Every good reliever needs a nickname. It’s a requirement, a legacy to carry with them after their playing days are done. This is especially important for relievers, who have a much shorter lifespan than most other players.
A good nickname, an exploding scoreboard/fire and brimstone/mall metal intro and you’re set. For now, too many good relievers don’t have good nicknames or gimmicks. We here at Getting Blanked need to address this injustice.
Let’s start with the man seen above, Mark Melancon.
Mark Melancon has had quite an eventful few years. The live-armed reliever was dealt first from the Yankees to the Astros then to the Red Sox and now he’s a Pirate. Melancon never had a hard time striking people out, which makes him an attractive enough piece to complete a trade (three times.)
After a rocky start to his career in Boston, Melancon is settled right in as the Pirates setup guy. He has 13 strikeouts in 15 innings without issuing a walk, allowing just a single run. He’s been great, and Pirates fans love him and closer Jason Grilli for their strong work closing out games for the surprising Pirates.
The fans love them so much they’ve taken to calling the duo “Mark and Cheese”, as Grilli’s shtick is grilled cheese based. This is okay for Grilli but does nothing for Melancon. Which is where we come in!
Mark Melancon is a God-fearing man and, I’m sure, very nice. But he looks creepy as hell. He has a real Crispin Glover-vibe, which we should all understand to be a non-starter in terms of “access to children” and “person with whom you would ever want to share an elevator”.
It isn’t just his blank slate face, it is his posture on the mound. Hunched over, searching desperately for a basket suitable for all his lotion, Melancon has a quiet intensity on the mound which communicates the sort of steely determination required to stalk human prey.
As such, he needs an equally creepy or ominous nickname. Something to inspire fear in the hearts of hitters and autograph-seekers alike. This week on the Getting Blanked podcast, we stuck Melancon with the “Allegheny River Strangler”. It’s okay but needs a little work. After some time/twitter banter, I feel like “North Shore Strangler” is a better fit, as the Pirates home PNC Park is on the north shore of the Allegheny river and located very close to North Shore drive. (I’m also led to believe North Shore/South Shore is a key Yinzer distinction.)
Other candidates for Melancon:
- Polish Hill Strangler
- Allegheny ____ Strangler (river, valley, what have you)
- Three Rivers Strangler (throwback!)
As you can see, the “strangulation” theme is hard to shake. I’m mean, honestly. He’s scary. And a good pitcher! North Shore Strangler is the leader in the clubhouse but I’m sure the comment section will bear fruit.
Casey Janssen is an excellent reliever having a better than excellent season, though he doesn’t exactly fit the closer’s mold. Janssen changes speeds, hits his spots and paints the edges of the strikezone to, on the rare occasion they have a lead, close games for the Toronto Blue Jays.
He also lacks a nickname. He is an unconventional sort, a laid-back California dude with high socks and a shock of straw-colored hair hidden beneath his royal blue cap. He doesn’t have the most athletic profile simply because of his unassuming/”I live in a houseboat” vibe.
Candidates include “The Dude” and, um, I dunno. The California well is easy to draw from but nothing feels quite right for old Casey. I mean, his given name is Casey! That’s tough to top in terms of glibness.
A good nickname is the only thing standing between Andrew Bailey and a lifetime loving embrace from the city of Boston. The Red Sox standout bullpen has many players to celebrate but the new closer, after Joel Hanrahan lost his job/went down with injury, is the precise type of player who needs a cool moniker to help get him over.
Bailey is a max effort guy with relatively violent follow-through, the first thing one notices when he pitches. It is little wonder he’s been injured as often as he has, says the proud graduate of the Fail Whale School of Twitter Medicine. He’s also a Jersey guy from Voorhees, New Jersey.
The impulse to connect Bailey to Friday the 13th movie series protagonist Jason Voorhees is a natural one except for the max effort, thousand moving parts action of Bailey does not jibe with the relentless, dispassionate bloodbathery of the hockey-masked monster.
Bailey used to carry the nickname “Boom Boom” when he played for the A’s which, as I’m sure we can all agree, is totally unacceptable. Personally, I’m stumped. An aggressive animal of some kind? The badger? The wolverine? Those names are too closely tied to others teams or comic book characters, neither of which suit Bailey. The Doorman? Scratches? I’m just typing words at this point. Please do better.
No fair. Craig Kimbrel does NOT get to horde all the strikeouts AND get a cool nickname. Besides, his name is already used to describe a specific baseball phenomenon: the three up, three down with three strike out save is known as “The Kimbrel.” As it should, as Craig Kimbrel has one Kimbrel already in 2013 after posting seven Kimbrels in 2012. Save some for the rest, Craig.
James Russell of the Cubs is off to a hot start, striking batters out at an uncommon rate (for James Russell). He’s yet to allow an earned run in 2013, a run of good play which certainly won’t last but just might earn him a solid nickname.
Any time a professional athlete looks more like a member of your favorite regressive 70s radio rock band than the clean-cut achievebots occupying the other 24 spots on a big league roster, he is ripe for the nicknaming. The Hesher is a solid start if a little obvious.
The Rocker? Too obvious. The Nuge? Getting somewhere. He’s from Cincinnati, so maybe something Hoosier-based? The Cook, for his meth-friendly appearance and easy access to South Ohio woodland, isn’t exactly the family-friendly programming we’re known for here at Getting Blanked.
So “The Cook” it is, then? Okay.