Players’ Weekend is fun. It’s a pretty pointless gesture the MLB in a growing list of fun, silly gestures the MLB has been making ever since Bryce Harper announced his surprisingly impactful mission to “Make Baseball Fun Again.” So one pointless silly gesture begets another. See you all in Iowa next year for the Field of Dreams series, right?
I went through and graded every nickname on all 30 teams, then scored each team by the collective plus-minus of nicknames, awarding extra points for “favorite” nicknames that are some of the best among any player. Nick Pollack, eat your heart out.
Go ahead and read this or, more likely, skip ahead to your team.
Tier 6: Fire the Media Relations Department
30. Red Sox
This is exactly how to ruin a Players’ Weekend jersey. Just a bunch of initials, last names, and lazy end-in-y nicknames such as Matt “Barnsey” Barnes. As a Red Sox fan, this is a lower point in the season for me than the London series. Andrew Benintendi not using “Benny Biceps” and Dustin Pedroia not using “Laser Show” is just the sort of underperformance this team has made a habit of in 2019.
Standouts: Shoutout to Nathan “Nitro” Eovaldi, Chis “The Conductor” Sale, and Sam “Dr. Chill” Travis for going for it. These are all very lame nicknames, but at least they tried.
The Tigers’ season of suck continues. More lazy use of real names and -y nicknames.
Standouts: Tyler “Todd the Painter” Alexander has the sort of nickname I love, with zero context. Michael “The Plumber” Fulmer, John “Jazz” Hicks, and Spencer “Orange Bull” Turnbull all have very fun nicknames to say out loud.
Finally, a time when Mike Trout isn’t carrying the Angels. That’s because I’ve never liked Mike Trout’s “KIIIIID” nickname when “Millville Meteor,” “🐐” and “Babe Ruth is a Punk” are all still on the table. Meanwhile, some other teammates stand out among an otherwise boring roster of nicknames. Take a seat, KIIIIIID.
Standouts: The clear winner here is Ty “🍑🌳” Buttrey by a country mile. In second, Cam “Bedrock” Bedrosian sounds like someone ready for Wrestlemania, and I’m here for it.
The absolute gall of Jon Berti to use “Birdman” as a nickname as if he doesn’t play in Miami, the same city in which Chris “Birdman” Andersen won an NBA title in 2013. He also didn’t co-found Cash Money Records or discover Lil’ Wayne at age 9. In a battle of the Birdmans, Berti is a distant third, and this was a huge whiff.
Who you got money on when these three tangle?
Standouts: Lewis “Sweet Lew” Brinson seems like a nice boy.
Adrian and Anibal Sanchez had a chance to do a fun duo nickname goof, which would have been nice. The rest of this is trash.
Standouts: Adam “Spanky” Eaton is a timeless baseball player name that could have fit nicely on the 2019 Nationals or the 1895 Cleveland Spiders. Hunter “Southern Thunder” Strickland is auditioning for an Eastbound & Down reboot, while it seems Juan “Soto Pachecho” Soto seems to have called himself “Stoner Soto” which is, if nothing else, admirably risky.
Tier 5: Lazy
25. Blue Jays
At first, I really liked Jacob “Waguespack” Waguespack’s nickname until I realized Waguespack is just his name. I don’t like the nickname, but now, I just really like Jacob “Waguespack” Waguespack.
Standouts: Trent “Butters” Thornton, everyone.
One of the best teams in baseball doesn’t really have much going on here. They have three players who all just used their last names, which makes me think the Astros hate fun. Josh “Mr. Irrelevant” Reddick went in the 17th round of the draft, so while I love how plucky the nickname is, it feels a little unprompted.
Standouts: Jake “Big Fudge” Marisnick is holding it down with a fantastic nickname that could be playing alongside Adam “Spanky” Eaton on that 1895 Cleveland Spiders team.
Did you know that Tony Gwynn’s nickname was “Mr. Padre?” That’s nice. It’s a very Tony Gwynn nickname. Did you also know that, according to @MLBRandomStats, Tony Gwynn had more runs scored than swings and misses from 1992 to 1995? I’ll never not talk about Tony Gwynn when I get the chance.
