There are so many things wrong with MLB's so-called Players' Weekend. We can spend all day bitching about how nobody knows what Players' Weekend is supposed to even represent, what the draw is, or what storylines it is supposed to advance, and you can head over to the Fascionista column to read all about the worst uniforms ever worn on the diamond, but I want to talk about the nicknames. If you don't have a brain aneurism trying to decipher the point of Players' Weekend, the simplest explanation of what Rob Manfred and MLB think is supposed to draw fans into the seats during this annual weekend is the presence of nicknames on the back of the player's jerseys. If that is in fact the intended draw, Manfred has shot his own company in the foot because all they are doing is highlighting the ugly truth that MLB doesn't have good nicknames anymore.
Everyone in the business knows that no average joes can name five current baseball players anymore. Even Mike Trout, the current face of the company, could walk down the street unrecognized. We've gone through this a million times before and will repeat it a million times more, but that wasn't always the case. On the contrary, baseball stars used to be household names. Furthermore, they had cool nicknames that helped get them over.
Nobody calls the stars by nicknames anymore, and then MLB has this Players' Weekend where they expect fans to pretend to be familiar with these nicknames that nobody has ever used. I can count the good nicknames in today's game on Antonio Alfonseca's left hand. El Mago is good for Javy Baez, tells the audience about his flair, and most importantly, people actually call him that. Jeff Samardzija is Shark. Miller Time for Andrew Miller is actually over, and reminds me of Nolan Ryan's Ryan Express. Aroldis Chapman as The Missile is clever. Wild Horse for Puig is a little outlaw, but the kids love it. Nelson Cruz's Boomstick has always been a hit. I've always liked Albert Pujols as The Machine/La Maquina, but I shouldn't even count him since he's a hanger-on from an era where sports entertainment still had dignity.
Everything else? Jesus. Mike Trout is "KIIIID"? What the fuck is that shit? This is the face of the company, and you're calling him KIIIID? How do I even pronounce that nickname? Is it a play on Junior Griffey's old "The Kid" nickname? How am I supposed to remember how many I's are in KIIIIIID? KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIID!
Who are the other faces of this empty baseball shell of itself again? I guess it's Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, Clayton Kershaw, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Giancarlo Stanton. That should be enough. That's at least who Manfred wants to push, but really only Harper, Judge, and Kershaw are over.
Harper is "Harp". That's just part of his fucking name. I'd strangle the Mormon cunt for putting up with such a ludicrous nickname, but half the nicknames are just people's names, either shortened like Harp, or with a "Y" added at the end. Both Yelich and Bellinger, the main eventers of the 2019 National League Home Run Race, fit in the latter category by being "Yelli" and "Belli", while Clayton Kershaw, a living legend, is "Kersh". Nolan Arenado is "Nado", another shortened name, and Kris Bryant is just his fucking initials in "KB". Aaron Judge is "BAJ", which I never heard anyone call him, and I can't for the life of me figure out what B.A.J. must stand for. Big Aaron Judge? Bad Ass Judge? Blueberry Ass Juice? Bareem Abdul-Jabbar? I shouldn't have to look this shit up, but so few people care enough about the sport to post anything that would show up in a goddamn Google search. His teammate Giancarlo, whose first name is so cool he shouldn't need a nickname, disrespects the business by putting "Parmigiancarlo" on his jersey". A superstar shouldn't have some dumbfuck meme name like that, but it's fitting name when a third of these fucking marks calling themselves ballplayers have goddamn emojis stitched into their uniforms.
Those are just the stars. The crap don't smell any better down the card. Willson Contreras calls himself "Venezuela", even though being there are dozens of Venezuelan players. Enrique Hernandez and Luis Cessa both call themselves "Kike", and neither of them are Jewish. Daniel Vogelbach calls himself "The Babe", which should be treated in professional baseball how Muslims treat depictions of The Prophet Muhammed. Jeff McNeil is "Flying Squirrel", which is original and memorable for a comic relief jobber, but tells me nothing about his gimmick. Lucas Giolito's "Bigfoot" nickname is good on its own, but not for an ace pitcher; they nickname belongs to a big, hairy slugger. Jon Lester as "Lefthander" is nothing but a damn description of his handedness. Michael Chavis as "Chief" is a classic, dignified nicknamed that says a lot while saying very little; problem is, Michael Chavis is a motherfucking jobber and only a grizzled veteran with a respected track-record could deserve to be called the Chief. Xander Bogaerts as X-Man actually has potential because Xander is at least a better ballplayer than Xavier Hernandez, the last guy with that nickname.
