There's a lot of excitement headed into this weekend's three-game spat between the Milwaukee Brewers and the league-crushing Los Angeles Dodgers out on the West Coast – and it has nothing to do with two teams battling it out for potential playoff position. Forget anything happening on the field; the story across the MLB this weekend is what's on the players' backs.
For the first time, baseball is having a Players Weekend, giving the athletes the freedom for three days to wear customized cleats, swing customized bats and, most notably, don brightly colored alternate pullover jerseys – complete with nicknames on the back instead of the traditional names.
Now, some might poo-poo the MLB allowing the players to He Hate Me all over their jerseys as decrying the good, proper name of baseball, and to those people, I say loosen up, old man. Sports are fun. They're entertainment. And if there's one thing the World Baseball Classic taught people this past year, it's that baseball is a lot more entertaining when the guys on the field seem to enjoy themselves. I look forward to the days when a guy can be happy about hitting a home run without fearing taking a fastball straight to the clavicle the next time up. Let's allow these guys to be people with personalities on the field, not soulless sports bots.
And also, if you're the MLB, these jerseys will sell like crazy and make Scrooge McDuck pools of money.
But really, it's about the fun, and now, instead of just merely looking forward to watching the Brewers hopefully steal a game or two from the best team in baseball and stay within arms reach of the Cubs, you can also look forward to seeing a guy named "Bird Dog" on the mound pitching to a guy named "Silver Fox."
It's a certainly a better attempt to bring some youthful energy – and eyeballs – to the sport than a pitch clock.
Before they take the field for game one, here are all the Brewers nicknames, ranked from worst to first.
39. Tom Wilhelmsen: "Wilhelmsen"
Unless your name is Steve Black-Mamba or Charles BigPapi, using your last name is sad and boring.
38. Tyler Webb: "Webby"
Throwing a Y at the end of your name is not much more creative or interesting than just your last name. That's like a grade schooler trying to come up with an insult on the spot and calling somebody "Lamey McLame Lame" or something. Call me Boredy McBored Sleeps.
37. Anthony Swarzak: "Swarzy"
It's just barely better than going with "Tony."
36. Neil Walker: "Walkie"
Though I like the idea of emphasizing his exceptional patience at the plate, it's just another -y nickname – and that one intriguingly goes with the -ie suffix, which makes it seem cute and cuddly and adorable. Unsurprisingly, it came from his days as a little kid playing T-ball.
35. Brandon Woodruff: "Woody"
Of all the -y names, this one's the best – but only by default, because "Woody" is already a fine nickname. Should've been Ruff Rider.
34. Ryan Braun: "Ocho"
It is a scientific fact that no one – NO ONE – has ever called Ryan Braun "Ocho." Native Spanish speakers have never even called Ryan Braun "Ocho." If that wasn't enough, having "Ocho" above the numeral eight on your jersey is redundant – and dangerously close to plagiarizing Chad Ochocinco.
33. Oliver Drake: "Bucko"
"Bucko" is a fine nickname, given to Drake as a kid from his father. It's also literally every dad's nickname for his child. You might as well have gone with "Buddy" or "Pal." I nominate his nickname to be "Aubrey Graham."
32. Chase Anderson: "Texas"
I know this may surprise you, but Chase Anderson is from Texas. Boring – and Texas Anderson doesn't even roll off the tongue well.
31. Zach Davies: "Bat Boy"
Apparently Davies went with the nickname "Bat Boy" because it demonstrates that "if you have a skill set and a passion, you can make it" to yaaaaaaaawn. This nickname is too much work for essentially an inspirational poster quote. He should've gone with his other consideration, "Counsell Jr.," or what I always call him: Who's That Lost Child On The Mound?
30. Jeremy Jeffress: "Jay-Jay"
Jeffress almost went with "J.J." but then switched to "Jay-Jay" because it was more unique, which is like saying Toasty O's is a more unique cereal name than Grain Circles: It's just two ways to describe bland.
29. Keon Broxton: "Fla Boy"
Broxton's nickname obviously comes his days of playing baseball in Florida, though the contracted "Fla Boy" doesn't quite roll off the tongue when you read it off the back of a jersey. It looks like the first word just got cut off.
28. Paolo Espino: "Poli"
I desperately want this to be "Pauly."
27. Stephen Vogt: "I Believe"
The story behind "I Believe" is nice, calling back to a fan chant from the catcher's breakout season in 2014 with the Oakland A's. That being said, it's not really a nickname. No one's going, "Did you see how far I Believe hit that one?"
26. Jett Bandy: "Sinker-Slider"
What do you give the name that has everything? Jett Bandy already sounds like a nickname, like some character from the "Phantom Menace" podracing scene. "Sinker-Slider" is fine, I guess, but this is the rare case where his actual name would've been better.
25. Jacob Barnes: "Caveman"
Barnes' first choice was apparently "Tarzan," but had to switch thanks to being a outside film property. So "Caveman" it was. If it's not even his first choice, it's not a first-rate nickname.
24. Jimmy Nelson: "Big Sweat"
Big Unit. Big Papi. The Big Hurt. There's plenty of Big names in baseball – and Big Sweat isn't a bad inclusion, a reference to Nelson's apparently prolific perspiration. I guess I just don't want one of my best pitchers to have a nickname implying I should be stressed out every time he takes the mound.
23. Michael Blazek: "Jus Blaze"
"Blaze" is inherently a sweet nickname – especially for a pitcher – but the "Jus" part makes me think that it's all about overcooking a delicious light meat gravy.