Standouts: Joey “Joey Fuego” Lucchesi is going to sell a lot of jerseys to guys named Joey who could also go pro at beer pong. Big fan of Austin “🌳🐷” Hedges for doing an emoji pun that took me way too long to figure out. (It’s Hedgehog.)
While relatively light on last names and lazy -y nicknames, this Cardinals team really just doesn’t have a ton of nicknames that spark joy. Whoever buys an Andrew “Miller Time” Miller jersey is going to be best friends with the person in the Joey “Joey Fuego” Lucchesi jersey.
Standouts: I’m pretty sure Kolten “TheWongOne808” Wong just gave out his Reddit username. Big ups to Michael “Wachamole” Wacha and Ryan “Hellz Bellz” Helsly for fantastic name puns.
Good for Chris “Crush” Davis for holding onto that one. What are you going to do, pick a new nickname like “groundout” or “swing and a miss?” I don’t think so. Also, I actually sort of like Chance “Sisco Kid” Sisco as a nickname, but I guess Chance “The Baseball Player” or Chance “The Batter” was too much to ask for.
Standouts: Richie “Rich Boy” Martin completes the holy trinity with “Joey Fuego” and “Miller Time” to be the three jerseys you see on every booze cruise during the summer. Very glad Richard “Dick” Bleier was allowed to use his cherished childhood nickname.
Max “Różycki” Kepler is a pretty sweet nickname with backstory. Per a recent story by Steve Wulf over at ESPN, his given name is Max Kepler-Różycki, being a hyphenate of his mother’s Kepler and father’s Różycki last names. However, his last name wouldn’t fit on the back of his jersey when he entered the majors. Every time Kepler comes up to bat in Minnesota, his name on the scoreboard is Różycki. This is a similar story to his teammate, Trevor “IAmTrevorMay” May, who picked his jersey nickname because he is Trevor May, a fact he feels is not accurately conveyed by his normal uniform.
Standouts: Tyler “The Doof” Duffey and Nelson “Boomstick” Cruz should retire from baseball and star in their own detective show called Boomstick & The Doof.
Tier 4: Mostly Harmless
This is the first team with one of my favorite nicknames. Teams with favorite nicknames received a rankings boost. Fun fact about the Phillies: Bryce “Harp” Harper has a terrible nickname.
Standouts: Rhys “Big Fella” Hoskins and Andrew “Knapp Time” Knapp understand the point of nickname jerseys. Hector “Compa N” Neris has a bright future ahead of him as all of a 1990s rap collective. (That joke is for the dads out there.) Jake “Snake” Arrieta deserve a shoutout even though he forgot to use “the” in his nickname.
Favorites: Brad “J. Windermere” Miller. Look, I know he’s from Windermere, Florida. That doesn’t change the fact that the dude went and made his jersey nickname the fake name he gives hotel receptions, even though he’s a nonsuperstar baseball player who doesn’t need to use a fake name. J. Windermere is a hilarious thing for a jersey to say, and you won’t talk me out of this.
On a brief, serious note, Venezuelan-born Willson Contreras selected “Venezuela” as his nickname. Given the turmoil in his home country, it’s a small gesture, but I think it’s worth noting. OK, back to making fun of a harmless weekend in baseball.
Standouts: The Cubs were bolstered by a late addition of Craig “Dirty Craig” Kimbrel, who has embraced one of the funnier MLB nicknames. Jon “Lefthander” Lester, David “Boat” Bote, and Derek “Dutch” Holland apparently made a blood pact to have the most hilariously literal nicknames, and I’m a big fan.
The Mariners are our midway point. They scored a zero net rating on my nickname spreadsheet (which feels like a distinctly Mariners thing to do), while all teams before this have been in the negatives. From this point on, all teams received a positive overall rating. Feel free to complain about that to me on Twitter or in the comments section.
