In July of 1996, the Red Sox called up a young third baseman from Pawtucket. It was not his first major league game — he’d had one (and only one) with Seattle the previous year. He was on no one’s radar as a top prospect, and he shouldn’t have been: his tenure with the team was short and brutal. He played in only 25 games as a member of the Red Sox, and then vanished back into the minor leagues, where languished for another two seasons. In 2000, he popped up again, this time with the Mexico City Tigers, of the Mexican League. After that, he ceased to exist in professional baseball. His record as a ballplayer was unimpressive to say the least, and his impact less than minimal. There is really no reason to remember him at all, save one: his name.
The only thing I truly remember about Arquimedez Pozo is his name. I remember being fascinated by it — the disjunction between the long and poetic first name and the almost ugly quality of the last; the thread linking a classical Greek past to a Latin present, two z’s… the name was perfection, even if the player was far from it. Since that time, I’ve been carefully keeping track of the best names in Major League Baseball, and granting — in my own mind for a while, and on my old blog for a few years — to the player with the best name in baseball the Arquimedez Pozo Award. Previous winners include such luminaries of the game as Hiram Bocachica, Rocky Cherry, and Ambiorix Burgos. Today a new Pozo winner will be declared.
A quick word about methodology: players on the list must have appeared in at least one major league game this season. Other than that, there is none. This is entirely, 100% my own opinion. Personally, I prefer names that just sound cool — either lyrical or comical. Others, I know, prefer ‘punny’ names (like, for example, the immortal Dick Pole). To those people I say this: get your own award. This one’s mine, and I’ll give it to Yhency Brazoban if I want to.
So now, without further ado, the nine top runners up, followed by your 2010 Arquimedez Pozo Award winner.
10. Felix Pie
I know I just got done saying I didn’t like the ‘punny’ names, but… his name is Pie. And yes, I know he pronounces is ‘Pi-yay’, but I don’t care. His name is Felix Pie, and that’s funny enough for tenth place overall. I will say this: it’s a light year for the Pozos.
9. Jhoulys Chacin
Sometimes I wonder whether some parents just reach into a bag of scrabble letters and see what happens. Jhoulys Chacin is one of those times. Maybe it’s a variation on Julius, or maybe someone was eating a sandwich while reporting the newborn’s name, but either way, here he is. And for the record, ‘Jhoulys’ would net 20 points on a Scrabble board.
8. Coco Crisp
Coco is the only player to appear on every published list of Pozo finalists there has been, and with good reason: his name sounds suspiciously like cereal. Also of note: yes, Coco is a nickname. However, his real name — Covelli Lloyce Crisp — is really just about as good.
7. Burke Badenhop
I can’t decide why I like this name as much as I do. It might be due to the strong alliteration; it might also be because it sounds like it could be a German dance/neighborhood/Marxist terrorist cell. Regardless, he is one of those people who — if I knew him in real life — I would only refer to using the full name. I can’t say it rolls off the tongue, but it definitely bounces off it.
6. Kosuke Fukudome
No comment needed.
5. Madison Bumgarner
I’m a fan of poetic juxtaposition, so this name — Madison, which reminds me more than anything of snobby rich white tweens; and Bumgarner, which sounds like the kind of name you’d have if you lived in a part of Arkansas that hadn’t been discovered yet — is automatically a hit in my mind.
4. Angel Pagan
Another example of juxtaposition making a name stronger. Pagan is a former Pozo winner, from back in 2006. I decided soon after naming him the winner that I’d stiffed the guy who really should have won it; sadly, the following year I still couldn’t right the wrong because of the appearance of the immortal Rocky Cherry. This year, however, the man who should have won in 2006 is back, and he makes an appearance further down the list.
3. Elvis Andrus
People named Elvis are automatically both better and funnier than the rest of us. Pair that first name with a homophonic Andrus as the last name, and you’ve got a solid piece of work, the kind of name that sticks in your craw (wherever that is). Elvis Andrus also has a slightly poetic quality to it that I think lends an air of mystery.
2. Jair Jurrjens
Jurrjens’ first Pozo appearance was in the 2006 World Baseball Classic Pozo contest, won eventually by Canadian Stubby Clapp. He played then for the Netherlands team, which went nowhere. Now, suddenly, he is the ace of an unexpectedly strong Braves club, which means that we stand a decent chance of getting to hear Tim McCarver butcher his name on Fox during the playoffs. I’m excited about that.
1. Boof Bonser
Yes, the Red Sox own (for a while) Boof Bonser is, at long last, a Pozo Award winner. Because — and this should be made 100% clear — his name is Boof. Seriously. That is not a nickname. It is his legal first name.
Okay, it wasn’t always. But what make Boof stand out from the Pozo field is that he went the extra mile and legally changed his name to make it more comical. That is the kind of commitment of which Pozo Award winners are made, folks.
So congratulations to Mr. Bonser and the rest of the 2010 finalists. A job well done by all. One note in closing, however: no one on that list should feel comfortable about their position. Why? Because the Pozo Award has its first ever Top Prospect. Sequoyah Trueblood Stonecipher is only in high-A Jupiter in the Marlins organization, but he is rising fast. With a name like that, should he ever reach the majors… no one is safe. I might even have to change the name of the award.