The Name Game

Growing up in Philadelphia, and raised in an extreme sports environment, Jayson Stark has always been an idol of mine. In fact it was reading his Philadelphia Inquirer column every week that eventually propelled me into sabermetrics. His columns always combined humor and statistics in order to show all of the hilarious or newsworthy baseball happenings that could not be seen on an ESPN show. Not shocking in the least, ESPN eventually brought him onboard. That being said, I thought I would do my sports-writing idol proud by writing an article in a style similar to his.
The idea for this came to me when the Phillies signed Chad Durbin to be their: (circle the correct answer)

  • A) 5th Starter
  • B) 6th Starter
  • C) Mop-Up Reliever
  • D) Waste of Space
  • E) Who cares, we have Adam Eaton!?

Regardless of the answer you selected, this now gave the Phillies Chad Durbin and J.D. Durbin – two completely unrelated Durbins. Now, it isn’t as if we’re talking about two guys with the last name of Smith. I never knew “Durbin” was a last name until a couple of years ago and now there are not only two in major league baseball but two on the same team?
More interestingly enough, there have only been four Durbin’s in the history of major league baseball and the other two ended their careers during, or before, 1909. The only two Durbin’s in the last 98 seasons of major league baseball are now on the same team – and have no relation to one another.
SPEAKING OF J.D. DURBIN
The Phillies acquired J.D. Durbin after the Diamondbacks placed him on waivers in April. Durbin had appeared in one game for Arizona and surrendered 7 hits and 7 runs in 2/3 of an inning. For the Phillies, Durbin was somewhat serviceable, even throwing a complete game shutout against the Padres.
J.D. Durbin made his Phillies debut on June 29th during the first game of a double-header against the Mets.
At the time of acquiring J.D. Durbin, the Phillies had a minor league prospect with the name J.A. Happ. Due to rotation injuries, Happ made his first major league start on June 30th, against the Mets.
Now that would be odd enough, on its own, however the Phillies also acquired J.C. Romero from the Red Sox. Romero also made his Phillies debut on June 29th, during the second game of Durbin’s double-header.
So, to recap, not only did the Phillies have three pitchers with the first names of J.A., J.C., and J.D., but all three of them made their Phillies debuts within the span of 48 hours from June 29th-June 30th!
STRIKINGLY SIMILAR DEPARTMENT
And, speaking of the Phillies, they acquired Tad Iguchi from the White Sox towards the end of the season. Since he would not have been able to play for the Phillies until May 15th, if he re-signed with them, he went elsewhere (Padres). The Phillies, in need of another bench player, decided to sign So Taguchi. I guess this way the transition will be easier for the players.
Or how about the Twins deciding to replace Luis Castillo with Alexi Casilla.

  • Believe it or not, the American League had an Ellis, an Ellison, and an Ellsbury.  And no, they were not Dale, Pervis, or Doughboy.
  • The Athletics had Dan Haren and Rich Harden.
  • The American League also had a Joakim, a Joaquin, and a Johan.  That’s never happened before with different players.
  • Lastly, there was the Rays’ Delmon Young and the Dodgers’ Delwyn Young, who sadly never got to face each other.

COINCIDENCE MATCHUPS
Speaking of “Young’s,” the NL West not only had two of them, but two Chris Young’s.  They could not be more different, either, as one is a 9-ft tall, white, former ivy-league pitcher and the other is a 6-ft, black, college-less outfielder.  Pitcher Chris Young (PCY for those keeping track) won the 2007 battle as his younger counterpart went 0-10, with a walk and 4 K’s against him.

  •  Orlando Hudson went 2-11, with an RBI and 4 BB, against his “River” counterpart Tim Hudson.
  • Unfortunately, Reggie Abercrombie never got to face Jesse Litsch.  I wonder what Sportscenter would call that matchup.  Reggie and Jesse?  Reggie and Litsch?  Abercrombie and Jesse?  Ugh, who knows…
  • Aaron Rowand and Robinson Cano didn’t face each other this past year either.
  • Somehow, the Blue Jays and Rockies have played nine times and we are still waiting on a Halladay/Holliday matchup.
  • Scott Baker didn’t pitch against, or to, Paul Bako in 2007, though my fingers are crossed for 2008.