Standouts: Dee “⚡” Gordon is having some Flash Gordon fun even though that crown is NFL wide receiver Josh Gordon’s to claim whenever he’s ready. Daniel “The Babe” Vogelbach called his shot, and you’ve really got to respect that. Austin “A2” Adams and Brandon “B²” Brennan have a cute thing going with these nicknames, but I blame the Mariners front office for not acquiring CC Sabathia and forcing him to take the “= C²” nickname so we could have a potential “A² + B² = C²” lineup. I went to a liberal arts college, so that joke retroactively counts as my math credit.
Here we are, the first net-positive team. This is a classic high-floor, low-ceiling nickname team. Not a lot of names jump off the page at me, but very few disappoint me either. What’s weird with this team is a prevalence of abbreviations among Nick “TTT” Markakis, Johan “S.N.T.O.” Camargo, Charlie “A.C.E.S.” Culberson, Tyler “MMBB” Flowers.
Standouts: Way to just absolutely go for it, Jerry “Jer-ry Jer-ry Jer-ry” Blevins. There’s no way that’s supposed to fit on a jersey, right? Billy “Bone” Hamilton will be great as the leading role in A Star Is Born 2: Reborn. Also, big fan of Julio “El Caballo De Olaya” Teheran for choosing to rep his hometown in Colombia as The Horse From Olay.
15. White Sox
This team has two, count them, TWO favorite nicknames on it. That keeps it afloat among a swath of really disappointing nicknames. Lots of cardinal sin nicknames, such as Michael “Kopey” Kopech. Even so, I really like the good nicknames.
Standouts: Ivan “Supernova” Nova wasn’t one of my favorites, but it’s still a good one.
Favorites: Adam “Man of Steal” Engel has stolen three bases as of writing this article, while Evan “Forgetting Sarah” Marshall never went to Hawaii to get over his famous girlfriend dumping him for a rockstar (this has not been fact-checked). These are still incredible nicknames.
Tier 3: Good Effort
Now that we’re into the Good Effort teams, they’re mostly a collection of teams without a ton of bad nicknames but maybe a lot of nicknames I don’t particularly like. A nickname such as Andrew “The Sheriff” Chafin is fine, but it’s a repeat with Chris Paddack and as such doesn’t really move the needle for me.
Standouts: Yoan “El Asere” Lopez picked a Cuban slang nickname that translates to Yoan “The Homie” Lopez, which you’ve got to love. Robbie “Bob” Ray isn’t particularly inventive, but man, is it fun to say. Mike “Drip” Leake, T.J. “Mac Attack” McFarland, and Taijuan “Tai Weezy” Walker are all in “Compa N” with Hector Neris.
It really is a bummer when players pick their last names for a Players’ Weekend jersey. Sonny “Gray” Gray and Aristides “Aquino” Aquino could have at least auctioned off their nicknames for charities maybe? I don’t know. This is a lame hill to die on, I know that.
Standouts: Josh “Meat Sauce” VanMeter sounds like the man from whom Chef Boyardee stole his secret recipe.
I like it when players want to do a lot with their jersey nicknames. Marcus “HDMH” Stroman is the embodiment of that, for me. His nickname stands for “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” which is such a boldly earnest thing to go for on your jersey. Is the Bagel Boss thing too far in the rearview mirror for me to do a Bagel Boss bit? That dude was 5 feet tall with a 10-foot heart of rage.
Standouts: Aaron “A-A-Ron” Altherr has a year or two left before the Key & Peele bit gets old, but let’s all embrace it until then. Pete “Polar Bear” Alonso and Jeff “Flying Squirrel” McNeil benefit from already fantastic nicknames, while Brandon “Tater” Nimmo cheated his middle name, Tate, into an instant classic.
There’s a lot to like on this Rays team that just missed the Tier 2 cutoff. Tommy “Phamtastic” Pham is having fun with it, and Michael “Frenchy” Brosseau has a classic movie gangster name. My thoughts on Blake “Zilla” Snell’s nickname have been made clear.
Standouts: I like the trio of Eric “Nerd Power 🤓” Sogard, Tyler “Baby Giraffe” Glasnow, and Travis “Little d” d’Arnaud picking nicknames poking fun at their physical appearance.
