Canadian-born, left-handed pitcher James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners took the mound Tuesday night hoping to do what he has done very well all season – win games for his ball club. While watching the television broadcast on Root Sports, I heard a very interesting nickname “name-dropped” by the announcers in the booth. It was very casually mentioned, almost like they were waiting to deploy the remark at an appropriate time, yet while not making a super-big deal about it. It was weird, but it totally happened.
They called Paxton “The Big Maple.”
Personally, I haven’t heard of this nickname before, but it very well could have been around for a while. I thought it was ridiculous at first, but it made me reminisce on some of the better baseball nicknames out there as well as remind me that not very many good ones are getting created anymore. The Big Maple will probably grow on me, but until then – it will join my ridiculous names list.
TOP FIVE FAVORITE BASEBALL NICKNAMES
(Using my best movie-trailer, narrative voice) In a world, surrounded by spin-offs of Latino players with the last name of Rodriguez who get their first name abbreviated with a letter, hyphenated and then “Rod”, there are others out there with way better nickname integrity. The Crime Dog, for starters, is where awesome nick names come from.
I am also a fan of Flash Gordon – despite the fact he played for the Phillies. The Big Unit was such a solid nickname as well and that’s leaving Ozzie Smith (the Wizard) out of my top-3. Rounding out my favorite five names, I feel inclined to include “Catfish” Hunter. I actually thought it was his real name for a little bit, until I remembered he goes by Jim.
Sorry Goose Gossage – I also thought that was your real name.
SO, I CHEATED AND GOOGLED IT
Okay, truth be told, I just now cheated and Googled baseball nicknames to help me out. Who the heck was Gary Maddox? Well, he was known as the Minister of Defense in the 1970s and there was also “The Human Rain Delay” also known as Mike Hargrove. Last I knew Hargrove was a manager in Cleveland where it would make sense to develop that name, but I feel he earned it during his playing days. Apparently, he wasted a lot of time between pitches – and this is arguably the funniest thing I have learned today. You’re welcome.
Former Kansas City Royals Closer Joakim Soria was known as “The Mexicutioner”. Soria and I have some history he doesn’t know about. To make a long story short, Soria ruined my fantasy baseball league season once after going on a crazy save binge in the playoffs, and I have never forgotten it. A name like the Mexicutioner would make sense for him.
Other awesome names I left off my top-5 include the Big Hurt, the Sandman, the Flyin’ Hawaiian and of course the Kung Fu Panda.
Are any of them playing as well currently as the Big Maple though? Doubt it.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Well, in case you are wondering why I am personally invested in nicknames of baseball players, I will share a little bit of history with you. There was a third baseman in Colorado a few years back, who was young, talented and having a really good start to his career. I believe you’ve heard of him – Nolan Arenado. Well, around the time he started emerging as the Rockies every day third baseman, there was a popular-ish, really cheesy, sci-fi movie series that was in circulation titled “Sharknado”.
You see where I am going with this.
I officially would like to be recognized as the one responsible for naming Arenado “Sharknado”. It is my nickname – yet others take credit for it. While we are on the subject of nicknames I take credit for, Aaron Nola should be known as the Nola Virus, Carlos Martinez is Car-Mart and I would like to see Rick Porcello be referred to as “The Porcelain Santa”.
I don’t expect that one to catch on in Boston.
THE BIG MAPLE
To bring this full circle, let’s refocus on Paxton. He has pitched his way into the sixth inning tonight of a 2-2 game, and he hasn’t had his best stuff, but he might be the Mariners best option to send out there to pitch at this stage of the season.
Felix Hernandez – oh yeah! Another nickname! “King Felix” isn’t pitching like a king. Hisashi Iwakuma is pitching like a very old man – and the results aren’t pleasant. Yovanni Gallado needs to shave his beard and start to pitch better. Meanwhile, the Big Maple is performing as the ace.
Paxton is 3-0 on the year with four quality starts in his six appearances including his 5.1 innings in a start on Tuesday. His ERA “rose” to a very miniscule 1.43 after giving up one earned run against the Angels. He struck out six, and walked five, but home plate umpire Gabe Morales has been calling it pretty tight on the corners.
I don’t have any good nicknames for Morales. Normally the umpire I make fun of is either Angel Hernandez, Laz Diaz or Jim Joyce. I have no issue with Morales.
Ridiculous nicknames aside, the Seattle Mariners need more starting pitchers. Sure, Drew Smyly is still injured so everyone is waiting on him, but they need to make some moves to add another starter. The Big Maple can only do so much.
We need to bring incredibly strange nicknames back to baseball! It can’t be just me either! I need everyone out there to pick random players, find arbitrary reasons they do something silly, awkward, annoying, obnoxious or really well and make it a thing. Maybe their name is weird and you don’t even have to watch them play – that works too.
I tried to use something along the lines of an “Iwaku-median” before and it didn’t go over well, so I’d stay away from his name. Anyone else though – good idea!
Enjoy your summer weather this week, and let’s go Mariners!