22. Junior Guerra: "Cabezon"
"Cabezon." Sounds great! It translates out to being stubborn or having a big head. Less great.
21. Jesus Aguilar: "Dino"
A gift from Orlando Arcia, Aguilar's nickname comes from the fact that Aguilar looks intimidating, and so Arcia thought "Dino" fit – though Dino brings to mind less roaring dinosaur monsters and more cute prehistoric reptiles. Or crooning lounge singers. Still, a decent nickname.
20. Manny Pina: "Pineapple"
I'm a sucker for sweet wordplay, so I enjoy just literally translating Pina's last name. Plus, at least the pineapple is one of the more dangerous fruits out on the market.
19. Wily Peralta: "Big Wily"
Whether you pronounce this one as "Big Willy" or literally as it's spelled – like he's large and also very crafty – it's a solid moniker.
18. Orlando Arcia: "El Nino"
Obviously, "The Kid" is off the market as far as nicknames go thanks to Robin Yount, but lucky for Arcia, "El Nino" sounds even cooler than "The Kid" and gives me fabulous flashbacks to the late '90s. Those were the days; I'm gonna bingewatch the hell out of some "Early Edition" now.
17. Yadiel Rivera: "Tiznao"
I'm not sure the exact personal meaning for this nickname, but according to history, a "Tiznao" was an improvised, camouflaged, armored truck – and that's awesome. Even if that's not the case, it's just a cool-sounding word, like a weather event that's a tsunami, tornado and blizzard at the same time.
16. Jonathan Villar: "Villi"
This nickname should be a bore – it's just a shortened version of his name – but it sounds so sleek and cool. Also now I can make "Villi, Vidi, Vici" references.
15. Corey Knebel: "Bird Dog"
What a weird, wonderful nickname. The team's lone 2017 all-star says the nickname came from his college ball days, doing everything with a smile on his face. I, on the other hand, like to imagine it's some odd reference to the cartoon TV show "Cat Dog" but with a bird instead genetically bonded with a dog. Would watch; make it happen, Adult Swim.
14. Jared Hughes: "Bull"
"Bull" is a blunt, straight-forward and common nickname, but luckily "Bull" Hughes sounds awesome. It sounds like the name of an old Great Depression baseball player who pitched a perfect game while drunk.
13. Hernan Perez: "Pan Blanco"
I don't know why Matt Garza granted Hernan Perez the nickname "Pan Blanco" (translation: "White Bread") but I'm glad he did.
12. Rob Scahill: "Gramps"
"Gramps" is just one of those charming, classic nicknames that will never not be delightful – even when it's attached to a relief pitcher who's just 30 years old. If he's "Gramps," then Zach Davies must be already in his mid-life crisis.
11. Lewis Brinson: "Sweet Lew"
Is Lewis Brinson a big Pearl Jam fan? No, not likely; it's just a slick, smooth nickname.
10. Matt Garza: "The Count"
HA! He does look like a vampire! Or the model for the Duke Blue Devils logo. Also opens the door for some great "The Count" puns. "The Count's full." "No, he hasn't eaten since breakfast" (I'm so sorry; I'm trying to remove it).
9. Travis Shaw: "Mayor-DDC"
What a disappointment. As "The Mayor of Ding Dong City," this should've been a clear winner of this ranking, if at least the top three. But due to stupid space issues, the name had to be chopped down to a weird, license plate-looking "Mayor-DDC." They should've just crammed it all around the numbers like Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Put a whole circle of letters around the jersey number. Would've sold ALL of the jerseys.
8. Brett Phillips: "Maverick"
The reason why Brett "Maverick" Phillips is an awesome nickname is because IT'S NOT A NICKNAME. "Maverick" is Brett Phillips' actual middle name. Those parents knew what they were doing. I hope he has a sibling with Iceman for a middle name. And you thought Phillips' delightful laugh was the best part about this guy.
7. Domingo Santana: "Showmingo"
This is just the right kind of dorky nickname pun that I can get behind. This should be on one of those old corny '80s sports posters every kid had on his wall with the players posing like a weird movie theme. I would put a "Showmingo" poster like that on my wall now, as a grown-ass man, probably framed.
6. Josh Hader: "Haderade"
5. Brent Suter: "The Raptor"
Any good paleontologist or archeologist knows that the raptor was the most badass of all the dinosaurs (even if they were actually covered in feathers like big deadly chicken monsters). So of course that's a winner. Somebody make me a clip of Brent Suter menacing the two kids from "Jurassic Park" around an industrial kitchen.
4. Eric Sogard: "Nerd Power"
Eric Sogard: giving a good name to Rec Spec-ed athletes across the globe.
3. Craig Counsell: "The Chicken"
Normally, "Chicken" is, eh, not an optimal nickname. But in Craig Counsell's case, it's a callback to an amazing story from the player-turned-manager's days playing in the World Series for the Florida Marlins.
2. Carlos Torres: "El Carnicero"
"El Carnicero" already sounds awesome ... but then you find out it translates out to "The Butcher." AWESOME! More nicknames need to strike the fear into the hearts of men. And then you discover that Torres "couldn't tell you (the origin of the name) if I wanted to." This is a guy you want on your team, not to play against.
1. Eric Thames: "Sang Namja"
Predictable – but come on, it's perfect. Thames may be struggling at the plate since his breakout early season months, but when it comes to awesome nicknames, the guy's hitting it out of the park. "Sang Namja" even just sounds good – those are some strong, sharp syllables – and that's before you find out that, in Korean, it translates out to "real man" or, colloquially, "badass." Damn straight. That should be worth four runs on the board before the games even begin.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.