Locke “Lefty” St. John was given a raw deal. Not only was he recently optioned to Triple-A, but he was never going to pick a nickname better than his actual real life name. Locke St. John will probably be back up, as his move was procedural as part of roster shifts around a double-header. Still, prayers up for Locke St. John, may he one day find a profession that accurately reflects his name, such as a billionaire yacht racer.
Standouts: Joey “Pico De Gallo” Gallo is here to have fun, and Ariel “Bartolito” Jurado honored Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colón and should now be allowed to go by the name “Little Sexy” on all legal documents if he wishes to do so.
Favorites: Mike “Meener” Minor is what this weekend is all about.
Tier 2: Doing it Right
The Pirates set the tone early as the first of the Tier 2 teams, sporting two favorite nicknames among other good ones. There’s still a mix of lazy or plain nicknames, but the ante has been upped.
Standouts: Chris “Flaco Fuerte” Archer hasn’t exactly been on fire this season, but “Skinny Strong” is a great nickname that rolls off the tongue in Spanish so he gets a pass. Colin “Redbeard” Moran went for an obvious nickname with flawless execution.
Favorites: Melky “Melk Man” Cabrera is very basic. I get it, this is going to be a controversial pick. It’s great though. It’s so lame, it’s so classic, it’s exactly what these jerseys are for. Who doesn’t want a “Melk Man” jersey?
Speaking of, Felipe “Nightmare” Vazquez is doing it, especially considering the Pirates will be wearing the all-black colorway of the Players’ Weekend jerseys. If you see someone in a blacked out jersey that says PIRATES on the front and NIGHTMARE on the back coming at you down the street, you turn around and you run.
Two more favorite nicknames and a bunch of solid ones make this Rockies team a strong No. 8. Chad “🥗” Bettis is better said out loud as Chad “Lettuce” Bettis, but he still deserves credit.
Standouts: Charlie “Chuck Nazty” Blackmon and Chris “Sponge” Iannetta are out here with the one-two punch of biker gang nicknames.
Favorites: Trevor “True” Story with flawless execution of the obvious nickname. Could have improved on it with “Based On A True” instead, but who am I to judge, besides being the guy clearly judging every nickname? Speaking of flawless, Carlos “Wild Thing” Estévez saw his shot, and he took it. Connecting the dots here, Carlos Estévez is also the real name of actor Charlie Sheen, who played Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn in Major League. What a journey we just went on together.
Much like their real roster, the Dodgers’ nicknames have few weaknesses. Solid nicknames are supported by a couple of standouts to create a deep bench of nickname talent that will still lose at home in October, as is tradition.
Standouts: Walker “Buetane” Buehler is establishing his living legend credentials early into his career with a nickname like that—I love the subtle misspelling of butane to mimic his last name. That’s the mark of a true pro. An honorable mention for Kristopher “Negron James” Negron, who pays tribute to a bona fide living legend. Matt “Baters Taters” Beaty and Jedd “Jerk-Store” Gyorko are surefire deep bench names that will come up big when you need them.
Cleveland, like the Cubs, benefits here from a player acquisition that vaults them up much higher. In all things, Yasiel Puig is one of my favorites. Life, baseball, nicknames, MLB The Show covers, all of it. It’s all Puig, the Zlatan of baseball.
Standouts: Shane “Not Justin” Bieber is too real. That guy is too good of a pitcher to have to deal with the jokes I’m sure get thrown his way daily. And coming SUNDAY (Sunday Sunday!), it’s can’t-miss TV when Carlos “Slamtana” Santana enters the ring to face Cam “Bedrock” Bedrosian in a worldwide unification match for the ages.
Favorites: So yes, Yasiel “Wild Horse” Puig is a clear-cut winner of this weekend. I mean, come on. Jason “Dirtbag” Kipnis wants in on that biker gang the Rockies are forming. When Chuck Nazty, Sponge, and Dirtbag roll up, you’re in for some rough biker justice.
