’ for persons named Richard has fallen into disfavor over the years, the use of the moniker ‘B.J.’ is doomed, for obvious reasons.  I find it hard to believe that anyone else nicknamed B.J. will be able to make it through the gauntlet of middle school, high school, college and a baseball clubhouse unscathed any time soon.  So enjoy having Upton around while you still can (and, given his play over the last couple of years, IF you still can).  It might be the last BJ you get for the foreseeable future.

Most Confusing Middle Name

Jason Alias Heyward

When Heyward first came up with the Braves, people for some reason thought his middle name was ‘Adenolith’.  According to Heyward, his real middle name is ‘Alias’ (a variation of the name Elias) and he has no idea where ‘Adenolith’ came from.  Adenolith is not a real word.  I guess it sounds impressive and massive because it sounds sort of like monolith; but for the most part, it is a bunch of random letters mashed together.  How people once thought that Jason A. Heyward’s middle name was ‘Adenolith’ is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time.

That being said, his real middle name presents its own set of issues:

Customer service rep:  And, sir, what’s your middle name?
Jason Heyward:  Alias.
Rep:  No, not your alias, your middle name.
JH:  Alias.
Rep:  Your middle name is your alias?
JH:  Yes, my middle name is Alias.
Rep:  Okay, fine, I have a field for that too.  What’s your alias?
JH:  It’s my middle name.
Rep:  No, an alias is like a nickname.  Do you have any nicknames?
JH:  Adenolith.

2014 All-Star Rosters: Addition By Subtraction

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Imagine that it’s the late innings of the 2014 All-Star Game, baseball’s summertime showcase where all of the best and brightest stars across MLB are on the field together.  The score is close, and the outcome of the game hinges on each pitch.  In from the bullpen comes…Tony Watson????….to face….Kurt Suzuki????

Let me say it simply: the All-Star Game sucks.  It SHOULD be much better.  But it’s been watered-down and dumbed-down to the point where the game itself is a complete farce.  And that starts with the roster selections.  Now, in the past, I’ve advocated for broad, wholesale changes to the game format.  But apparently no one is listening.  So let me take a moment to plead for one simple change: reduce the roster sizes from 34 to 25.

The huge current roster size is one of the reasons why the All-Star Game itself is such a clowncar shitshow.  It also dilutes the value to the player of receiving an All-Star Game invitation: is it really such an honor for a closer to be named an All-Star when 25% of all closers are named to the team every year?  No wonder many players would rather go on vacation than show up.  And yes, while contracting rosters might lead to more deserving players being snubbed, well, a lot of those players are being excluded anyways (e.g. Chris Sale, Ian Kinsler, Stephen Strasburg).

So let’s take this year’s rosters and trim the fat a little bit:

American League 

CUT:  C Derek Norris and C Kurt Suzuki
There’s already a rule that allows a player to re-enter the game to replace an injured or ejected catcher.  So why do we need THREE catchers on a roster, as is the case this year with both the AL and the NL?  Suzuki is still nothing more than a journeyman and Norris has only recently emerged from strict platoon player status.  Let Victor Martinez be the backup catcher for the AL; he can handle it.

CUT:  RP Dellin Betances
While I don’t think it should be impossible for a middle reliever to make an All-Star Game if they are having a mind-blowing season, the bar should be very high.  Generally, middle relievers aren’t even the best relievers on their own teams, so why are they getting All-Star nods?  Betances has been really really good for the Yankees and has thrown a ton of innings for them (over 50), but he has no past track record of this kind of success.  And yeah, he’s racked up a lot of strikeouts, but his strikeout rate of 13.95 per nine innings is only second best on his team, behind closer David Robertson (16.43).

CUT:  RP Sean Doolittle
Even after cutting Betances, there are still three relievers on this team, which is one too many.  I’m going to keep Glen Perkins, since Minnesota (where the ASG is being played) should have at least one representative.  I’d probably take Koji Uehara instead of either Greg Holland or Doolittle, but since I’m just cutting and not adding, I’ll remove Doolittle, who’s only had the closer job for a month and a half.

CUT:  1B Brandon Moss and 3B Kyle Seager
No doubt, both Moss and Seager are having great years.  But there simply isn’t room for Moss with two more deserving first basemen (Miguel Cabrera and Jose Abreu) already on the roster.  Same thing for Seager, who’s behind Josh Donaldson (he’s been slumping, but I’m honoring the fan vote for now) and Adrian Beltre (longer track record, more star power).

