Friday, September 14, 2007

Let's Do This for "Bye-Bye" Balboni and "Bam-Bam" Meulens

Baseball nicknames in general have been on the decline for years. In my grandpappy's day, it seemed like everyone from utility infielders to bullpen catchers had cool nicknames. Things devolved to the point where the only nicknames originating in the '90s were The Big Hurt, The Big Dog, The Big Unit, The Big whatevs. Then, the next step down in the evolutionary chain was the ARod-ization of player's nicknames, a fad helped along by the immortal Linda Cohn. First initial + last name = linguistic genius!

Now though, in these frivolous Aughts, creative nicknames have reached a nadir. Young players simply don't get nicknames, and if they do, the monikers are forced, obvious and/or inane, like King Felix or Rich "The Broken Cripple" Harden.

Maybe we should just let the guys at The Dugout assign every player in baseball a nickname. SteakGrowsOnDmitri indeed.

The mighty Yankees are in particularly bad shape in this department. For a team that recently won four World Series rings and is stocked with future Hall-of-Famers, they come up sadly short in the wonderful world of baseball nicknames, especially when compared with their ancestors. Cynics might say that this phenomenon is due to the professionalism, quiet nature and lack of personality on the Joe Torre Yankees. Bullshit. You're telling me Lou Gehrig and Joe Dugan were dripping in scandal, charisma and larger-than-life je-ne-sais-quoi? Rather, we as fans, in conjunction with the media, have not done our proper nickname-bestowing due diligence.

Look at some of the great nicknames from Yankees past:

Babe Ruth - The Bambino, The Sultan of Swat, Babe
Lou Gehrig - The Iron Horse
Joe Dimaggio - The Yankee Clipper, Joltin' Joe
Mickey Mantle - The Mick, The Commerce Comet
Phil Rizzuto - Scooter
Don Mattingly - Donnie Fucking Baseball
Ron Guidry - Gator

Plus Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Lefty Gomez, etc. etc.

Now look at current and recent Yankee greats:

Alex Rodriguez - ARod (barely qualifies as a nickname)
Derek Jeter - The Captain, Captain Intangibles (these are stupid and borderline sarcastic)
Jason Giambi - The Giambino (bestowed by John Sterling, and hence, doesn't count)
Mariano Rivera - ???
Jorge Posada - ???
Bernie Williams - ???
Paul O'Neill - ???

How can players as great as Rivera and Williams go their entire careers without decent nicknames? It's unconscionable.

But we are being given a second chance. Potential future greats like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Robinson Cano, Edwar Ramirez and Melky Cabrera are arriving on the scene, and they need nicknames (I steadfastly refuse to accept "Joba the Hutt"). We can help them, and help their legacies, by being creative early in their careers. So let's get on this. We're part of a tradition larger than ourselves, and we owe it to the children to make a contribution.