Mike “Yaz” Yastrzemski went for it on the classic nickname, though he has a better claim to it than Jon “Third-Best Birdman” Berti (yes, he’s better than Birdman the movie) considering he’s the grandson of the actual Yaz. Still, maybe go with “Yaz III” or something, my guy. That’s a big jersey to fill.
Standouts: Tony “Tone Ranger” Watson with a big ol’ throwback that doubles as a pretty great-bad music producer name.
We’re getting into the real heavy hitters now, and even though the Brewers don’t have any favorites, it’s a pretty stacked team from front to back. So many standouts from which to choose, this is maybe the most consistent of the whole bunch. The best one of the bunch is inarguably manager Craig “El Pollo” Counsell. It’s long, but if you need a good cry, go read Tom Friend’s piece on ESPN about “The Chicken Runs at Midnight,” a story involving Counsell, from which his nickname is taken. Because oh boy.
Standouts: So many to choose from. Adrian “Doogy” Houser, Zach “Bat Boy” Davies (which will hopefully inspire confusion at some point during a game), Josh “Haderade” Hader, Keston “Kestdaddy” Hiura, and Matt “Big Salt” Albers all have great claims to best nickname. I have to go with Lorenzo “Three Kid$” Cain, though. Several other players chose to put some form of their kids’ names on their jerseys, but Lorenzo swerved this one and he’s not wrong—kids are expensive.
The Royals benefit from an impressive three favorite nicknames, which boosted them all the way to just outside Tier 1. They’re held back by quite a few lazy names, but much like Kansas City’s sports run over the past decade, it’s cavernous lows and mountainous highs.
Standouts: Bradley “Yeldarb” Keller got weird with it, and Jacob “June Bug” Junis seems like a very sweet childhood name—I still have room in my heart for sentimentality.
Favorites: Scott “Scoots McGoots” Barlow has the silliest nickname of the entire weekend, and Alex “Duffman” Gordon has an incredible sense of self. It takes a lot to see through the lack of sunglasses, a clean-shaven face, or bright yellow skin and really know that you are, in fact, Duffman.
Tier 1: Can I Only Buy One Jersey?
The Athletics made it this far on the strength of two fantastic nicknames and almost universal effort among the entire team. There are few lazy nicknames, even if all of them aren’t incredible. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re looking for: fun names that aren’t boring variations of the players’ real names. The Athletics really just went ahead and Moneyballed this power ranking.
Standouts: Josh “PTBNL” Phegly got real spicy. He’s used this nickname repeatedly, but it just takes a certain kind of grudge to consistently use a weekend designated to have fun as a chance to remind everyone you were a throw-in for a Marcus Semien/Jeff Samardzija trade in 2014.
Favorites: Chris “Worm” Herrmann and Sean “Manaealator” Manaea represent the absolute lowest effort and highest effort possibilities for a good Players’ Weekend jersey. There’s a beautiful symmetry to these two different approaches.
The Yankees come in at No. 1 on these rankings by featuring an absolute murderers’ row of nickname talent. There are still lazy nicknames in here—and their floor is probably lower than the Athletics—but the Yankees have come out swinging for the fences like you’d expect. Maybe next they’ll finally be allowed to grow beards.
Standouts: James “Big Maple” Paxton and Gary “Kraken” Sanchez are classics. Good on Giancarlo “Parmigiancarlo” Stanton for giving the often overlooked Italian American section of the Yankees fanbase a voice.
Favorites: The strength of the Yankees’ nickname game is in their pitchers. Zack “With A K” Britton and J.A. “JDot ADot” Happ are a great duo of pitchers desperately trying to set the record straight on how to spell their names. I like insanely literal nicknames like that.
The best of these, however, is Didi “Sir MJG” Gregorious because he is actually a knight. Sir Mariekson Julius Gregorius was knighted as a prize after helping the Dutch national team win the 2011 Baseball World Cup. This is such a colossal flex on the rest of the MLB that I don’t think anyone will recover. Unless Billy Beane finds a way to both wear a uniform and work in the fact that he was played by Brad Pitt in a movie, which is the American version of being knighted.
OK, that’s all I got. Bye.
Featured image by Nathan Mills (@NathanMillsPL on Twitter)