CUT:  OF Yoenis Cespedes
You don’t need three extra outfielders, so I’m cutting one.  To me, Michael Brantley is clearly deserving, so it comes down to Cespedes and Alex Gordon.  Advanced stats love Gordon’s defense, ranking him third overall in FanGraphs WAR largely due to his glove and arm, and I have a hard time stomaching Cespedes’ mediocre .316 OBP.  (The A’s ended up with an insane seven All-Stars (if you count newly acquired Jeff Samardzija) and I’m cutting four of them here.  The thing is, if I were adding players, I’d probably cut Scott Kazmir for Chris Sale or Corey Kluber or Garrett Richards.  And as mentioned above, I’d consider cutting Donaldson as well if he weren’t already voted in as a starter.  And Samardzija’s not going to pitch in the game.  So yeah, the A’s are probably the best team in the majors right now, but they are doing it without any true superstars; they could just as easily have ended up with zero All-Stars.)

CUT:  SS Alexei Ramirez
There are those who are complaining about Derek Jeter’s inclusion in this year’s game, but there simply aren’t any really worthy candidates at shortstop who are being shortchanged here.  It’s picking the best of a mediocre lot.  We don’t even need a backup here; just let Jetes play the whole game.

Trimmed AL Roster

C Salvador Perez
1B Miguel Cabrera
2B Robinson Cano
3B Josh Donaldson
SS Derek Jeter
OF Jose Bautista
OF Mike Trout
OF Adam Jones
DH Nelson Cruz

SP Mark Buehrle
SP Yu Darvish
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Scott Kazmir
SP Jon Lester
SP Max Scherzer
SP David Price
SP Masahiro Tanaka
RP Greg Holland
RP Glen Perkins

1B Jose Abreu
2B Jose Altuve
3B Adrian Beltre
OF Michael Brantley
OF Alex Gordon
DH Victor Martinez

National League

CUT:  RP Pat Neshek and RP Tony Watson
Again, middle relievers, and neither of these guys have even been as good as Betances.

CUT:  C Devin Mesoraco
Having a good year, but again, don’t need three catchers.

CUT:  3B Matt Carpenter and 2B Daniel Murphy
As above, the team doesn’t need a third 3B or 2B.  Murphy’s having a nice half year for the Mets, but I’d like to see a little more before granting him All-Star status.  (Elimination of Murphy would mean there are no Mets on the NL team.  A necessary result of the reduction of roster size would be the elimination of the one-player-per-team rule, which would be a great thing.)

CUT:  SP Tyson Ross
Ross is the token Padre, but he’s actually been pretty good this year.  Still…not quite good enough and everyone from the Padres has the stink of their awfulness.

CUT:  OF Charlie Blackmon
Blackmon is a result of player and fan balloting starting WAY too early in the season.  After a scorching April, Blackmon has proven he’s nothing special in May and June.

CUT:  OF Josh Harrison
WAAAAAAHAHAHAHA.  Seriously?  Get outta here.

Trimmed NL Roster

C Yadier Molina
1B Paul Goldschmidt
2B Chase Utley
3B Aramis Ramirez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
OF Andrew McCutchen
OF Carlos Gomez
OF Yasiel Puig

SP Madison Bumgarner
SP Johnny Cueto
SP Zack Greinke
SP Clayton Kershaw
SP Julio Teheran
SP Adam Wainwright
SP Jordan Zimmermann
RP Aroldis Chapman
RP Craig Kimbrel
RP Francisco Rodriguez

C Jonathan Lucroy
SS Starlin Castro
3B Todd Frazier
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Dee Gordon
OF Hunter Pence
OF Giancarlo Stanton

Now isn’t that much better?  We were even able to preserve the one-player-per-team standard for the American League.  We can talk about snubs another time; but as you can see, simply cutting down the roster size greatly improves the overall quality of these rosters and would result in a much more interesting game as well.  Unfortunately, I have little to no hope that this will ever change.  So, whatever.  Stay tuned for another rant about All-Star selections next year.

