Because even The New York Times noticed
Last week, my friend Zack sent me a link to the New York Times bit about the lack of legendary nicknames, a subject I meditated on way back at the beginning of this column’s career.
The Times, of course, picking up on something that’s been written better and with more nuance by people who actually enjoy and watch the sport—i.e., not just a Yankees fan—is not news. That the paper’s home team roster is jam-packed with nicknameless players, and the player whose absolutely derivative moniker started the worst trend this side of hipsters, is simply the Cool Whip on the strawberry shortcake.
But all snark aside, it is time that I finally attempt to answer my own question:
What, then, should we be calling these men?
I’m an agency of limited resources (being just one very small woman with a bruised up knee from the douchebag who knocked me over at third because, hey, who slides for close plays anyway?), so let’s tackle the neediest player first.
Lucky for you and my knee, the excellent folks over at Pitchers & Poets—who also brought us 90s First Baseman Week and 90s First Basemen as Saved By The Bell Characters—identified a worthy young man: one Jose Miguel Cabrera.
During a game against the Blue Jays last week, Miguel scored from first on a Brennan Boesch hit. The big man lumbered as gracefully as a man his size could on his approach toward home, sort of like a 747 landing: if you watch it and think about it, it’s amazing it ever happens without anyone dying.
The inimitable Rod Allen (who you know I love) remarked, during the slow motion replay, “And the Big Fella, carrying the mail.”
Now, of course The Big Fella is a kind of adorable nickname, but it’s more a term of endearment than a moniker on equal footing with Prince Albert or Sparky or even, yes, A-Rod.
In a bit of serendipity, earlier that day Jim Leyland reflected on Miguel’s workhorse ethic:
…His back was sore and he has a big bruise on his leg. But he plays. That kid, he’s a champ. He’s like the mailman—rain, sleet or snow and he shows up.
Cabrera, the only Tiger to start all 36 games, was in the American League’s top 10 in batting average (.320), home runs (seven) and RBIs (24).
What should we call this man, who plays every day and just hits and hits and hits, who never seems to think that what he’s doing is anything spectacular—as Carl Crawford said, Cabrera is always talking about how he is struggling at the plate, can’t get comfortable, all the while hitting .360—who just seems to go back to the plate each day and put together a quality at-bat?
I know what you’re thinking I’m about to suggest, but you’re wrong.
It’s one part The Great Bambino, one part working class hero.
It fits, no?
In a place like Michigan, where we had one 80 degree day last week and we’re getting frost tonight, you need a guy with a slightly postal approach to life—a guy who can weather any storm, be it one of his own making or one of God’s.