Random question: Will we soon have a MLB player with a last name starting with X?

In 1949, writer Ogden Nash wrote “Line-Up for Yesterday”, a poem that paid tribute to some of the greatest ballplayers in history up to that point by going through the alphabet. Three letters did not have representation:

  • I, which was used as a joking reference to himself writing the poem.
  • Z, for zenith, as a way of saying that these players were the top of the game.
  • And, of course… X, because there weren’t any ballplayers with a last name starting in  X. To make up for it, he just paid tribute to Jimmie Foxx.

Time has gone on, and, well, there still isn’t an MLB ballplayer with an X starting their last name. But, I was wondering- are there any candidates for it? After all, there are a lot of baseball players, and those players come from an increasing number of countries, some of which have different languages where having an X at the start of your name is more common.

So let’s go through the history of X-named ballplayers and see who has come closest so far, and see if there is anyone who may have a shot in the near-future.

The closest so far: Joe Xavier.

The closest baseball has ever come to having a Major Leaguer with an X at the start of their last name came in the late 1980s and the 1990 season, when Joe Xavier reached AAA. An infielder with the Oakland, Milwaukee and Atlanta organizations, Xavier later told “The Greatest 21 Days” blog that he may have had a shot at the big leagues if not for being traded to Milwaukee, which had a glut of infield prospects at that time. Alas, the fact that he never was able to crack the big league roster meant that the X portion of MLB reference material would remain empty.

The most recent one: Gui Yuan Xu.

Technically, Xu is his first name, but under western naming convention his family name of Xu comes last and therefore if he were to make the big league that is where he would be found in the index of baseball history.

Putting aside that, though, Gui Yuan Xu is the most recent minor leaguer who would have broken the “X” barrier if he made the bigs. A rare pro ballplayer signed from mainland China, Gui Yuan played three years in the Orioles organization before being released this past spring.

Anyone coming up in the college ranks?

The outlook for X-named ballplayers right now is not looking good. A look at the Baseball Cube (which is better than even Baseball Reference when it comes to college ballplayers) shows no current or recent prospect-level college ballplayers with names starting with X, at least at the Division I level. While there surely must be some high school players with surnames that begin with X, I am not a big enough expert on the prospects at that level to say if any of them may have a shot of one day breaking the “X” barrier.

Chinese Dreams

Ultimately, the best hope of one day having a ballplayer with a X at the start of their surname may lie in mainland China. While many ballplayers in Taiwan transliterate names with the “shoo” or “choo” sound into English with “Ch” instead of “X”, on the mainland the X seems far more common.

To see how that is, you need only look at the Baseball Reference page for players who have had their surname begin with “Xi”. Most of them are Chinese players who were on the Texas AirHogs of the independent American Association either last year or this year. The AirHogs entered an agreement before the 2018 season to more-or-less give most of their roster over to China’s national team, as China prepares for the return of baseball to the Olympics in 2020 and likely then 2028. Six of those Chinese players on the 2018 AirHogs had names starting with “Xi”, and at least one of them has returned in 2019.

Now, the stats for them don’t exactly impress, with only one of the “Xi” (reliever Qi Xin) having statistics that I’d call “good”, but who knows? Perhaps one day a Chinese player with a surname that starts with X will catch somebody’s eye, just as Gui Yuan Xu once briefly caught the Orioles’ eye. And perhaps one day they will make the big leagues, breaking the “X” barrier once and for all.

So will we have a MLB player with a last name starting in X anytime soon? Probably not, but you never know…

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BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Baseball with Galactus in Marvel Adventures Avengers #26

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE! Avengers: Endgame is breaking all of the box office records, so now is as good of a time as any to bring you a Bizarre Baseball Culture look at a truly bizarre Avengers tale: 2008’s Marvel Adventures The Avengers Volume 1 #26, in which baseball helps our heroes save a planet from Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds.

Well, sort of. It’s more of a non-sequitur thrown in to justify this awesome cover:

Image of cover of magazine, featuring Galactus looking down at the Silver Surfer, Hulk and Spider-Man playing baseball.

And… I’m totally fine with that! It is available to read for Marvel Unlimited subscribers here. Head below the jump for more of this piece:

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Bizarre Baseball Culture: What does “The White Killer” have to do with Baseball?

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Way back in the ninth installment of this series, I mentioned how one of the archtypes of superheroes is the patriotic hero. The most notable, of course, is Captain America, but there have been others: The Shield (who starred in that comic), Uncle Sam, Miss America, the Fighting Yank, etc.

This time in Bizarre Baseball Culture, we look at a comic involving one of the lesser patriotic heroes, one relegated (probably with good reason) to the dustbin of comic book history: U.S. Jones. He got his powers- whatever they are (they aren’t really expanded upon) from a scientist, and he fights enemies of America during WWII, as one does. This is what he looks like on the cover of the comic that contained this story, called “The White Killer”:

Wow, what a horrible costume. It’s somebody ate an American flag and then vomited upon Jones’ skin. And then there’s the U and S upon his chest. You know, in case you didn’t get that he was themed for the United States of America by the fact that his costume looks like he did stuff to a flag forbidden by the US Flag Code.

Anyway, the comic, from Wonderworld Comics #33, can be found here. It is in the public domain.

Go below the jump for more.

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“No Explanations Given” MLB predictions for 2019

Here it is- 25 predictions for the 2019 MLB season with NO EXPLANATIONS GIVEN. You want to know why I think some of these? Too bad! In some cases, I may not even be sure myself.

