Tuesday, February 13

Nicknames, Nicknames, Nicknames!!!

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE TOP 100 RED SOX.

More fun from the Top 100 Red Sox Project.

1. Jim Tabor
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
His throws he’s not controllin’
40 error years need consolin’

His hitting was much better
Though he din’ flash much leather
Sailing his throws so high and wide
His lifetime OP eh-hess,
It ain’t that great ya gu--hess,
740 don’t give him much pride

Men are on, Batter up
Batter up, men are on
Men are on, Batter up

Throw em out, drive em in
Drive em in, throw em out
Throw em out, drive em in

Keep movin', movin', movin'
His swing it was improving
In ’41 he’s grooving

Played well through ’44
‘Til the army wanted him more
That ended his good Boston ride.
He was sold to Philly .
His play was willy-nilly
At thirty six years old well, he died.

Men are on, Batter up
Batter up, men are
Men are on, Batter up

Throw em out, drive em in
Drive em in, throw em out
Throw em out, drive em in


As you may have guessed by now, Jose loves the Blues Brothers. Also, Jim Tabor, who played third for the Sox from 1938-1944 was nicknamed “Rawhide.” But what do we really know about the man from New Hope, Alabama, a little southern town named for the as yet to be produced fourth chapter of the Star Wars saga? While he debuted in 1938, he didn’t really make his mark as a true rookie until 1939, when his 14 home run 95 RBI debut season was cast into shadow by the far brighter light of fellow rookie Ted Williams. His career was respectable but by no means brilliant. For instance, his top comparable according to Baseball Reference is Aaron Boone, who, as we all know, has yet to do anything of note in his career.

Still, there are a few quirks that make Tabor more noteworthy than the typical .270 career hitter. First, he is one of the small fraternity of players to hit grand slams in consecutive innings, a feat he accomplished on July 4, 1939. Second, he is one of very few major league baseball players whose last name is actually an acronym. TABOR, of course, stands for the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a controversial Colorado constitutional amendment that has, since 1992, greatly restricted the state’s ability to raise revenue. Among the other Major Leaguers who have an acronym for a last name is Melvin Mora, named for the Michigan Off-road Racing Association. Mora, curiously, is Baseball Reference’s third best comparable for Tabor.

2. Bob Stanley
Bob Stanley, nicknamed “Steamer” because like the Stanley Steamer vacuum, he sucks, is perhaps the best Red Sox player to be almost universally disliked in the popular imagination. Roger Clemens may be hated by many, but others still love him. Jose Offerman and Mike Lansing might be derided, but they weren’t terribly good, but ol’ Bob Stanley was both awfully good and awfully disliked by the Red Sox faithful.

Be honest, have you ever met a Bob Stanley fan? (Note: Okay, at his Baseball Reference page his fenwaynation.com sponsors describe him as “Forever beloved for plunking Mike Barnacle at the 1992 Sox Fantasy Camp In Winter Haven.” But they don’t count. And have you noticed Jose is borrowing heavily from Baseball Reference in these? Wikipedia too, but not that he’s mentioned it, it’s not plagiarism.)

But why was Bob Stanley so disliked? Was it his wild pitch that allowed Mookie Wilson to score the tying run in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series? Nope, every one knows that was a passed ball. Beside, Dave Stapleton should have been pitching, or something like that. Was it the relish with which he played his role as the bullpen fun police and heartless killjoy? Possibly, this is the guy who ceremonially popped a beach ball with a rake on his appreciation night at Fenway. Really. Still, probably not.

No the reason, that Bob Stanley is widely unloved despite being the Red Sox All-Time save leader with 132, despite having a career ERA of 3.64, despite being a two time All-Star is that Bob Stanley, for all of his excellence, never, ever allowed fans to feel safe when he entered a game. Even in 1983 when he was second in the A.L. in saves with 33 and plunked down a nifty 2.85 ERA, did you ever relax when he entered a game? No, you didn’t, unless you responded to his entering a game with 50mg of valium.

A while ago, Jose suggested that a new statistic be named after Steamer. He suggested that when a reliever picks up a win after blowing a lead, effectively stealing the win, he should be credited with a “Stanley.” Look at his numbers. In 1983, arguably his best season, Stanley saved 33 games while blowing 14 saves, tying a major league record. At the same time, he had eight wins and 10 losses. Do you ever feel good when your closer has that many decisions? Chances are quite a few of those wins should be scored as Stanleys.

Yes, yes, the single season blown save record is shared with a couple of pretty good pitchers named Fingers and Sutter, but still, 14 in a year? Only in a situation like that, could Calvin Schiraldi swipe the closing job.

3. Manny Ramirez
We have reached a strange and wondrous time in baseball writing. What else can you call it when age old sayings like “you’ve got to play who’s on the schedule” “Hit ‘em where they ain’t” and “I can’t pinch run, I’ve got a herpes outbreak” have all slid down the cliché totem pole behind what is unquestionably the most non-expository and overused platitude in the game today “It’s just Manny, being Manny?”

It’s just Manny being Manny. What the hell does that mean? In common parlance, it seems to suggest that one take’s the good with the bad, that along with the more than 30 home runs and 100 RBI every single year, one must accept the awkward fielding, the occasional failure to run to first, the peeing in the wall, and the incessant trade demands.

But is that what it should mean? How should we interpret this phenomenon of Mannyism. Is Mannyism some curse, some disease whose sufferers must be quarantined lest they contaminate the whole lot? Is it an infection or merely a functional disease? How far away are we from
nervous soccer moms pestering overburdened psychiatrists to prescribe gleemonex to treat their children’s latent Mannyism? And how far away are we from the day, when the most anxious among these mothers start blaming pesticides, refined sugar or vaccinations for the epidemic of Mannyism sweeping the country? But Mannyism is not a disease, and we should not treat it as such.

No, Jose rejects the clinical definition of Mannyism and instead proposes his own. “Mannyism. Noun 1. A condition wherein one competes without malice, plays without anger, and achieves astonishing excellence without forgetting that he is playing a child’s game.

We live in a sporting world filled with angry men. These bitter ones fume that athletes do not adequately appreciate their gifts, they rage that stars are not as driven as they would be if only they had the arm, the speed the strength. To them Manny is anathema, a petulant, casual fool, to be derided for his unwillingness to sacrifice, body and soul for the game.

They are wrong. Manny is what the game is all about. You know the kid in little league who is so interested in the bugs in the grass that he forgets about a flyball headed towards him? That’s Manny. The kid who stands in front of the mirror swinging an imaginary bat and imagining the roar of the crowd? That’s Manny too. And the goofy kid who is loved by all of his teammates, regardless of what he does on the field? Manny being Manny.

Manny is the spacey kid made good. The kid who loves to have fun, who loves to swing the bat and grew up to be the man. He grew up to be the man who has been on ten All-Star teams, who won nine silver sluggers, two Hank Aaron awards, and a World Series MVP, all without ever losing his sense of fun.

From being taunted with chants of “Manny’s hitless,” when he roamed Fenway’s right field for the Indians in the 1999 ALDS to being cheered by the Fenway faithful for… well, pretty much everything. Manny has always been Manny. And that’s all we could ever ask.

I’m Jose Melendez and those are my KEYS TO THE TOP 100 RED SOX.