Among the many things that make my skin crawl regarding Alex Rodriguez is how lazy he made us all in conjuring nicknames for baseball players. First initial of first name, first syllable of last name? That’s so much easier than thinking! A-Rod could also be known as Z-Zzz. Yet I’ve been guilty of it myself, imploring, among others these past few years, P-Lo, C-Bel, C-Del and J-Bay to come through in the C-Lutch. R-Bar doesn’t really work for Rod Barajas, even though he most definitely came through in the clutch Tuesday night with the ninth-inning homer that pre-empted more creeping Red Dread (or R-Dread). Besides, R-Bar puts me in mind of the old Roy Rogers Double R Bar Burger, which might be appropriate in light of the way Rod pulled the Trigger on Francisco Cordero’s two-out delivery before absolutely tasing it, but I’ve never been fully comfortable with the horse/hamburger connection.
9. Old ’Jas Rod Bar
Then again, Rod Barajas has been a horse behind the plate this year, and he’s no spring chicken. If this were the 19th century, we’d be issuing colorful nicknames along the lines of Old Hoss Radbourn, the pitcher who won 59 games for the 1884 Providence Grays (wonder what his pitch count was). By the end of this season, Rod Barajas will likely take part in 59 Met wins. He may even take 84 pitches by then.
8. The Wild ’Jas of the Osage
Gashouse Gang third baseman Pepper Martin was known as the Wild Horse of the Osage. Like it wasn’t enough to be known as Pepper (full name: Johnny Roosevelt Leonard Martin). The wildest thing about Rod Barajas is his idea of the strike zone when he’s batting. Rod’s got two walks in one-sixth of a season. Buddhists will tell you that he’s on pace to be reincarnated as Jeff Francouer.
7. Air Rod
Not that it’s gonna happen anyway, but you don’t want Rod Barajas hitting the ball on the ground. When he does, the earth doesn’t move. Certainly Rod doesn’t. He has one hit on a ground ball thus far this year. Then again, he’s only hit the ball on the ground 13 times. You will, however, find Air Rod has the most daily nonstop flights of any Met. Forty-seven of the 69 balls he’s put in play have, like Harry Chapin in “Taxi,” taken off to find the sky. Seven have found the other side of the fence.
6. Rodney Allen Rip ’Em
Back to burgers for a moment. Does anybody else remember that adorable kid who plugged Jack in the Box in the ’70s? His name was Rodney Allen Rippy. He’s still around. Like Roy Rogers, Jack in the Box doesn’t seem to be around as much, at least in New York. On the other hand, our catcher has ripped nine line drives this season, six of them for hits. Rod Barajas didn’t sign with the Mets until late February. Talk about a fun surprise springing out of a box!
5. Andy Roddick
This is a truly awful nickname, but it would carry on in the tradition of truly awful Mets nicknames. Perhaps you’ve heard Ron and Keith explain the lineage of Howard Johnson’s clubhouse nickname Sheik. Howard Johnson was HoJo to the rest of us. HoJo morphed into Haji, per the Giants placekicker of the day, Ali-Haji Sheikh. Follow that ballplayer logic? Well, Rod Barajas’s full name is Rodrigo Richard Barajas. So you’ve got the Rod, and then you take the formerly respectable shortening of Richard, and you bring an athlete from another sport into it…like I said, this is truly awful, but it would have fit on the 1986 Mets. In The Bad Guys Won, we learn Darryl Strawberry not so affectionately dubbed Timothy Shawn Teufel “Richard Head”. FYI, Darryl — or Straw — is now listed in the Mets Media Guide as a “club ambassador”.
4. ’Raja California
Rod Barajas was born in Ontario, California, well east of L.A. and a little more than a hundred miles north of Baja California. As it happens, his father is from Mexicali, part of the Mexican peninsula just south of San Diego. When Rod Barajas homers for the Mets, he brings great honor to all peoples (save for Francisco Cordero). He brought great honor to the Diamondbacks as a catcher on their eternally beloved 2001 world championship team, but it doesn’t sound like he’s looking to get back to Arizona any time soon.
Confession: I’ve been calling him this in front of the TV lately. B-Rod with the winning hit, K-Rod with the save, A-Rod at fault for this total lack of originality (with an assist to my own organic laziness).
In a newscast, B-Roll is the footage that runs while the anchor or reporter is nattering away. Thus, when Gary Apple is attempting to lamely tease our interest with “Guess which Met catcher is doing something no Met catcher since Mike Piazza has done!” you’ll probably see B-Roll of B-Rod from last night while you think, “What, lead the team in home runs? Does SNY think I’m an idiot?” If he has enough highlights like the one he filmed last night, Rod Barajas will be the embodiment of power-hitting B-Roll B-fore long.
1. Huggy Bar
On Starsky and Hutch (again with the ’70s references — contemporize man!), Huggy Bear was the streetwise contact who gave the lead detectives the information they needed to make it through another episode. Well, what is a veteran catcher if not a streetwise contact for pitchers in a tight spot? And didn’t you want to just hug the ever-lovin’ stuffin’ out of Rod Barajas when he hit that home run last night? For that matter, is he not, purely on demeanor, the most huggable Met we’ve had since Benny Agbayani? Then again, everybody’s huggable when you win in the ninth.