How far we have fallen. All the biggest stars in the past had nicknames. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were Slammin' Sammy and Big Mac. Willie Mays was the Say-Hey Kid. Ernie Banks was Mr. Cub. Randy Johnson was the Big Unit. The Roger Clemens was The Rocket, but the reserved yang to his powerhouse yin was Greg Maddux as The Professor. Reggie Jackson was Mr. October. Babe Ruth was the Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, and simply the Babe. These are some of the greatest superstars ever in sports entertainment and they have nicknames as well known as their own names. People actually called these players their nicknames.
Workers who may not have had the pure IT factor to become superstars used nicknames to get themselves over in spite of the odds. Fred McGriff would not have gotten so over, especially with the kids, without the Crime Dog name. David Eckstein as the X-Factor told you everything you needed to know about his gritty underdog gimmick. Calling Andre Dawson The Hawk is what turned him from workrate darling to a superstar. Dennis Martinez as El Presidente planted the seeds of respect the minds of even the fans who had just heard of him, and he road that to a beautiful 23-year career. Jon Lester ain't gonna make any money selling a "Lefthander Lager", but Frank Thomas's "Big Hurt Beer" has made him a very rich man.
You even had players whose nicknames were so good as nicknames and so good for the player that the players were called by the nicknames 100% of the time as if it were their real name. I don't think I've ever heard anyone call Orlando Hernandez anything other than El Duque. You'd have thought I-V-A-N was pronounced "Pudge" with how much resonance fans had with Ivan Rodriguez and Carlton Fisk's old nickname. Alex Rodriguez is the one guy who can call himself an abbreviation without looking like a douche; A-Rod is still a massive douche, but not because he's called A-Rod in conversation. Terry Francona is more Tito than his daddy.
It's not like the nicknames have to be that complex. Hammerin' Hank Aaron and Slammin' Sammy Sosa are basic alliteration. And sometimes a nickname doesn't have to be presented as a nickname. Babe Ruth is technically a nickname, because MLB was smart enough to know that George Ruth was not a good name for a legend. Bet you didn't know Albert Pujols's real name was Jose Pujols, but MLB knew Jose was too common of a name for someone to stand out like Pujols was booked to. The point is to get your stars over and the name is part of that. George becoming Babe and Jose becoming Albert didn't stop them from being nicknamed The Bambino and The Machine, either. In today's social media environment, fans like being on a one-name basis with sports entertainment stars like Lebron, Kyrie, and MLB should embrace that like they once did with Babe.
Professional Baseball needs good nicknames back, especially if MLB is gonna print nicknames on the back of jerseys during a weekend every year. In the interest of saving baseball, we'll come up with new nicknames for today's stars. We'll start with the stars whose nicknames we deconstructed earlier in the article. We'll even rename some of today's stars, and give some booking ideas made possible by our suggested nicknames.
Mike Trout's Current Nickname: "KIIIIIIIIID" | Suggested Nickname: "Greatness"
Think about it. Every booker at MLB is dedicated at getting Mike Trout over as a national superstar on the level of Lebron James and Tom Brady. He is a generational talent, and even if workrate smarks overestimate how much the casual audience cares about their nerdy SABRshit, MLB is right to at least try pushing Trout to the moon. If the angle you're going with his emphasizing that his greatness is so great that you just have to witness it, then really run with that and straight-up call him "Greatness". If Sweetness worked for Walter Payton, then Trout can be called Greatness. Style it like the We Are All Witnesses angle the NBA did to get Lebron over. Have a billboards across California with a pretentious photoshoot of Trout, back turned, staring into the camera with a straight-face, with text that says "Don't Miss Greatness". And de-emphasize the "Mike" in his name. Just call him Trout, it'll make him sound even more important.
Bryce Harper's Current Nickname: "Harp" | Suggested Nickname: "The Dice"
Bryce has a great regular name already because he can be called on a first-name basis. Doesn't mean he can't have a good nickname too. The Dice. Think about it, he's a heel and he's from Las Vegas. He's got a great poker face. Run with that and do a cocky poker player gimmick. To get even more heat, you could drop Scott Boras and make Pete Rose — who had a great nickname, by the way — his new agent because of the gambling angle. Charlie Hustle could cut these heel promos where he talks about he's about to "Roll the Bryce". Hell, let Bryce and Rose do this thing where they always make it seem like they might throw games on purpose, but they're really coy about it and don't outright say anything. Gold. Roll the fucking dice with Bryce.
