As nicknames go, the handles identifying current Seattle Mariners aren’t exactly up there with 1950s-baseball fixtures The Scooter (Phil Rizzuto), The Barber (Sal Maglie)and The Newk (Don Newcombe).
The 2011 M’s instead have Figgy (Chone Figgins), Miggy (Miguel Olivo) and the effortless, probably inevitable reference to manager Eric Wedge: Wedgy.
The guy who really needs a nickname just now is Mike Carp (don’t call him “Carpy” but, if you must, please don’t mispronounce it).
Here’s a vote for Joltin’ Mike Carp. Granted, it isn’t alliterative or mellifluous. But every time the versatile rookie finishes another consecutive game with at least one base hit, memories of “Joltin’” Joe DiMaggio will waft further toward the surface of the collective baseball consciousness.
As of Monday night (Aug. 15), when those of us comprising the crowd of 28,000-plus at Safeco Field saw him launch a third-inning opposite-field shot, Carp had chased The Record for 15 straight games. That means he “only” has 41 left to equal DiMaggio’s 56-consecutive-game hitting mark from 1941. The feat is believed by many to be the greatest individual achievement in sports history.
Five innings later the M’s left-handed clean-up hitter sent one over the right-field wall, tying a game Seattle would win 6-5, the third straight against hostile crowds in town to support the Red Sox and, now, Toronto.
Carp also successfully handled a couple of tough chances at first base, where he’s “filling in” (wink, wink) for tough-luck (former) starter Justin Smoak. The latter had just gotten back from a thumb injury when he somehow took a bad-hop grounder to the face and was placed on the disabled list with a broken nose.
The freak play obviously is what landed Carp at his typical position. But Wedgy, ahem, Wedge definitely would’ve found room for Carp either in left field or as designated hitter. Lately he’s become the club’s main hitter. Even before Monday’s pair of long balls Carp’s 15 August runs batted in had tied him for second in the Major Leagues this month. He’s also elevated his average to .326: fourth best in the American League if only the rookie had a few hundred more at-bats to qualify for a batting title.
Better still, Carp has become what had been a rarity in Seattle: an impact player fans look at with confidence, especially when his team is behind. Both of his Monday dingers tied the game.
Baseball annals, of course, are littered with the history of hitters who seemed to be stalking DiMaggio’s big number. During the modern era (Willie Keeler had 45 straight at the end of the nineteenth century) Pete Rose got closest, with 44 straight in 1978. Sunday (Aug. 14) Atlanta’s Dan Uggla had his epic streak end at 33 games. About four dozen have hit in at least 30 straight games.
Obviously nobody expects Carp to challenge this record (or any, for that matter). The 25-year-old’s ongoing value would be to embody something positive on offense amid so many players who have stumbled through Seattle on their way to oblivion during the past decade.
Since the end of the recent 17-game losing streak, fan focus, of course, has turned to the 2012 season. Anticipation is high for seeing the team field a more experienced Dustin Ackley as well as other acquisitions, possibly including Casper (Ghosty?) Wells, who followed Carp’s second clout with the game-winning home run for the M’s in the eighth inning Monday.
Carp, meanwhile, awaits a fitting nickname. At least he seems to have seized for more than just a day the appropriate (and nearly eponymous) motto, which, of course, is “carpe diem."