DELICIOUS MATCHUPS
Mike Lamb is 3-9 in his career against Adam Eaton (who isn’t?) as well as 1-7 off of Todd Coffey.
Coffey and Lamb usually don’t go well together, though, but Felix Pie is also 0-1 off of the caffeinated one.
Eaton has never gotten to face Pie yet.  I’d like to put a pie in Eaton’s face.  3 yrs and 24 mil worth of pies!
ULTIMATE MATCHUPS
In what would probably cause the universe to crumble, I am patiently awaiting a Rick VandenHurk vs. Todd Van Benschoten matchup.  I’m feeling 2008 or 2009.
In the long-name department, Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 1-2 against Andy Sonnanstine.  Salty also went 0-2 against Mark Hendrickson.  He went 1-1 against Ryan Rowland-Smit, but Ryan had two last names to reach eleven letters and therefore had an unfair advantage.
BIBLICAL DEPARTMENT
Easily the most hypocritical name award goes to Angel Pagan.  You can figure that one out.  Did you know, though, that the National League had “Two Wise Men”?  That’s right – Matt and Dewayne.
Though Matt Wise surrendered a hit to Angel Pagan, he struck out Dewayne Wise, proving what we already knew – Matt Wise is the smartest pitcher ever.
GENERIC BE GONE?
On a sad note,  2007 proved to be a disappointment in the generic name field (not Nate Field or Josh Fields).  Combined, there were only four Smith’s.  Jason, Joe, Matt, and Seth.
Even sadder, we only had three Williams’ – Dave, Jerome, and Woody.  Scott Williamson tried his hardest but that does not count.  Could be a cool sitcom title – Three Williams and a Williamson.
BIRTH AND DEATH
Major League Baseball spanned the endpoints of the life cycle this year.  On one side we had Alan Embree (embryo) and Omar Infante (infant) and on the other there were Jermaine Dye (die) and Manny Corpas (corpse).
Dye has never faced Corpas but is 2-7 in his career off of Embree.  Infante has also never faced Corpas but has doubled in 4 at-bats against Embree.
“OF-THE” NAMES
Jorge de la Rosa and Eulogio de la Cruz did not face each other this year despite being the only two “of-the” names.  And, just to clarify the none of you who asked, Valerio de los Santos would not qualify for this category since de los would technically be “of-them” or “of-those.”
CITY NAMES
Miguel Cairo has long been the MVP of this group but he welcomed two additions this year in the forms of Ben Francisco and Frank Francisco.  I had always thought of Francisco as a Spanish first name but was very surprised to find it as an American last name.  In fact, if you say Ben Francisco really quickly and in front of a drunk, it could even sound like San Francisco.
ZELDA NAMES
I recently got an original NES and could not help but notice that two major leaguers sound like items from a Zelda game.  Don’t both of these sentences make sense?

  1. Link, to defeat Ganon, you must hit him in the lower Velandia.
  2. Use your Verlander to blow up the stones blocking the entrance.

HOUSEGUEST AWARD
One of my favorite movies is Sinbad’s Houseguest, and whenever I hear the name of Giants’ 2B Kevin Frandsen I am reminded of Sinbad’s character Kevin Franklin.  Something tells me Frandsen never impersonated a dentist.
JOB NAMES
In addition to everyone else we had six players with job names.  Chris Carpenter and Lee Gardner maintained the stadiums and fields, Scott Proctor made sure they didn’t cheat, Skip Schumaker supplied them all with cleats, while Matt Treanor helped rehab Torii Hunter.
Schumaker did not face Carpenter, Gardner, or Proctor.  Treanor is 1-3 off of Carpenter in his career.  Hunter was 3-6 with a HR and 2 RBI off of Carpenter (career), as well as 2-6 with an RBI off of Proctor.
Clearly, a Hunter is more valuable than a Proctor and a Carpenter.
FAKE NAMES, INC.
Point blank – the following names sound incredibly made up and fake:

  • Frank Francisco
  • Dave Davidson
  • Emilio Bonifacio
  • Rocky Cherry

CAVEMEN AND ANATOMY
When primitive men first began to speak it was easiest to combine two words together without any intermediates.  Thousands of years later we still have names like Grady Sizemore, Jarrod Washburn, Mark Bellhorn, and Chris Bootcheck.
Speaking of Chris Bootcheck, I wonder what he and Jon Knotts would talk about.
In the anatomy field, Rick Ankiel and Brandon Backe were in the same division, with Ankiel going 0-3 with an RBI off Backe.
MISCELLANEOUS NAME AWARDS

  • DIRTY NAME AWARD – Rich (Dick) Harden
  • ACADEMY AWARD – Sean Henn
  • LED ZEPPELIN AWARD – Scott Kazmir
  • ACTION HERO NAME AWARD – Boone Logan
  • FUTURE PIZZA SHOP NAME AWARD – Doug Mirabelli (hon. mention – Mike Piazza)
  • FICTIONAL SERIAL KILLER AWARD – Mike Myers (as usual)
  • NAME TYPO AWARD – Jhonny Peralta
  • MOST FUN TO SAY AWARD – Jonathan Albaladejo
  • IMPERVIOUS AWARD – (tie) James Shields and Scot Shields
  • FIRST AND LAST NAME SHOULD BE SPELLED DIFFERENTLY AWARD – Kameron Loe

And there you have it.  We covered the life cycle, the entertainment (regular and adult) industry, jobs, cities, the bible, and more.
We can only hope that 2008 will finally bring us a VandenHurk/Van Benschoten or a Holliday/Halladay.
Keep your fingers crossed.

