With the Seahawks’ season going to bye and the Mariners’ season just going bye, Seattle sports fans could use a little distraction. I have just such a distraction: The 2014 MLB Double Valid All-Stars. What’s a double valid? It’s a player whose first and last names are both non-proper English words, that is, valid plays in the board game Scrabble. For example, Prince Fielder is a double valid since prince and fielder are both English words. Rougned Odor is not a double valid because only odor is an actual word. Robinson Cano is also not a double valid since neither robinson nor cano are valid English words (if only his name was Rob Canoe). Got it? Of course. Do you care? Less certain. But let’s continue as if you do.
Here are your 2014 MLB Double Valid All-Stars.
Starting Pitcher: Matt Shoemaker
The rookie gets the nod here. After toiling in the minors for seven seasons — and I do mean toiling; his career minor league ERA is 4.52 — Shoemaker was an unlikely candidate to stabilize the Angels rotation after injuries to Garrett Richards and Jered Weaver. But stabilize it he did, going 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and an excellent 5.17 K/BB ratio. How does a 28-year-old (by the way, Happy birthday, Mr. Shoemaker) pitch much better in his first full season in the majors than he ever did in the minors, even at the lowest levels? Baseball — that’s how.
Catcher: Hank Conger
hank n. – Nautical A ring on a stay attached to the head of a jib or staysail
conger n. — a large marine eel, reaching up to 10 ft. (3 m.), used for food.
So a fisherman might fasten a hank to his sail before catching a conger. Or if he’s a baseball fan, he might watch Matt Shoemaker pitch to Hank Conger, like in this game here.
First Base: Nick Swisher
The injury to Prince Fielder gave the other double valid first basemen a chance at this honor, and Nick Swisher stepped up … by which I mean he was arguably the worst player in the league this year (-1.6 WAR). Always a good hitter and a bad fielder, Swisher flipped the script this year and was a terrible hitter (like .208/.278/.331, 74 OPS+ terrible) and a good field- … uh, hold on, sorry, I was looking at Nick Punto‘s defensive numbers; Swisher was a terrible fielder this season also.
Second Base: Tommy La Stella
Technically he’s a triple valid, but that still counts in my book … or my blog, as it were. You’ve got tommy (a British soldier), la (the sixth note on the diatonic scale), and stella (a former coin of the U.S.), and when you put them all together what have you got? A pretty lousy second baseman whose only attractive quality (other than his triple valid name, of course) is the fact that he’s not Dan Uggla.
Third Base: Brock Holt
Last season he was a Double Valid All-Star by default; this season he was actually a decent player (2.2 WAR). And his name still means “badger grove”, which is kind of a real thing, so a few bonus points for that.
Shortstop: Brad Miller
When the Mariners traded Nick Franklin midseason, they lost half of a potentially potent double-valid double-play tandem, but they still retain the shortstop part of it. Although, given Miller’s season at the plate (.220/.288/.363, 88 OPS+), they might wish they didn’t.
Left Field: Junior Lake
After a promising rookie campaign, Junior Lake’s chance at stardom has completely cratered (you might say he’s crater Lake). He still might be a good player someday, but not if he continues to strikeout eight times for every one time he walks. That’s not a joke, by the way, he’s struck out 110 times this year, while walking only 14 times. The only player who has ever had a worse single-season ratio is Wily Mo Branyan, and he’s not even a real person; he’s a cross between Wily Mo Pena and Russell Branyan that I just invented right now. So, yeah, Lake’s batting eye needs some work.
Center Field: Mike Trout
There has been much written about where Mike Trout’s terrific start to his career ranks among the all-time great starts. But I have a more interesting question: Where does Mike Trout rank among baseball players with fish last names? Among fellow Trout, he’s ahead of Steve Trout, but hasn’t yet caught Steve’s father Dizzy Trout — a hurler from the ’40s with borderline Hall of Fame credentials. Mike Trout is certainly better than Mike Carp and Brandon Bass, and he’s even surpassed 14-year vet Kevin Bass. Frank Hake is no match for him nor is Art Herring. But Tim Salmon is ahead of him just based on longevity. So all told, I rank Mike Trout fourth on the “Last Name Is a Fish” list. He’s behind only Dizzy Trout, Tim Salmon, and Kevin Bass’ avatar on R.B.I. Baseball.
Right Field: Hunter Pence
Next question: Where does Hunter Pence rank on the “Last Name is a Monetary Unit” list? The answer is second. He’s ahead of Dick Rand and Brad Penny, but way behind Curt Schilling.
Designated Hitter: Jerry Sands
Billy Butler‘s down year opened up this roster spot, and Jerry Sands slid right in — not with his play, he was a pretty awful DH this year (.190/.227/.333 in 22 PA), but with his name: Jerry Sands is an excellent, lively double valid. And it’s got some historical significance. A jerry is a German soldier, so when the Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy, they were fighting on jerry sands.
Relief Pitcher: Will Smith
Will Smith is the second greatest reliever ever who has the same name as a world famous entertainer and an ex-NFL front-seven defender. Can you name the greatest ever? If not, you might want to take a look at the man in the mirror.