Thursday, February 19, 2009

Random-a$$ Thursday: Buck Coats

Every Thursday, from here on out, The Common Man is going to head over to the old baseballreference.com, and hit their "random" link. At that point, The Common Man plans to write about whatever or whoever comes up on his screen, be it a player, schedule, award, team page, or whatever. Perhaps in keeping with the random theme, The Common Man's first attempt led to some unexpected results. The Common Man thought he'd be directed to someone old and obscure, like Bob Kline or Harry Steinfeldt. Instead, he found Buck Coats, a contemporary outfielder who's currently on Toronto's 40-man roster.

In three years, for three teams, Coats has 62 plate appearances and a .193/.242/.333 hitting line. And he's not doing much in the minors to distinguish himself either, posting a mediocre OBP and very little power. He's entering his age-27 season and there's little reason to think that he's got any more growth in him. He is what he is, a fifth outfielder who can handle CF, has a little speed, and might post an OBP in the .340s if he's given a chance to play. He'll presumably hang around as AAA filler for a few more seasons, getting a few at bats here and there, before finally hanging up his spikes when he's 30 or so.

It's really not all that fun to talk about 5th outfielders (at best) behind their backs, though, so let's talk about his name. According to baseballreference, Buck is not a nickname, but the actual moniker given to Buck by presumably loving parents. Loyal readers know how angry The Common Man gets with parents who can't be bothered to name their children well, and while "Buck" falls short of being an egregious name, it's no winner either these days. If he happened into the nickname, like James Melvin "Buck" Becannon or Ralph "Buck" Buxton, The Common Man would understand. In fact, there are 57 ballplayers and managers on baseballreference who were called either Buck or Bucky. Plus, there's Buck Leonard of the Negro Leagues. There's a Billy Buck (Bill Buckner), one Buckeye (Don Grate), four Buckshots (Glenn Wright, John Skopec, William May and Tommy Brown), and a Bucketfoot Al (Simmons). And the list is even missing Brian "Buck" Buchanan, who looked like he might make something of himself with the Twins in the early part of this decade. But of all these players, only Coats is actually named Buck. Given that he was born in Fort Benning, Georgia, maybe it's a cultural thing. But still, you've got the option, as a parent, of giving your child a decent name, and then saddling them with an embarrassing nickname. Why not give your boy the option of becoming a doctor or a lawyer before you consign him to work at the full-service gas station? The Common Man supposes it's lucky that Coats stumbled into the only other career where it's socially acceptable to be named Buck.

Anyway, this Buck is nowhere near the best Buck on the list. The top honor probably belongs to Leonard, who played with Josh Gibson on the Homestead Grays, won the Negro League batting title in 1948 (hitting .391), and played in 11 East-West all star games in his 17 years. After him, it's probably either Buck Ewing, who posted a 129 OPS+ as a catcher from 1880-1897 or Zack "Buck" Wheat (get it?), who also posted a 129 OPS+ for the Brooklyn Dodgers between 1909 and 1927. Other notable Bucks include Grant "Buck" Jackson, a journeyman reliever from 1965-1982 who made the NL All Star team for Philly in '69; former MVP and nine-time All Star 1B Frank "Buck" McCormick, who had a 118 OPS+ from 1934-1948; former MVP and six-time All Star SP Bucky Walters, who won 198 games, won 20 games three times, and had a 115 ERA+ from 1934-1950. Plus, there's Louis Norman "Bobo" "Buck?" Newsome, who went 211-222 for his career with an ERA+ of 105, a four-time All Star and three-time 20 game winner (and two-time 20 game loser) from 1929-1953 (but The Common Man isn't sure he can count Buck when he already has one awesome nickname). And Bucky Harris, who was a decent 2B for the Senators and played from 1919-1931, but who made it to the Hall of Fame as a manager. And, of course, Bucky F-ing Dent. And the infamous Buck Weaver of the Black Sox Scandal.

Taken together, the Bucks and Buckys have a lifetime record of 624-661, with a 3.95 ERA. The non-pitchers (The Common Man removed the pitchers so as not to skew the totals and considered Bucky Walters a pitcher for simplicity's sake) batted .278 with 15,933 hits, 646 home runs, and 6989 RBI.

Coats will probably end up somewhere between the awesomely named "Buck" Thrasher, who hit .255/.295/.330 (92 OPS+) for the Philadelphia A's over two seasons in the deadball era and Buck Redfern, who hit .218/.255/.257 (35 OPS+) for the White Sox in the '20s.

Finally, if history is any indication, Coats may have a managerial career in his future, as a disproportionate number of Bucks seem to end up at the helm. There's the aforementioned Harris, Ewing, Walters, and Dent, Buck Showalter, Buck Rodgers, Buck Herzog, and Buck Martinez. Their nicknames must give them some kind of folksy-wise vibe that team owners can't help but resist. Their combined record is 4694-4737 for a .498 winning percentage. They've won two division titles (Showalter), three pennants (all Harris), and two World Series (Harris again). And one of them (Rodgers) was fired from a team that won the pennant (Harvey Kuenn took over the '82 Brewers).

4 comments:

BillP said...

No mention of Buck O'Neil? Really?

I bought a box of baseball cards the other day that promised one double-autograph card per box, and mine was then-Cubs not-quite-prospects Coats and Angel Pagan. You can imagine my relief when I also pulled an autographed Josh Hamilton. Those are probably the two greatest names(-qua-names) ever to appear on the same card, though. I mean, Angel Pagan? Come on.

lar said...

Great concept, TCM. And as soon as I saw it, I thought "I can't wait to see what happens when you run across someone like Paul Schaal, backup third baseman for the inept 1968 California Angels" (I searched for a crappy player on a crappy, forgotten team... I do not know the roster of the 1968 Angels off the top of my head). But, funnily enough, I don't think you came across someone too much better. A fifth outfielder for the Blue Jays? Very exciting.

But you made it quite interesting. Congratulations on that feat. Keep it coming. (Though now I think it'd be wonderful if the next name to come up for you was, indeed, Paul Schaal).

And no one would think any less of you if you hit that random link 3 times, say, and then chose the most interesting name/team/etc from that list.

newview said...

Great! The "random" walk is fantastic, and a marvelous tonic after the whole Barry Bonds, "A-roid", and McGuire mess. that said, a serious somment about the blog. You should consider removing two of the linked blogs. "Return to Manliness" and "snarl" haven't had anything new in quite some time. Although I may posit that "Return to Manliness" is suffering from acute terminal embarrassment over that "BLOGGO" post...BTW, wait until the Boy gets to start organized baseball!

The Common Man said...

@ Bill

You're right, The Common Man overlooked old Buck. Maybe he should be re-watch Ken Burns' baseball as a hurt-so-good type punishment. Buck wasn't on the list The Common Man was looking at (since he was inexcusably left out of the Hall of Fame last year), which explains his absence from the post but does not excuse it.

@ lar

Never! The Common Man will not cheat (as far as you know). He bets he could find something to say about even Paul Schaal.

@ newview

Yeah, The Common Man needs to perform some surgery on his blogroll. But Kevin at Return to Manliness was good to The Common Man when this blog first launched, and The Common Man keeps it up there in the hopes he'll come back to the fold. As for Snarl, he's a good friend, but maybe it's time to cut the cord. The Common Man is pleased you liked the post and hopes you'll stop back soon.