Suspended Game Singularities

Last Thursday (May 22), the game between the Giants and the Rockies was suspended due to rain tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 6th.  Most likely, this game won’t be completed until the Giants return to Colorado during the first week of September.  That’s a long time to wait to finish a game.  The suspended game (as opposed to the postponement or shortening of a game due to weather) is a relatively rare occurrence, and brings with it a bevy of interesting hypothetical scenarios.  For example, let’s say between now and September, the Rockies trade Michael Cuddyer to the Giants.  When the game is completed, Cuddyer would be eligible to enter the game for the Giants, thus appearing in the same game for both teams.  This has never happened before in the history of baseball, but in this age of increased in-season trades, this is bound to occur sooner or later.

Hypothetically, it would also be possible for even stranger situations to occur when players switch teams prior to the completion of a suspended game.  Nick Masset completed the top of the 6th for the Rockies; if the Rockies were then to take the lead in the bottom of the 6th, Masset would be in line to get a win.  But what if Masset were traded to the Giants, then, when this suspended game is resumed, enters the game in the bottom of the 6th inning with the bases empty and gives up a tie-breaking run?  In theory, at least, Masset could get credit for BOTH the win and the loss in the SAME GAME.  While this can’t happen in this particular situation because a runner is currently on base with two outs (even if Masset entered the game immediately for the Giants, the go-ahead run couldn’t be charged to him), you can see how it’s at least a plausible scenario.  At the very least, this is yet another reason why wins and losses are super fun.

Finally, let’s look at one other possible (but even more unlikely) situation: as before, Masset pitches the top of the 6th for the Rockies, the game gets suspended, Masset gets traded to the Giants, the game resumes, then Masset enters the game for the Giants in the bottom of the 6th.  Upon entering, however, Masset ends up facing the pitcher’s spot in the order for the Rockies…which is of course currently occupied by Masset himself.  Of course, there’s no situation where Masset could actually walk up to the plate and face himself, unless, you know, he’s Multiple Man.  So in 99.99% of these situations, the Rockies would just put a pinch hitter in Rockies Masset’s spot to face Giant Masset (wait…is a single member of the Rockies team called a Rocky?  Or are the Rockies one of those team names that can’t be singularized like the Heat or the Red Sox?).  But let’s say Rockies management has a colossal brain fart (or just wants to make history) and somehow just skips Rockies Masset’s spot in the order.  According to MLB rules, if you skip a player in the order, that player would simply be called out.  Statistically, I’m not sure how that would be recorded (probably an 0 for 1 for Rockies Masset and 1/3 of an inning pitched for Giant Masset), but I would like to think that this would mean that Masset gets credit for an at bat…against himself.

The fact that it is possible (however unlikely) for two versions of the same person to appear in a single game proves that suspended games are far more insidious than they initially appear.  How can there be two Nick Massets?  Think of it this way: the unholy act of suspending a baseball game creates a tear in the space-time continuum , allowing Future Nick Masset to interact with Past Nick Masset.  In other words, a suspended game behaves like a black hole. Taking that reasonable analogy to its logical conclusion, the upside of suspended games is the possible creation of interestingly quirky box scores, while the downside is the potential destruction of the entire world.

Replay Repair

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Six weeks into the season, my thoughts on instant replay are mixed at best.  The way I see it, MLB’s method of instituting replay review this year is kind of like using a spoon to perform surgery instead of a scalpel.  The whole thing lacks deftness.  Accuracy is an important thing, but it’s not the only thing, and I’m concerned that game flow and watchability are being negatively impacted.  Moreover, there are opportunities being lost because even if replay in its current form is beneficial overall, it could still be much improved with just a few tweaks:

–  No reviews on “safe” calls for pickoffs.  Virtually every pickoff throw results in a somewhat close call at first base.  No one has ever complained that a game was lost because of a blown “safe” call on a pickoff play.  And baserunners should get the benefit of the doubt, because stolen bases add a dynamic and enjoyable element to the game.  Let’s just leave this one alone.

