If you are a baseball fan and were born before, say, 1990, the nickname “Killer Bs” should create a distinct image in your mind.
Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and a revolving door of players made up Houston Astros’ trio of “Killer Bs” from the late-90s and early 2000s. I’m not sure why everyone felt the need to always group Biggio and Bagwell with a third alliterative surname, but that’s how it was done. I guess three bees are so much more intimidating than a measly duo of bees. I can’t say since one actual bee is enough to send this phobic man into a catatonic state.
In the ’90s, Derek Bell or Sean Berry played the role of the third man. (I think Bill Spires even snuck in there for a bit too). At the turn of the millennium, Lance Berkman fit right in. Carlos Beltran was part of the band for a few incredible weeks in 2004. But Chris Burke was never included. I don’t know what the makers of that poster were thinking. Also, the nickname shouldn’t have an apostrophe. But I digress.
Together, Biggio, Bagwell and the other guy were the “Killer Bs.”
That time has passed, and the nickname’s legacy remains pretty much in tact, at least in baseball. The Pittsburgh Steelers are using it to describe Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and, when he’s not suspended, Martavis Bryant. Honestly, the usage there makes more sense on the surface considering the Steelers’ uniform color scheme.
But it’s time for baseball to dust it off and get it to catch on across the country en masse with Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Too soon? Yeah. Collectively, they have fewer than 4,000 MLB at-bats between them. Bradley looked like an overrated prospect prior to 2016, and Betts has just one full season under his belt. Biggio is a Hall of Famer, Bagwell should be one, and both were established studs by the time they were tagged with the moniker 20 years ago.
But baseball should be doing whatever it can to market its young stars — Bradley Jr. is the elder at 26; Betts and Bogaerts are 23 — and three all-around quality ballplayers in a big, diehard baseball market seems like a perfect opportunity. I know baseball is strongest at the local level; its low national ratings are commonly overrated when discussing the sport’s well-being. That doesn’t mean baseball should just ignore attempts to get fans everywhere interested in particular players. Why not make Betts, Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. poster children?
Bradley Jr. was already a spotlight player in May as his hitting streak was the top story around the league — whenever Clayton Kershaw wasn’t pitching. And when Bradley’s streak stopped at 29 games, Betts took over the lead by hitting basically every ball he saw out of the park. In the span of seven at-bats on Tuesday and Wednesday, Betts hit five home runs. Meanwhile, Bogaerts entered tonight leading Major League Baseball in hits and batting average. That’s all.
Sell that burgeoning talent, that youth, and the excitement those three create on the diamond, package it with a gimmick that ties eras together and see what happens. And yes, the fact that all three are not white should make this an even more important matter to the powers that be.
At the very least, wait a year, let David Ortiz have the going-away party he deserves and then plaster these guys all over any media outlet you have. I trust that none of them fall into a horrendous slump that sees them benched or flown back to the minors. In the near future, they may even be batting back-t0-back-to-back in the Red Sox’s order. Plus, Boston is their baseball home, so the “Killer Bs” will be playing in the “B-hive?” OK, that’s a little ridiculous. Or a lot ridiculous.
I think a committed, multi-player nationwide campaign would be fun. I’m a Yankees fan, and I have loved watching Betts, Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. this year. I think everyone outside of Boston and who doesn’t pay for the MLB Extra Innings package would love them as well. Baseball should expose them to the hilt and keep alive the charm of the “Killer Bs” nickname.
Let me start with something I stole from ESPN just as I began writing this post: Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann became the seventh player in the past 10 seasons to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and a game-winning homer in extra innings today against the Houston Astros.
But that’s not why I began writing this post.
With recorded history of such stuff going to back to 1919, McCann is the one player to ever pull off such a winning feat in his only two plate appearances after entering the game as a pinch hitter.
Wandy Rodriguez was outstanding for eight shutout innings and 113 pitches. He allowed five hits, two walks and struck out six. Former Yankees great Mark Melancon came in to pick up the save, and after Hunter Pence’s wall-crashing catch — with a little cockiness thrown in for those down the right-field line who probably heckled him all afternoon — it didn’t look like the Braves’ day.
I’ve been a Yankees fan since my parents brainwashed me as an infant since before I can remember. But I could never really say that a Yankee was my most favorite player for an extended time. I like Jeter and Bernie and O’Neill, but none of them were ever my No. 1. When I was in grade school, Jeff Bagwell was my boy. He was just so damn underrated playing in Houston. I marveled at his awkward batting stance and how he uncoiled all that power.
Of course, considering the era in which he played, his paint can-like build and his close friendship with Ken Caminiti, I most likely admired a juicer. But when you’re 10, it’s easy to play the naive card.
These days, it is Zack Greinke whom I love most. I think I’ve made that pretty clear in this blog.