Names, as I read once somewhere, are powerful things. Without them, it’d be impossible to google yourself.
Ego-surfing is a basic American right, up there with drive-thrus and Words With Friends. We deserve to know, at any moment, where each of us stands in the social order. And yet many men, even among the celebrities who hit balls with sticks and throw balls past people with sticks, have had their identities stripped from them. The men listed below are exceptional. They beat the odds and became professional baseball players, only to become afterthoughts, exceeded not only in fame but in the very vocation they spent a lifetime training for. It’s a tragedy when stories have been silenced by other, better stories. Please take a few moments to mourn these forgotten semi-heroes through the power of hastily-wrought prose:
Search for “Randy Johnson Braves” on Google and the first site you’ll see is not poor Randall Glenn Johnson of Escondido, California, but an article about how the Braves let the other Randy Johnson get away, failing to sign him in 1982 as a fourth-round pick out of high school. How unwanted can you make a man feel? Randall was actually a pretty solid part-timer for the Braves in the early 80s, earning 2.3 WAR in three seasons before heading off to Japan. Even his mustache is a strong, yet ultimately inferior, performance.
Until 2009, Jose Joaquin Bautista probably resigned himself to sharing a disambiguated Wikipedia page. He went 6-15 with a 4.38 FIP his rookie season and never eclipsed that level of success again, despite sticking to the league for nine years. A year and a half has changed this. Googling “Jose Bautista”-orioles brings up the supernatural Jose Bautista first, thanks to sixteen games played with them as a rule 5 pick in 2004. The first page also links to an article called “Jose Bautista Used to Play for the Orioles.” It is not about Jose Joaquin Bautista. No one would write an article about how Jose Joaquin Bautista used to play for the Orioles.
The first edition of Mike Stanton is best remembered by the testimonial he graciously delivered for the chiropractic services of Seattle-based Dr. Craig Tuttle. The second edition pitched in more games than anyone not named Orosco, won a few World Series rings, and is doomed to be similarly forgotten. This is all because of the third Mike Stanton, whose first name isn’t even Michael but Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton. You wonder if he goes by Mike just to spite the other two.
Tyson proves that perhaps anonymity isn’t always such a curse. Searching “Mike Tyson”-Cubs actually nets you a first page full of sites about the light-hitting, full-mustached infielder. Most of the listings are there to sell the interested party editions of Mike Tyson’s baseball cards, none of which are worth the cost of shipping. None of the sites mention, to my knowledge, Tyson fruitlessly waiting by the phone, hoping against hope for a cameo in the Hangover Part Two.
These men have both had long baseball careers, and as such they probably deserve individual recognition for their accomplishments. I will not give it to them. To prevent myself from confusing the two, I long ago decided to ignore them both. Gonzalez A played thirteen seasons for six different teams; Gonzalez B has played twelve seasons with five different teams. Both played for the Blue Jays. Both wielded inconsistent but generally decent gloves, both had trouble with the strike zone, both had decent pop in their bats. Google justifiably calls it a draw: the first link goes to the disambiguated Alex Gonzalez Wikipedia page.
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