For the third straight season, Major League Baseball is letting the putting aside the usual pinstripes and unwritten rules (or at least we can hope) and letting the kids have fun with the Players Weekend – starting tonight through Aug. 25 – featuring custom cleats, personalized bats and, the most colorful element, alternate pullover jerseys.
Well, maybe not THAT colorful this year, as MLB decided to go with monochromatic black-and-white jerseys and caps for all teams this season – white for the home teams, black for the road squads – making every matchup look exactly the same.
But while the uniforms' color and personality have been turned down significantly, you can still find plenty of both on the backs of the jerseys as once again the players are allowed to choose their own nicknames – which is why you'll see "Not Justin" Bieber in Cleveland, "Who" on first in Cincinnati and a whole millennial text's worth of emoji hitting the diamond later this month.
That includes the Brew Crew, who will have two players bust out emoji for names when the Arizona Diamondbacks drop by for the special weekend series. But is that enough to earn the title of the best Players Weekend nickname on the team? Eric Thames scored the inaugural win with "Sang Namja" in 2017, while Jhoulys Chacin claimed the title last season with "La Makina" – whose moniker is mightiest this time around? Let's get to ranking, from worst to first.
(Some players' nicknames have yet to be finalized, including Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich and Mike Moustakas – wonder what his could POSSIBLY be – but we'll update the rankings as those come in.)
26. Jordan Lyles: "J Lyles"
This isn't a nickname. This is just how your name looks in a database. Makes last year's "Jordy" look damn near adventurous in comparison.
25. Ben Gamel: "Gam"
This, unfortunately, barely qualifies as a nickname either, and instead just seems like somebody just gave up writing your last name midway through. At least we'll always have his pregame ritual, though.
24. Trent Grisham: "Grish"
Grisham's nickname falls victim to the same laziness as Gamel's – but "Grish" gets the slight edge because at least it's fun to say in a Sean Connery voice.
23. Aaron Wilkerson: "Wilky"
In addition to being boring and lazy – just add a Y on it – "Wilky" is just a flipped W away from turning into "Milky," which is one of our language's worst adjectives. I nominate that we change his nickname to "A&W," which is no less original but at least it reminds me of root beer floats.
22. Brandon Woodruff: "Woody"
"Woody" is boring and Adam Sandler comedy script lazy as well, but at least "Woody" is an enjoyably baseball-sounding name. I stand by what I said in 2017, though: Should've been Ruff Rider.
21. Gio Gonzalez: "Double G"
I'd personally go with "GoGo" for Gonzalez's nickname, but I get that it technically doesn't work – and that it will always belong to former Brewers star Carlos Gomez. What I DON'T get, however, is why Gio went with this bland and oddly clunky moniker when he already has a great one: "The Motown Kid," given to him by former catcher and his mentor, Ray Fosse. It's sounds cooler AND it has an actual history – that's enough to ignore the fact that it's in reference to the other side of Lake Michigan.
20. Zach Davies: "Bat Boy"
Last year, Davies tried to go with the nickname we all wanted: "Counsell Jr." (Or at least the nickname more people wanted; I personally still will argue for "That Lost Little Child On the Pitcher's Mound.") Unfortunately it got clipped and shortened into "Couns," which doesn't really get the point across, so he went back to "Bat Boy" – which doesn't come from his better-than-average batting skills or his love for the late '90s musical, but from some inspirational poster something-or-other. Anyways, if we're going to stick with this nickname, his jersey should at least have little webbed wings on the arms. LET THE KIDS PLAY! Credit, however, for also replacing his number with BB like an actual batboy.
19. Chase Anderson: "Chaser"
Like I'm going to scoff at a chaser. This is Wisconsin, home of the chaser – now in more ways than one!
18. Alex Claudio: "AC"
Sure, it's just his initials, but "AC" turns out to be a kind of solid nickname – especially for a relief pitcher. He cools off the opposing team's hot bats! He turns rival batters into a breezy fans! He's got ice in his veins! There's a lot of potential here for just two letters.