  1. Boston will win the AL East.
  2. Cleveland will win the AL Central.
  3. Houston will win the AL West.
  4. The Yankees and Twins will get Wild Cards.
  5. The Yankees will win the Wild Card game.
  6. The Astros will win the American League.
  7. The Phillies will win the NL East.
  8. The Cubs will win the NL Central.
  9. The Dodgers will win the NL West.
  10. The Nationals and Brewers will get Wild Cards.
  11. The Brewers will win the Wild Card game.
  12. The Phillies will win the National League.
  13. The Astros will win the World Series.
  14. Mike Trout will win AL MVP.
  15. Trevor Bauer will win AL Cy Young.
  16. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will win AL Rookie of the Year.
  17. Alex Cora will win AL Manager of the Year.
  18. Ronald Acuna Jr. will win NL MVP.
  19. Max Scherzer will win NL Cy Young.
  20. Victor Robles will win NL Rookie of the Year.
  21. Dave Martinez will win NL Manager of the Year.
  22. The Baltimore Orioles will have the worst record in MLB.
  23. The “Opener” will become more common.
  24. Giancarlo Stanton will lead MLB in HRs.
  25. Worries about a work stoppage at the end of the current CBA will increase.

In the works at the Baseball Continuum….

So, I know I didn’t end up putting my “no explanations given” predictions last Friday, but I swear I am not falling back into one of my long hiatuses. In fact, I have a few things in the works.

These are just things I have in the works- there is nothing stopping me from just writing something spur of the moment, as I did with the Mike Trout and trout post.

DEFINITELY coming this week:

  • “No explanations given” predictions for the 2019 MLB season

PROBABLY coming this week:

  • A “Bizarre Baseball Culture” look at a public domain comic

IN EARLY APRIL:

  • Updated versions of my Shazam/Captain Marvel “Bizarre Baseball Cultures” in honor of the release of the Shazam! movie.
  • A “Famous for Something Else” installment

IN MID APRIL:

  • A “Bizarre Baseball Culture”-adjacent post

IN LATE APRIL:

  • Probably an Avengers-related “Bizarre Baseball Culture”

So, yeah… stuff is in the works.

BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Strange Tales #36 “The Discovery”

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Yeah, so that Power Rangers series I promised I’d finish two years ago? You’re going to keep waiting. Today, we’re going to the 1950s to read a story from Marvel’s Strange Tales #36, circa 1955. Well, sort of, you see, this is actually a story from Atlas Comics, which is what Marvel was called at the time. It’s a short, four-page story in the middle of an issue full of them, and calls to mind later stories like the Sidd Finch hoax… and how it could go horribly wrong, especially if he wasn’t used right.

Go below the jump for more:

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Peter Angelos’ specter of mortality is keeping the Orioles from doing what must be done

The following are true:

1. Peter Angelos, majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles, is 88 years old. This coming 4th of July, he will be 89.

2. The Baltimore Orioles’ current window for contention is almost entirely closed. Barring a miracle or a sudden change of heart, this will be the last season that Manny Machado, their best player, will be on the team. Adam Jones may also soon be gone. Chris Davis is still in for the next few years, but is no longer the slugger he once was. The pitching continues to be uneven at best, although Dylan Bundy still has some promise. The bullpen is better, but is still hurt by injuries and free agencies. The farm system, while not as bad as some say, is still poor, especially compared to most of the Orioles’ AL East rivals. Oh, and those AL rivals, especially the Yankees and Red Sox, seem to be headed towards another one of those 5-10 year stretches where they will be fighting for the top spot while all other teams fight for third.

3. The Orioles are doing nothing to set the groundwork for another run. They haven’t traded Machado, they haven’t had any significant talks with Jones, and to the best of my knowledge they haven’t stepped-up scouting or tried to get any top international prospects.

Those preceding points are, again, all true. And they are all related. To be more specifically, they all have to do with point number one: Peter Angelos is 88 years old. Every owner in sports dreams of two things (although the order may differ depending on the person): to win a championship, and to make a ton of money.

Angelos has succeeded in the latter. He is a billionaire, and the value of the Orioles has skyrocketed since his group first bought them in the 90s. No championship has come, and Angelos, in his old age, no doubt recognizes his chances of seeing one are numbered. It does not take a psychologist to recognize what is happening in his psyche: he wants to win one before he goes, and he has decided that he has a better chance if he stays the course, as opposed to committing to a long rebuild that he may not be alive for the end of.

It isn’t completely insane. To be sure, the Orioles aren’t anyone’s pick to win the World Series in 2018. Or even win the division. Or even the wild card. However, it isn’t totally insane to think that maybe Buck Showalter can work his magic one last time and that the team could overachieve its way into some type of Wild Card spot. And then, it’d be the playoffs, and who knows? Maybe they could somehow get hot at the right time and come home as champions. It isn’t likely at all, but it isn’t totally impossible.

However, it should be noted that there is an error with this theory: if indeed this was a case of wanting to win now before Machado leaves, the Orioles would be doing a lot more. To the best of my knowledge, they have made no major overtures to any of the top free agents still left on the market. They outright admitted they made no serious attempt to get Shohei Ohtani, citing organizational philosophy. With the exception of a few minor moves, they have made no indication that they are going for it, no-holds-barred.

Perhaps this is because of the climate of baseball this hot stove season, where the movement has been so slow that some are speaking of collusion and flaws in baseball’s financial structure. However, it seems unlikely that Angelos, probably the most pro-labor owner in baseball (during the 94/95 strike he refused to try out scabs), would go along with collusion, at least explicitly. No, more than likely it is just that the other part of being an owner: the money. Quite simply, Peter Angelos is trying to have it both ways: he wants to win a championship before he dies, but he also doesn’t want to put the money in the game that would let him do it.

In other words, he is trying to do two things at once, and in the end, he may end up with nothing at all.