August 2006

Muzzling The ARF

MuzzleA defining element of an athlete?s persona, the nickname should evolve naturally and — more importantly — without formula.
?The Big Blank,? of course, is the exception to the rule — the Big Hurt, the Big Cat, the Big Ticket, the Big Unit, the Big This and the Big That. But the exceptions stop there … without exception.

In particular, the ?A-Rod Formula? — call if ?ARF? — has been abused for far too long. Taking the first letter of an athlete?s first name, throwing in a hyphen, tacking on the first syllable of his last name and trying to pass it off as a nickname is just plain inane. There?s nothing unique about the ARF, nothing that sheds light on the athlete?s character, nothing that separates him from the pack. However fittingly, the ARF is about as expressive as the bark of a dog.

Ipod_1If you?re not sold, consider ?T-Mac,? which sounds more like a new line of Apple computers than a befitting nickname for six-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady. Clearly, McGrady could use an alias a tad more relevant to his supreme talent, but as it stands, he?ll never know what it?s like to have a real nickname.

And don?t even get me started on ?J-Cap,? the Starbucks-order-turned-nickname for tennis star Jennifer Capriati.

But if Rodriguez must be ?A-Rod,? if McGrady must be ?T-Mac,? and if Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin must be ?K-Mart,? shouldn?t Mets ace Pedro Martinez be ?P-Mart?? What about Indians catcher Victor Martinez? Shouldn?t he be ?V-Mart?? And don?t those sound more like cheap convenience stores than big-league nicknames?

What about former Red Sox and White Sox reliever Frank Baumann? Is he ?F-Baum?? And is Twins right-hander Brad Radke ?B-Rad,? or ?Brad?? You bet he is.

Likewise, Cardinals reliever Braden Looper should be ?B-Loop,? or ?Bloop.? Fellow Redbird Albert Pujols must be ?A-Pu,? or ?Apu.?

Apu_1Devil Rays infielder Ty Wigginton should be ?T-Wig,? or ?Twig.? And BoSox catcher Javy Lopez would have to be — what else? — ?J-Lo.?

Rangers outfielder Gary Matthews, meanwhile, must be ?G-Mat.? But Matthews wouldn?t necessarily be the first Major Leaguer named after a standardized admission test. After all, Luis ?L-Sat? Saturria played sparingly in the Cardinals outfield from 2000-01, and Mike ?M-Cat? Cather pitched out the Braves bullpen from 1997-99.

So forget about the insanity. It?s time to STOP THE INANITY! It?s time to start respecting the sanctity of the sports nicknaming lexicon. And it?s time to put a muzzle on the ARF.

Imperatively Speaking

BagwellIt?s imperative to understand that some names aren?t just names. They?re imperative sentences. Just ask Blue Jays right-hander Justin Speier (Just inspire!), Indians southpaw C.C. Sabathia (C.C. Sabathia!), White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye (Jermaine, die!) and Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell (Jeff, bag well!). …

Wily Mets right-hander Orlando Hernandez is often referred to as the ?Master of Deception,? which sounds more like the name of a cartoon supervillain conglomerate than a tribute to a pitcher?s cunning on the mound. I can hear it now: Tune in next week as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe battle Skeletor, Orlando Hernandez and the Masters of Deception in a showdown that will settle the score between good and evil and determine the fate of Eternia. ?

Speaking of masters, the ?Master of Disaster? ?- Apollo Creed?s nickname in the ?Rocky? movies ?- never really made much sense to me. Sure, it sounded cool, what with the basic rhyming scheme and ?- speaking of which ?- implication of domination. But what in Balboa?s name is a master of disaster? How would one go about mastering disaster, and why? Disaster is something you should avoid like the plague, not embrace as a self-defining area of expertise. Now ?Master of Disaster Control,? that?s a title worth shooting for. Calamity regulation and diffusion, after all, is a noble occupation. But a plain old ?Master of Disaster,? though phonetically menacing, is no more worthy than a ?King of Catastrophe,? a ?Duke of Debacle,? a ?Tyrant of Tragedy? or a ?Fuhrer of Failure.? ?