Christian Yelich's Current Nickname: "Yeli" | Suggested Nickname: "Chris-chan"
The only promo Yelich ever cut that got over was the one from last year's playoffs where he talked about eating ass. Disgusting, but hey, if it's over, it's over. That's our business. Double down on it and make Yelich a superstar by appealing to the audience that is always talking about analingus: Twitter users with anime avatars. Yelich looks like a total twink anyway. I don't know much about this market, but I do know they're always adding Japanese suffixes to their names, like -chan and -san. So let's call Christian Yelich "Chris-chan". Sounds good to me, it's basically a new pronunciation of his real name anyway. It'll sound good to everyone else too. He can stream video games by day and debate the merits of free market capitalism by night. It's not like we're advertising on the back of his jersey that he likes licking the poopshoot, even though our intended audience will get the picture. All a Google search of his new nickname would bring up is innocent videos of one of the best hitters hitting dingers and stealing bases, and that's what we want people to watch online. Nothing truly weird like I've seen other people honestly post online.
Cody Bellinger's current nickname: "Belli" | suggested nickname: "bell hooks"
The NBA calls itself the socially conscious sports entertainment league with how their superstars publicly speak out about social issues. And it gets over. Lebron James feud with Laura Ingram from Fox News put a lot of butts in the seats. Why can't MLB do that? Start calling Cody Bellinger "bell hooks", and have him cut promos about feminist theory after he hits a home run. Have him write Tweets with no capitalization of proper nouns. He's in the People's Republic of California, so he'll still be over at home even if Braves fans boo the shit out of him. Hell, some fans will want buy tickets just to boo him. It'll get people talking about baseball.
Aaron Judge's Current Nickname "BAJ" | Suggested Nickname: "The Judge"
He's got no need for a nickname, his name is good enough on its own. Like with Trout, MLB should de-emphasize the first name. While Mike should simply be de-emphasized in Mike Trout, Aaron should be dropped altogether. Judge should be a one-name guy, and in clutch situations, broadcasters can put him over by adding a "The" to his one name. That's how you know shit is going down. When Shaq was joking around with reporters and pranking teammates, he was Shaq, but when it's Game 7 overtime and he's eyeing the backboard, he's The Shaq. Do that with The Judge.
Clayton Kershaw's Current Nickname "Kersh" | Suggested Nickname: "The Foot Ladder"
You know what a pitcher looks like, then you watch Kershaw, and you notice he does the thing with his foot. Then you keep watching him, and he dominates the competition. And he does it every five days, for over ten years, and always takes another step in the pantheon of pitching greatness. It's like he's climbing a ladder. It's like he is a ladder. A ladder you walk up with your feet. Clayton Kershaw is The Ladder. The Legend. The Underrated 1990s Yes album nobody talks about.
Nolan Arenado's Current Nickname: "Nado" | Suggested Nickname: "The Glove"
"But what about Gary Payton?", you cry? Hey, if Pudge Rodriguez can take Carlton Fisk's nickname immediately after he retired, a guy can use the nickname of someone from a different sport. Every Rockies hitter is going to have Coors hanging over their head, so if you want to get Arenado over on a national level, emphasize the defense to the point that you name him after defense. And if him having the same name as the best defensive point guard in the history of sports entertainment bothers you that much, call the motherfucker Glover. Sounds more baseball anyway.
Now let's give nicknames to select players from each of The Playhouse teams. Starting with the Cubs.
Kris Bryant's Current Nickname: "KB" | New Name: Beryl Kriss
Yeah, we're renaming Kris Bryant altogether. Too close to Kobe Bryant, especially if he can't come up with a nickname better than an initialism pronounced similarly to Kobe. Kris has always been a hit with the ladies for his blue eyes, so give him a pornstar name centered around his the color blue. Beryl is unique enough to call him by his first-name alone. Make Kriss his last name as an Easter egg for the longtime fans who remember him from before his international stardom as Beryl Kriss, which if he stays with the Cubs, will be about seven fans.
Anthony Rizzo's Current Nickname: "Tony" | Suggested Nickname: "Mafioso Tony Rizzo"
For starters, change his regular name from Anthony Rizzo to Tony Rizzo to highlight his Italian heritage. That will be necessary for his new nickname, The Mafioso. Nobody expected the once jolly Rizzo to succeed as a heel, but he's done excellent heel work since the turn by hunting down innocent catchers and second baseman in violation of the Buster Posey rule. It's like he's doing a hit. With the new nickname, he can combine each new hit with a promo in a Marlon Brando impression about Mafia shit.