No more stalling.  If you think about it, each replay review currently involves TWO separate reviews.  There’s the official review after a challenge, when MLB officials decide whether to overturn a call.  But there’s also the review by the challenging team prior to deciding whether to challenge, where the team manager walks oh-so-slowly out to the field and casually asks the umpire what he ate for lunch, then peers into the dugout to see whether his bench coach (who’s on the phone with the team video guys) gives him a thumbs up or thumbs down.  Watching television is probably a waste of my time as it is; I certainly don’t need additional minutes of that time wasted watching the cameras zoom in on some guy TALKING ON THE PHONE.  The rules actually say that a manager needs to say whether he wants to challenge “immediately” when “prompted” by an umpire; the umpires need to enforce this more stringently.  Let’s cut the time that teams have to decide whether to challenge; if they can’t figure it out in that time, well, it’s probably not worth challenging in the first place.  Also, managers shouldn’t be able to stall by walking slowly; they should have to make an irrevocable signal to challenge prior to the next pitch without delaying the game.  They could throw a red flag on the field, like in football, or even better, there should be a big red lever set up in each dugout where if you pull it, all the lights in the stadium start flashing and a loud booming voice says “CHALLENGE!” and then the Final Jeopardy theme music starts to play.   You can even customize the effects for each team and stadium or use evil-sounding music for visiting teams’ challenges.  The more I think about this idea, the more I am completely incredulous that this hasn’t happened yet.

Two challenges per game per team, period.  Currently, each team has a challenge per game.  If you challenge a call correctly, you get another one.  Simple enough, right?  The problem is what happens in the late innings, because no one seems to really know.  If you have a challenge left after the 7th innings, you can of course use it.  But if you don’t have one, you can request that the umpires review the play anyways.  As far as I know, umpires have never denied this request, which means as long as you don’t piss off the umps too much, you can have essentially unlimited reviews in the late innings.  Theoretically, if every inning after the 9th ends with a tie score, a baseball game could last an infinite amount of time.  In some parallel universe out there, there is a baseball game that started in 1900 and is still going.  Being a person that likes conflict to eventually resolve, this thought makes me uncomfortable.  But if you add in a potentially infinite amount of reviews, then you’re talking about games that could last infinity x infinity.  And I just can’t handle that.  Let’s make it two reviews, with one additional review if you get your review correct.  Not only will this make me sleep better at night, it introduces an additional element of strategy and minimizes the frivolous reviews of insignificant plays.

Fantasy Memories: Ryan Klesko

In late April 2001, I had just graduated from college and was planning to go backpacking through Europe for most of the month of May.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to check my fantasy baseball team very much while I was traveling (no smartphones in 2001), so the night before I left, I set my roster one last time.  I think my first baseman was hurt or something, so I just picked up the highest ranked first baseman available on the waiver wire, who happened to be Ryan Klesko.  Despite a solid 2000 season, Klesko had started 2001 slowly, hitting only .247 in April, so someone had dropped him.  I didn’t know much about the dude at all, so I was just hoping that he would stay relatively healthy and at least not hurt my team too much while I was gone.

When I returned to the U.S. at the end of May, I finally logged back on to a computer and took a look at the numbers next to Klesko’s name.  My jaw fell off my face.  Ryan Klesko had gone insane.  In May 2001, Klesko hit .354/.464/.788 with 11 homers, 40 RBI and 10 stolen bases.  That’s double digit steals and homers in a single month.  I have no idea whether anyone else has managed this feat, but it seems like it would be extremely rare.  I checked all of the 40/40 seasons in history (Canseco, Bonds, A-Rod, Soriano) and none of them did it.  And Klesko was primarily a first baseman!  While I was off traipsing across Europe, Klesko was doing work, carrying my fantasy team on his back for an entire month.

Fantasy baseball managers tend to develop irrational attachments to certain players, or at least I do.  Very often, it’s a guy you feel like you “discovered”, someone you bought into and believed in before anyone else did.  In those cases, a large portion of that ongoing attachment comes from personal pride in your own fantasy baseball skills.  You identified a star before he became a star, therefore, you are also a star and every time you see his name in your lineup, you feel good about you.  I definitely feel that way about some of the guys I’ve had on my team over the years, like James Shields or R.A. Dickey. But this wasn’t the case with Klesko.  I was just plain lucky that I happened to have added him right before he exploded; I can take no credit in this.  But I continued to roster him on many of my teams up until he retired in 2007, and this was a different kind of attachment.  Call it eternal gratitude.

The 2001 MLB season was perhaps the most memorable of my lifetime.  Seattle won 116 games.  Barry Bonds hit a billion homers.  Ichiro won rookie of the year and MVP honors.  Albert Pujols’ ridiculous rookie year as the oldest-looking 20 year old in history.   9/11.  The Jeter Flip.  All of this culminated in the greatest World Series I have ever seen.  So it’s not surprising that Klesko’s amazing May has been virtually forgotten.  But not by me.  My gratitude continues until this day.  For that amazing month, thank you Ryan Klesko.  Thank you until the end of time.