When Shakespeare wrote that “A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” he presumably was not referencing any pitcher from the Dominican Republic; nor any Major League clubhouse for that matter. Charles Foster Kane was not alluding to any shortstop from the Caribbean when he uttered Rosebud, though baseball has seen its share of Citizen Matt Cain.
North American sports have provided the world with plenty of athletes hell-bent on changing their name. In the NFL, it usually involves a hyphen, an addition to the last name, or poorly translated Spanish. NBA players like to turn their monikers into ironic messages meant to spur global change but end up as comedy fodder. For whatever reason, Major League Baseball serves as a stomping ground for athletes who either lack imagination or common sense in the practice.
Put aside for a moment all the oddities surrounding America’s once-glorious pastime. For example, there have been more Cy Young awards won by a guy named Johan than their have by anyone named Chaz. Certainly the name is in vogue, as the Fastest Man in the World title might soon go to another guy similarly named, but with a “Y” instead of the “J.”
One would probably expect the name — regardless of the spelling — to be closely linked to clogs or some smorgasbord thereabouts. However, astute baseball fans will know that there are two active Major Leaguers who were born Johan Santana. The Mets pitcher is one, the other being the Angels’ Ervin Santana. In 2003, the latter changed his name to Ervin because he felt it sounded good. Had he known that he would be currently sitting on a 4-10 record with an ERA of 6, he probably would have left it so that layman baseball fans would have mistaken him for winning two Cy Youngs.
The Cleveland Indians’ pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona (pictured) has not pitched in the Majors this year and it might be a good thing. People all around baseball may still need time figuring out who the heck Roberto Hernandez is. (Of course, it took fans years before they realized that Fausto was not a Marx brother.) He has not thrown one fastball this year, though he unsuccessfully tried to throw U.S. officials a curveball and was arrested for trying to use a false identity to get a visa.