Kyle Hendricks's Current Nickname: "Hendo" | Suggested Nickname: "The Experience"
Some fans call him The Professor but Hendo is what it says on his Players' Weekend jersey. The lameness of Hendo should go without saying, but even The Professor begs for negative comparisons to Greg Maddux, who was called The Professor. I say they go somewhere completely new, and start doing "The Kyle Hendricks Experience". Play Jimi Hendrix music during Kyle's performances, have him wear tie-dye shirts and carry a guitar off the field, and pay homage to Doc Ellis and book him to pitch a no-hitter on LSD. Announcers can say "Welcome to the Kyle Hendricks Experience", and Kyle can end his promos with the catchphrase, "Are You Experienced?" Book an angle where Kyle Hendricks and Carlos Santana end up on the same team and form a rock n roll supergroup.
Now let's head to the American League with the South Side Chicago team, the White Sox.
Tim Anderson's Current Nickname: "TA7" | Suggested Nickname: "TA7, pronounced 'TAZ'"
I like TA7. It's a good nickname and Tim has a good mind for the business by making merchandise based on TA7. He knows he needs a nickname because "Tim Anderson" is the most boring name ever, and TA7 is anything but boring. But the thing about acronyms is, when you got a consonant followed by a vowel, simply reading the letters is going to sound like a pronunciation. We have a tendency to want to pronounce the letters like a word, and I say that TA7 should give the people what they want, what they need, by putting two-and-two together and pronouncing TA7 as "TAZ". TAZ is way cooler than T-A-Seven. It tells audience that TA7 is ferocious and hungry, that he's about to do some fucking work, that he's about to help carry your luggage up to your room. What's more badazz than TA7?
Eloy Jimenez's Current Nickname: "The Big Baby" | Suggested Name: "Eloy"
Eloy doesn't need a nickname, or a last-name. His name is good enough on its own, although I'd recommend pronouncing it "ee-LOY" instead of "uh-LOY", but that's splitting hairs. The Dominican slugger is going to be the face of the Sox soon enough, and he's got the look and the charisma to be the face of Chicago baseball in general, and he's got the name.
Lucas Giolito's Current Nickname: "Bigfoot" | Suggested Nickname: "Elite"
There's already G-ELITE-O merchandise, but you can't pronounce that nickname. Just call him what he is: Elite. Eat your heart out, Joe Flacco. Bigfoot could be a good name, but not for a pitcher. That's a slugger's nickname if I ever seen one.
Now let's do the Rangers.
Danny Santana's Current Nickname: "Danielito" | Suggested Name: "Danielito Santana"
Santana is onto something with Danielito, but that shouldn't be his nickname, that should be his regular name. It's unique, it's exotic, it's provocative. The kid is gonna be a star, and Danielito is the name of a star.
Locke St. John's Current Nickname: "Lefty" | Suggested Name: "Locke St. John"
Lefty is the least unique nickname there is for a southpaw pitcher. There have been 144 players nicknamed Lefty in baseball history. I am not working you, brother. Look it up on Baseball Reference, you fucking marks. And what the fuck does Locke St. John need a nickname for? His name is Locke St. John! That is the most badass name in baseball. Only problem is that Locke St. John can't work for shit and everyone knows it. Give that name to someone who can work even a little bit and push them to the moon. Tell him to grow some friendly muttonchops and book him as a shutdown closer. Make him the new Goose Gossage. Have him talk like Duke Nukem. Locke St. John is too good of a name to waste on a goddman jobber.
Finally, The Orioles.
Trey Mancini's Current Nickname "Boomer" | Suggested Name: "Treyn Man"
I thought about calling him "The Man", but Stan Musial isn't someone you plagiarize. Unless you're Sammy Sosa. But then I thought, there's gotta be a better name than Trey Mancini. Trey is too common to address him on a first-name basis. And Mancini is too difficult for the average mark to wrap their heads around. So let's move some of the superfluous letters from that busy last name to the lonely first name, and we'll cut the last name to something snappy and cool. Treyn Man. Give him a gimmick where he's an autistic savant obsessed with trains. In other words, an autistic man. Treyn Man is an excellent hitter.
Anthony Santander's Current Nickname: "Agua Blanca" | Suggested Nickname: "Salamander"
You caught me, this is just what The Playhouse's Orioles reporter, Jay the Gibbon, calls him. But I'll be damned if my bitter ass don't think that's the cutest thing. Rob Manfred's horrible booking may have given me violent hatred for the world, but even I can't bring myself to hate that little monkey. He just loves small lizards and Orioles baseball. Let Jay have this.