LiottaCurious how the White Sox drafted southpaw Ray Liotta with their
second-round pick in the 2004. After all, it was Ray Liotta ?- albeit a
different Ray Liotta ?- who played former ChiSox outfielder ?Shoeless?
Joe Jackson in ?Field of Dreams.? Of course, Ray Liotta the baseball
player ?- he of the 1-5 record and 7.82 ERA for Class A Winston-Salem
?- is no ?Shoeless? Joe. Unless of course he?s been acting all this
time. …

It’s been mere days since the Yankees broke ground for the new Yankee
Stadium, but superlatively self-indulgent members of the Yankees
Entertainment System broadcast team -? better known as the YES men ?-
have already dubbed the event the greatest of its kind, the most
groundbreaking groundbreaking ever. ?

Three strikes and you?re out. It?s become a staple of American jurisprudence, a pillar of the lexicon that extends far beyond the game of baseball. And rightfully so; it has quite a nice ring to it and an easily understood analogousness that the great American pastime tends to afford. But sometimes, three strikes is one too few to call a man out. Sometimes, the batter deserves another chance. And sometimes, ?four balls and you walk? is the more appropriate policy.

Sean Casey Voodoo Doll Night

CerranoIn an ironic turn of events, former Pirates first baseman Sean Casey had appeared in only 59 of the team?s first 103 games when he sat out his own bobblehead night at Pittsburgh?s PNC Park due to a strained oblique. 

"As the game went on, it just tightened up," said Casey, adding that ?it felt like it was a softball in my rib all day.?

Hmmm. Increasing, localized pain? Miniature dolls bearing the victim?s likeness? Sounds more like ?Sean Casey Voodoo Doll Night? to me. ?

Astro_1?The Jetsons? began airing in 1962, but the Astros have been around since only 1965. So shouldn?t Houston?s mascot be a cartoon dog from the future? …

According to STATS Inc., Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols has swung and missed at three pitches in the same at-bat only once in 2006 ? not bad, considering that the average American misses three cuts in the same plate appearance every night at dinner. ?

Shouldn?t Tigers rookie Brent Clevlen play for the Indians? ?

Astros first baseman Mike Lamb and his wife, Teresa, recently welcomed a baby girl into the world. McKayla Marie weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces, leading one man to conclude that — contrary to popular nursery-rhyme refrain — Lamb had a little Marie.

The Fantasy Fantasy

KarabellIn a mind-numbing development, alleged fantasy experts have begun referencing ?batted balls over 380 feet? as an index of power in a fraudulent effort to prove their statistical worthiness to the masses.

Putting aside how ridiculous ?batted balls over 380 feet? sounds, ask yourself if a 381-foot flyout to dead center at Dolphin Stadium qualifies as a batted ball over 380 feet? It better. What about batted balls under 380 feet that leave the yard? Do they qualify? I hope not.

How might one go about tracking batted balls over 380 feet? Is this to suggest that every ball batted in the field of play qualifies as a tape-measure shot? If so, where?s the tape? And who?s measuring?

What?s so special about 380 feet? Why not 372 feet, or 383.7?

And where in the name of objectivity is this data coming from? Is ?batted balls over 380 feet? even a real statistic? Or is it nothing more than a fantasy fantasy? …

Vidablue_3Less than a week after straining his lower back on a tag play, Royals first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz was placed on the 15-day disabled list. More to follow on when Mientkiewicz will return to the starting lineup, and — more importantly — why he was playing tag during a baseball game in the first place. …

In an innocuous development, the Phillies recently acquired non-roster infielder Hector Made from the Yankees in exchange for veteran catcher Sal Fasano.

Of course, the move carries some significance, at least in the name-game community, as Made isn?t the first man in big-league history with a past-tense verb for a last name. Just ask Reds outfielder Adam Dunn, Dodgers outfielder J.D. Drew, onetime Red Sox right-hander Tom Hurd and former A?s and Giants southpaw Vida Blue.