17. Keston Hiura: "Kestdaddy"
Sure, "Kestdaddy" is a fine nickname, taken from the Crew star rookie's Twitter handle. You can really slap "Daddy" on the end of any name and call it a nickname, but still, this is fine. I, however, was personally rooting for "Holding Out for a Hiura."
16. Jimmy Nelson: "Big Sweat"
This nickname was a lot more fun when Brewers fans weren't themselves sweating about whether or not Jimmy Nelson will ever return to form from the shoulder surgery that's kept him off the diamond consistently since the end of 2017.
15. Junior Guerra: "Cabezon"
We go from "Big Sweat" to the "Big Head," as Guerra's nickname translates out to – but it's not about the size of the pitcher's noggin as apparently it's colloquial for "stubborn." It's playful and fun – but it's been used before by Junior, and I can't help but feel like he's leaving some great nicknames on the table considering his last name translates out in Spanish to "war."
14. Devin Williams: "Dave"
I'm a sucker for a good flat dad nickname. It's like giving a dog a person name like Carl or Steve. Always enjoyable. Plus, it's surrounded by all these aggressive, intense sports nicknames. Get ready for LA MAKINA, BIG SWEAT, THE YAZMANIAN DEVIL and ... Dave. Plus, his name isn't even David! I am a fan. One quick question, though: Who the hell is Devin Williams?
13. Orlando Arcia: "El Nino"
"El Nino" has been Arcia's choice since the start of these Players Weekend nickname jerseys, and it's a solid if unspectacular choice. Maybe, if he wanted to mix it up, he could've gone with "Arsaya" after how Bob Costas chose to pronounce his name during the NLDS last season! Overall, though, nothing to complain about with this nickname but nothing to get too excited about either.
12. Manny Pina: "Pineapple"
"Pineapple" loses some points for being a repeat nickname used in each of the three MLB Players Weekends. But it still ranks decently high for the fun translation wordplay and for the fact that pineapple is at least one of the more aggressive and dangerous looking fruits with all of those little spindles. You know what fruit is ACTUALLY dangerous, though? Starfruit! As it turns out, the playful little fruit contains caramboxin, which can lead to some intense side effects – including in some cases death – for those with weak or diseased kidneys. Who knew!
11. Matt Albers: "Big Salt"
An 2017 ESPN article during the relief pitcher's time with the Washington Nationals includes this quote from an AL scout: "Call him the Michelin Man, Humpty Dumpty, whatever you want. The bottom line is, he performs." Unsurprisingly, Albers went in a different direction, going away from those less flattering options and last year's "Albie" to "Big Salt" because ... salt is a key ingredient to any good dish? His hot pitching leaves batters parched, much like salt? "Big Sweat" was already taken and sweat is mostly salt anyways? I do not know; all I know is that it's certainly better than the Michelin Man.
10. Jhoulys Chacin: "La Makina"
Winning makes everything look cooler – just ask the Patriots stupid toothpaste-shaped logo. But unfortunately for last year's nickname champ, losing has the opposite effect. Last year, as the team's consistent ace, "La Makina" sounded awesome, translated into the bad-ass "The Machine" and even threw in some fun wordplay by replacing a symbolic K in the middle of the original word "maquina." This year, however, "La Makina" malfunctioned to the point of getting put out of commission on the DL. When your nickname is "The Machine," consistency is key – and like everything with the Brewers this season, that hasn't happened. Still a dope nickname though.
9. Freddy Peralta: "Kacike"
I still don't know the official meaning of Peralta's nickname; the most likely candidate is that it's a play on the word "cacique," which translates to a leader or a chief. But I do know that it sounds awesome, it rolls off the tongue nicely and there's some credit for creativity by replacing the hard C sounds with some pitcher appropriate Ks.
8. Jeremy Jeffress: "Bread emoji & Butter emoji"
Jeremy Jeffress: Brewers groundbreaker, as he takes his place in Milwaukee sports history as the first player to use emoji for his name. I'd say that alone deserves a place in the Brewers Hall of Fame. No? OK, fair, but "Bread emoji & butter emoji" definitely at least earns a spot in the top ten nicknames – though not too high, however, since it's basically product placement for his new food truck of the same name. Smart business decision, though.
