Chiungos. For better or for worse, that's my name.
Growing up, Chiungos (pronounced "Chung-us") got a lot of mixed reviews. People just didn't know what to make of it. Was it cool (Humongous Chiungos!)? Or was it totally lame (Hey, look everyone, it's Connie Chiungos!)? Or was it somewhere in between (There's a Chiungos among us!)?
To this day, I believe that the name is a little unsettling at first, but that it grows on you ... like a fungus ... or, better yet, a Fiungos.
Point is, the question has always fascinated me: What's in a name?
As one who's seen both sides of the coin, last spring I introduced the notion of namism, a name-based form of discrimination prevalent among sports fans across the globe.
This bias is a silent killer, one that clouds our discretion on draft day as we overvalue players with good-sounding names and undervalue players with less-than-desirable ones.
So, once again, in the spirit of fairness and objectivity, let's take a look at 10 players -- five overrated, five underrated -- who are sure to be misjudged on draft day because of namism.
1. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies: This guy sounds more like a high-end department store than a big league pitcher, some strange hybrid of Kohl's, Cole Haan and Kenneth Cole. Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure I found a $50 gift card to Cole Hamels in my stocking over the holidays.
2. J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers: Guys with "initialized" first names generally benefit from a disproportionately large amount of hype. Just ask J.D. Drew, A.J. Burnett, B.J. Upton and B.A. Baracus. Mr. Hardy is no different. But what if he dropped the "J.J." and went by his unabbreviated name, James Jerry Hardy? Wouldn't sound so cool, then, would he? Nope. In fact, he'd sound a whole lot more like a character from "Huckleberry Finn" or a crooked televangelist than a real-life ballplayer.
3. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Rangers: Most players with really, really, really, ridiculously hard-to-spell last names tend to be victims of namism, but not this guy, who's supercalifragilistically emerged as the exception to the rule. Our apologies to Mark Grudzielanek and Doug Mientkiewicz, who remain subject to this horrible bias.
4. Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: Robert Allen Zimmerman -- the artist better known as Bob Dylan -- had it right: Two first names sounds a whole lot cooler than your standard one-first-name, one-last-name offering. And for years, Johnny Damon -- who just so happens to sound like a '70s rock star -- has been reaping all the benefits.
5. Manley Ramirez, SS/OF, Boston Red Sox of Florida: No, he doesn't exist, but if he did, this super-hybrid of Manny and Hanley Ramirez would surely be over-hyped from Beantown to Miami.
1. Josh Willingham, OF, Marlins: Maybe it's the fact that "willing ham" directly translates as "game pig." Or maybe it's the fact he sounds like he could easily replace Albert as Bruce Wayne's butler -- assuming Chad Billingsley, Geoff Jenkins and Kyle Farnsworth don't get there first.
2. Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Red Sox: It's never a good thing when your nickname makes no sense; Youk is Jewish but somehow nicknamed the "Greek God of Walks" (then again, he could be the "Greek God of Woks," which would be even more ethnically confusing). It's also bad news when your last name sounds like a bizarre cousin of the eucalyptus tree. Throw in the fact that his full name phonetically makes an imperative sentence ("Kevin, you kill us!), and you have a recipe for prejudicial disaster.
3. Ted Lilly, SP, Cubs: It's not that he's named after a flower. It's that he's named after a really lame flower. A starting pitcher is supposed to be strong, like a bull ... or a workhorse ... and not like something that can get blown over by a gust of wind.
4. Brian Bannister, SP, Royals: OK, this is obvious, right? He's named after a handrail with supporting posts, for crying out load. Of course, Bannister isn't the first guy with an architectural structure for a namesake. Just ask Matt Stairs, who's long been a victim of namism. But if you're looking for a silver lining here, remember that alongside every good set of Stairs is a sturdy Bannister.
5. Tom Gorzelanny, SP, Pirates: This guy sounds a whole lot like a Jim Henson creation, making it extremely difficult for anyone to take him seriously. Regardless, he remains a decided favorite among Wembley, Boober, Mokey, Gobo and everyone else down at "Fraggle Rock."