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20 Responses to The Name Game

  1. That’s really cool. It is amazing how many players have either similar names, or names that can be construed to make funny phrases. I never had that problem with the last name SanInocencio. See if you can find something to do with that!

  2. Pizza Cutter says:

    Halladay faced Holliday in the 2006 All-Star game, IIRC. For my money though, nothing beats Bud Black pitching to Steve Decker for a Black & Decker battery.

  3. G-Man says:

    I once had a fantasy team with Jerome Williams, Todd Williams, Dave Williams, Bernie Williams, and Scott Williamson.

  4. Pizza – ASG’s don’t count!! I want a Halladay/Holliday in the real nitty gritty!
    G-Man, a friend of mine e-mailed me because he had – Arthur RHODES, Huston STREET.

  5. dan says:

    Another dirty name: R.A. Dickey.
    Eric, I just want to let you know that you have WAY too much time on your hands. And I have a feeling that this list can find a category to put Tom Gorzelanny (maybe in the mclovin fake name section?)

  6. dan says:

    This is a stretch, but what about the Adkins diet? (Jon)

  7. Dan, haha, Adkins Diet is a good one! We could call the Marlins constant purging the South Beach Diet.
    RA Dickey very good as well. If only the RA standed for something dirtier.

  8. Wait, Adkins Diet (Jon) would be good but the ATKINS (Garrett) would be better!

  9. Pizza Cutter says:

    Who gets the Paul Spoljaric Award for the name that would be the hardest to do in Scrabble?

  10. That could probably go to Jarrod Saltalamacchia… not only is his last name ridiculous but he spells his first name wrong.

  11. dan says:

    Wow– I have absolutely not idea why or how I thought of Jon Adkins before I thought of Garrett Atkins.
    And Logan Kensing gives Boone Logan a run for his money

  12. Don’t forget the dynamic duo of Royce Ring and Heath Bell (unfortunately, they are no longer teammates, which takes some of the fun out of that one).

  13. If Logan Kensing and Boone Logan got married, and Kensing changed his last name, then…..you know the rest.
    Ring and Bell is fantastic, haha.

  14. I’m researching for an article on Cy Young for The Hardball Times and I found that in 1890 there was a player named.. wait for it… JACK GLASSCOCK.

  15. marc w. says:

    Ah, names… the Durbin thing reminds me of the strange coincidence of the Two Jeff D’Amicos.
    According to Baseball Reference, no D’Amicos had ever played MLB until 1996 when Jeff D’Amico 1 broke in. Then, in 2000, another Jeff D’Amico joined the league (albeit briefly). So baseball had gone 100 years without a D’Amico, and then in one year had two…with the same first name. There have been no further D’Amicos since both Jeffs retired.
    One of my favorite name paradoxes is the sudden growth of players with the names of obscure Roman enemies from 2,000 years ago. So you’ve got not one Ambiorix but two (Concepcion, Burgos) and Asdrubal Cabrera (Hasdrubal was the brother of the more famous carthaginian, Hannibal).
    Finally, no name post is complete without a reference to the best name in baseball, Yorman Bazardo.

  16. Marc, the D’Amico one I love. If I was going back to previous years I would have included that one.
    I LOVE the Roman comment. Haha. I can’t wait to do this again next year.
    I also found a player from the 1900’s with the last name “Overall”. He was the most complete player…

  17. Pizza Cutter says:

    I’m hoping for a Ryan Braun (Brewers 3b) v. Ryan Braun (Royals reliever) matchup this year. I believe I finally got my J Peralta (Indians ss) v. J Peralta (yet another Royals reliever… odd…) this past year.

  18. Pizza Cutter says:

    And Marc W., you win an official StatSpeak cookie for somehow working a conversation about the Roman Empire (sum discipulus Latine), into a baseball blog.

  19. Yeah, Marc, give us your address and we will mail you a StatSpeak cookie.

  20. Mike Fast says:

    I play a lot of vintage fantasy baseball, and the early years are definitely a source of great names and nicknames…Hippo Vaughn, Cupid Childs, Candy Cummings, Lady Baldwin, Noodles Hahn, Slim Sallee, and Baby Doll Jacobson, to name a few.
    And in the fake names department, may I submit Rusty Staub.

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