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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“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.

Just for the record…. (2018 Baseball Predictions)

For the record…

The Houston Astros will repeat as World Series champions, beating the Washington Nationals in 6 games.

The Miami Marlins will have the worst record in baseball.

The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado by the deadline.

Mike Trout will be MVP… but only because Manny Machado will have been traded to an NL team.

Giancarlo Stanton will not hit 60+ HRs, but will hit 50+ HRs.

Same goes for Aaron Judge.

The Yankees will win the AL East

The Indians will win the AL Central.

The Astros will win the AL West.

The Nationals will win the NL East.

The Cubs will win the NL Central.

The Dodgers will win the NL West.

The Red Sox and Twins will be the AL Wild Cards, the Red Sox will win that game.

The Brewers and Diamondbacks will be the NL Wild Cards, the Brewers will win that game.

Shohei Otani will not win AL Rookie of the Year.

Otani will contribute more on the mound than the plate.

Ronald Acuna will be NL Rookie of the Year.

Michael Kopech will be AL Rookie of the Year.

Clayton Kershaw will win NL Cy Young.

Chris Sale will win AL Cy Young.

There will be three no-hitters this year, but only two of them will be by a single pitcher.

The AL will win the All-Star Game.

Many of these predictions will be wrong.

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.

My sure-to-be-wrong predictions for the postseason

Before the year, I predicted that the Washington Nationals would win it all. Therefore, I must stick with that prediction.

But I’m not confident in it. I made that prediction assuming that Bryce Harper wouldn’t fall off (he did, due to injuries) and that Stephen Strasburg would be healthy (nope). Still, they definitely are a team that can win it all. They just aren’t the favorite anymore.

So, without further ado, my predictions for the postseason, sure to be wrong (the team with home field comes SECOND here):

AL WILD CARD: Neither Chris Tillman or Marcus Stroman have done that great down the stretch, but with the lineups behind them that hasn’t been that big of a deal. Make no mistake: this game could become a slugfest. However, I’m going to give the edge (barely) to the Orioles, because I have more faith in their bullpen, and Zack Britton in particular. Of course, a one-game playoff is a total crapshoot, so who the heck knows?

NL WILD CARD: Folks, I’ve checked the calendar, and it’s October. And Madison Bumgarner is pitching. Sorry, Mets. Giants win, although, again… one-game playoffs are crapshoots.

ALDS ORIOLES/RANGERS: Man, are the Rangers the most anonymous best-record-in-the-AL team in years or what? A lot of people seem to have just assumed that the Red Sox had the best record, but they didn’t. Anyway, I think that the Rangers will win this series in 4, as they A) are the better team and B) have better pitching.

ALDS INDIANS/RED SOX: The Red Sox may not have had the best record in the AL, but they probably were the best team. The Indians, meanwhile, played like how many people thought they’d play last season. This probably will be the best series in the Division Series round (barring a Blue Jays-Rangers rematch), but I think the Red Sox win it in 5.

NLDS DODGERS/NATIONALS: Again, I am duty-bound to pick the Nationals (I’ll say in 5), but if I weren’t duty-bound to do so I probably would pick the Dodgers, who are coming into the postseason hotter and with Clayton Kershaw healthy again. Still, the Nationals are still a very good team, and maybe the bad luck that seems to haunt Kershaw every damn October- as well as the Dodgers’ own injury problems- will pop up again.

NLDS GIANTS/CUBS: If I were not duty-bound to pick the Nationals, I’d probably say the Cubs would finally win it all this year. They may well be the most complete team in baseball, and I think they will defeat the Giants in 4.

ALCS RED SOX/RANGERS: This could be a good series, and I’m sure the FOX will be happy to know that I think the Red Sox would win in 6 due to their better depth and what my gut is telling me.

NLCS NATIONALS/CUBS: Again, duty-bound to pick the Nationals, although logically I think the Cubs would win. So… Nationals in 7.

WORLD SERIES NATIONALS/RED SOX: I have a feeling this series would either be a short 4-5 game victory for the Red Sox, or a 6-7 game victory of the Nationals. You can guess what I think it’d be based on what I’ve said so far.

So… who’d be in the 2016 “In Memoriam” montage?

Like in previous years, here’s who would be in this season’s hypothetical “In Memoriam” segment of the All-Star Game. It’s in a semi-random order, and a * means that they’d get an extra emphasis, such as a highlight or interview clip about them- they all died after last year’s ASG (July 14):

Joe Garagiola Sr., Player and famed announcer*

Milt Pappas, 2-time All-Star

Mike Sandlock, played portions of five seasons

Dick McAuliffe, 3-time All-Star

John Young, creator of the RBI program

Paul Carey, Announcer

Sammy Ellis, 1965 All-Star

Monte Irvin, HoF outfielder*

Luis Arroyo, 2-time All-Star

Eddie Milner, Reds OF in 1980s

Jim Hickman, 1970 All-Star

Walt Williams, 10 seasons in MLB

Eddie Einhorn, White Sox Vice Chairman

Joaquin Andujar, 4-time All-Star*

Tommy Hanson, MLB pitcher for Braves and Angels

Phil Pepe, Noted NYC baseball writer

Rueben Quevedo, MLB pitcher from 2000 to 2003

Jim Davenport, All-Star and Gold Glove winner

Walter Young, 1B for Orioles in 2005

Frank Sullivan, 2-time All-Star

Dave Henderson, 1991 All-Star and hitter of famed home run off of Donnie Moore*

John Tsitouris, played parts of 11 seasons

Spec Richardson, General Manager for Astros and Giants

Betty Francis, AAGPBL player

Bobby Smith, OF with five teams from 1957-1965

Masayoshi Higashida, 2-time NPB All-Star

Billy Pierce, 7-time All-Star

Gene Elston, long-time Houston Announcer and Ford C. Frick winner *

Jim Ray Hart, 1966 All-Star

Marilyn Jones, AAGPBL star

Barney Schultz, Cardinals relief ace

Trent Baker, member of the Brisbane Bandits

Harry Perkowski, played parts of 8 seasons

Dean Chance, 2-time All-Star and 1964 Cy Young Award winner

Buzz Bowers, Baseball Scout Hall of Famer

Frank Malzone, 3-time Gold Glove, multiple ASG appearances, member of BOS HoF*

Jim O’Toole, Reds Hall of Famer and 1963 All-Star

Chico Fernandez, MLB 1956-1963

Erma Bergmann, AAGPBL Star

Joe Durham, Negro Leaguer and longtime member of the Orioles organization

June Peppas, AAGPBL Star

Kiyohiro Miura, 19-years in NPB

Milo Hamilton, Announcer and Ford C. Frick winner *

Ken Johnson, Pitcher for seven teams between 1958 and 1970

Norm Siebern, 3-time All-Star

Alice Pollitt, AAGPBL star

Hal Brown, Knuckleballer in 1950s and 60s

James Moore, Negro League All-Star

Tony Phillips, Utilityman Extraordinaire*

Garry Hancock, OF during portions of 6 season

Tom Kelley, Reliever in 60s and 70s

Donny Everett, college player for Vanderbilt

Cal Neeman, SS in Majors 1957-1963

Jimmy Williams, Player, coach and member of Canadian Baseball HoF

Yogi Berra, HoF Catcher and 18-time All-Star *