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Nicknames Newsbeat

Friday, August 01, 2014

Bill James Mailbag - 7/13/14 - 7/22/14 (Subscription Required)

And what about the VORP of Geddy Lee?

... Have you ever looked at the decline (% wise) of nicknames historically? Seems to me like they are way down - unless made up for show now days (“King’ James LeBron). Jeter, Trout, etc., are not referred by nick names now…....any thoughts? An aside, one of my aunts had a family nickname back in the day, and her husband of like 30 years of marriage, called my mom to ask what her real name was ....... we used to be named and defined by our nick names, now not so much ..... and in sports I think the names were much richer

There is a difference between a nickname and a family name. My grandmother’s name was “Willa”, like Willa Cather, but she was called “Bill”; I was named George William and called Bill, after my grandmother. But that’s a family name, as opposed to a nickname; a nickname for me would be like “The Bearded Bastard” or “The Doctor of Decimal Points” or something. A lot of the names that were in the game in the 1918 era were actually family names which were just syllables, and I would suspect there might be more of those around than we notice, because each generation assumes that THEIR family names are normal. (Paragraph) But you have a point; COLORFUL nicknames, interesting nicknames, have certainly disappeared because of some twist of manners. A nickname reduces a player to the dimensions of the nickname. It states what is important about that player in a manner not chosen by the player himself, and in our current environment we tend to regard that as disrespectful. I may get skinned for putting it this way, but we don’t refer to Billy Hamilton as Flying Billy for generally the same reasons that we don’t refer to people from Mexico as Wetbacks.

Geddy Lee of Rush has long been a big baseball fan… In fact I recall an interview (checking, and yes, I’m right) almost completely about Lee’s familiarity with your work, Bill. He says he got into the Abstracts right after they moved from the homemade versions to the national release. Has he ever reached out to you? Seems like a very pleasant, interesting guy.

No, I’ve never had personal contact with him, that I know of. He does seem like a good guy.

Hey Bill, what would you say the chances are that Nick Markakis totals 3000 hits? I was looking over his numbers and he seems far more likely to do it than I ever expected.

Well, in terms of hits and age, he’s in a good position. The issue to be tested over time is whether he is a good enough player to stay in the league long enough to get the second 1500 hits.

I’m surprised you were that sanguine about Markakis’s chance for 3000 hits. I know that you qualified it with the “if” about whether he’s good enough to last long enough, but, isn’t THAT the main part of it, and isn’t it a clear enough “No”?

It is not clear, no. It might be 90% clear, but it’s certainly not 100% clear. Doc Cramer had 1700 hits after the age of 30; Markakis is a much better player than Doc Cramer. Markakis, now 30, will need about 1,450 hits after this season. All of the following had 1,400 or more hits after age 30: Sam Rice, Craig Biggio, Omar Vizquel, Jim O’Rourke, Doc Cramer, Luke Appling, Edgar Martinez, Steve Finley, Lave Cross, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez, Andres Galarraga, Jake Daubert, Cy Williams, Dave Parker, Raul Ibanez, Ozzie Smith, Enos Slaughter and Brian Downing. I is not apparent that Markakis could not do as well.

Players that could have been pitchers and hitters? Olerud and Winfield immediately come to mimd. Both were excellent pitchers at the college level who werent given the opportunity to pitch at the MLB level. Can you think of anyone else?

Hundreds. Literally. Greinke could play in the majors as an infielder. Catfish Hunter could have, Bob Gibson probably. Mark McGwire was a pitcher, I don’t know how good. There’s a lot of them. Who was that guy who was a tremendous two-way player at LSU. . . Cincinnati drafted him and made him a pitcher, which was obviously the wrong decision, but after two years everybody decided that it was too late to go back and get it right. Which I never understood. .. .. Ken Brett was a terrific hitter. Somebody asked him, when he was about 34, whether, if he could go back and do it over again, he would be an outfielder or first baseman. He said “absolutely.”

The District Attorney Posted: August 01, 2014 at 12:36 PM | 32 comment(s)
  Beats: bill james, music, nick markakis, nicknames, orioles, sabermetrics

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Career minor-leaguer Jumbo Diaz called up after losing 69 pounds in offseason

The nickname came because at one point he was in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and they had two players named Jose Diaz. To make it easier, the hefty pitcher became “Jumbo.” But knowing that his weight was part of the reason he wasn’t getting called up — despite a 1.66 ERA in 2013 and good stuff, including a 96-97 mph fastball — Diaz decided to make a change last winter.

What happened to calling guys like this ‘tiny’ or ‘slim’?  Where have you gone ironic nicknames?

And I’m not sure I’m buying that teams are turning away guys with sub two ERAs who can throw 96 for aesthetic reasons.

Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: June 22, 2014 at 03:50 AM | 19 comment(s)
  Beats: nicknames, reds

 

 

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