7. Drew Pomeranz: "Palm tree emoji"
Props for creativity, as one of the newest Milwaukee Brewers also earns the title of one of the most unique and cleverest nickname jerseys, going with some neat wordplay – or emoji-play, in this case – by turning Pomeranz into a palm tree. The only reason this isn't higher is because the back of the jersey just kind of looks ... empty with just a little palm tree on it. Plus, as you can see above with Jeffress' uniform, because of the weirdly dull monochromatic design of the Players Weekend jerseys this year, the names appear like they will be in silver trimming as opposed to their bright and colorful natural form, which takes some of the fun out of picking a goofy little picture for your nickname.
6. Travis Shaw: "Mayor-DDC"
We meet again, my great Players Weekend nickname nemesis. I see you still refuse to put your entire moniker – Mayor of Ding Dong City – on the back of Shaw's jersey, instead sticking with this weird shortened version that looks like the abbreviation for some governmental organization that I don't know about. WHY MUST YOU TEASE ME SO!? We've got emojis, dollar signs and last name Saltalamacchia, but we can't get a glorious nickname rounding over a number like a happy rainbow made of moniker? The MLB will start incorporating BASEketball rules before I see "Mayor of Ding Dong City" on the back of a jersey.
5. Lorenzo Cain: "Three Kid$"
This is very cute, but being the snarky and immature goofball that I am, I will definitely pronounce his nickname as "Three Kiddollarsign" – much like the pop star Kedollarsignha, the hit Brad Pitt/Morgan Freeman serial killer movie "Sesevenen" and the superhero film flop "Fantfourstic."
4. Adrian Houser: "Doogy"
Clever, funny and simultaneously obvious yet surprising, Houser is THIS close to winning the title of best nickname. Unfortunately, because of what I assume is some copyright hangup, the relief pitcher's nickname has to be misspelled "Doogy" instead of "Doogie" like its TV inspiration. DAMN YOU, LICENSING ISSUES! The result is still delightful – but also I keep reading it as "Doggy" instead of "Doogy."
3. Josh Hader: "Haderade"
Last year, the Brewers' star relief pitcher overthought his nickname and shifted away from this glorious moniker to "Stricken," the name of his outdoors company. As with Jeffress, using your Players Weekend nickname to plug a business feels cheap – plus nobody's calling you "Stricken" unless you're in some underground wrestling league. But that's gone and "Haderade" is back – and the world (and hopefully his fastball) is better for it. It's too obvious to win, but just obvious enough to be great.
2. Eric Thames: "Phone Home"
Eric Thames is the king of the Players Weekend nickname, always scoring near the top of the list. In the inaugural year, he easily claimed the number one nickname with "Sang Namja," his badass Korean baseball moniker that roughly translates out to, fittingly, "badass." Then last year, he almost scored the top spot once again with "Mr. Tee." The only problem was licensing issues forcing him to change away from the "A-Team" star and into the somewhat less cool shirt-related name. Still: awesome.
This year's isn't quite up the badass levels of the past few years – partly because it's not truly a nickname; nobody's calling anybody "Phone Home." But it is a very clever play off of his initials (E.T.) as well as one of the wittier and pleasantly surprising monikers in the bunch. It may not be "Sang Namja," but it's still worthy of a high slot in these rankings.
1. Yasmani Grandal: "Yazmanian Devil"
I'd argue that this is a fairly weak lineup of nicknames this year – a lot of familiar ones, as well as some lacking originality or catchiness – but "Yazmanian Devil" is a great moniker and a very deserving winner. It's an actual nickname, not just an emoji or random quote, and it involves clever wordplay with the catcher's name. In general, it's everything a nickname should be: memorable, fun, catchy and just a bit intimidating – it's still a DEVIL after all. And look at the things! They're clearly FEROCIOUS when they're not kind of adorable.
The only thing that would've been better is if Jeffress, Hader, Brent Suter and Grandal followed through with their preseason video and all went with "The Plastics" for a nickname in pink lettering.
This, however, is still very acceptable – more than that, it's the best Brewers nickname of 2019.
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.