Who is new Brewer Travis Shaw and why is he "Mayor of Ding Dong City?"
After the rebuilding Brewers shrewdly traded away yet another high-value, late-inning reliever for still more talented prospects – dealing closer Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox for Travis Shaw and two minor-leaguers – most of the attention focused on the potential-filled young players in the return.
But to ignore Shaw, the 26-year-old third baseman unknown to many Milwaukee fans before Tuesday, would be a mistake; the man has been overlooked and underestimated his entire career. And to disregard him would be a disservice to one of the greatest things in all of professional sports: his nickname, which is "Mayor of Ding Dong City."
Yep. The Mayor of Ding Dong City. It's on his official Baseball Reference page and everything. Amazing.
The moniker was originated and applied to Shaw by Barstool Sports Red Sox writer Jared Carrabis early last season. It was later used by various Boston social media outlets and the player, himself, who wore a shirt – presumably from his mayoral campaign – that proclaimed the title.
Shaw dinged 13 home runs in just 65 games after making his major-league debut in 2015 and has 29 dongers over his first two seasons. Not bad for a guy who was a ninth-round pick in the 2011 Draft, never ranked higher than No. 17 among Red Sox prospects, per MLB Pipeline, and was a platoon player until breaking out and winning the third-base job in spring training last year.
But Mayor of Ding Dong City? Has he earned that nickname? Who voted for him?
A MassLive.com article from last May describes the derivation:
Carrabis used to play pickup Wiffleball with friends in the Shaws' parking lot. Hitting the ball off the side of the building was ruled a home run but Carrabis' homers always went over the roof. Carrabis' friend Nick called home runs "ding dongs" and began to call Carrabis the Mayor of Ding Dong City, a name Carrabis felt fit Shaw perfectly.
"I always like to rally behind the guy who could use a push from the fans," Carrabis noted.
With help from Carrabis and the Barstool Sports network, the modest and hardworking Mayor quickly became hugely popular in Boston. It helped that he carried his hot spring – when he hit .338 with an .887 OPS – into the regular season, batting .329 with a .973 OPS as late as 39 games into the year and being among the American League leaders in just about every major offensive category.
But high approval ratings rarely last, and Shaw's slump the rest of the way – among major leaguers who had at least 370 plate appearances from May 17 until the end of the season, his .205 batting average was the lowest and .621 OPS was second-lowest – combined with the large contract money owed to veteran Pablo Sandoval made Ding Dong City's top government official expendable.
It's been real Boston ✌🏼️excited for the opportunity ahead of me in Milwaukee! Looking forward to this next chapter in my career! #Brewers— Travis Shaw (@travis_shaw21) December 6, 2016
While Shaw's sudden and steep offensive decline remains mystifying, the Brewers apparently saw a buy-low opportunity on a player they believe still has plenty of power and potential. General manager David Stearns said, "Travis provides another left-handed power bat, bringing balance to the lineup."
So what else can Milwaukee expect from the Mayor? Well, in terms of anecdotal and intangible personality-related qualities, Shaw certainly seemed to endear himself to Boston teammates and fans with a humble, low-key, overachieving, everyman approach.
Red Sox All-Star Mookie Betts said Shaw is "an under-the-radar type of person" but "he'll hurt you." His dad, former All-Star closer Jeff Shaw noted, "He doesn't say too much. He's not flashy. He goes out, does his job, gets dressed, goes home, comes back, does it again the next day." And Shaw said, "I've had to work hard and grind through the Minor Leagues to get here. That's kind of the mindset I've taken to each level I've gotten at, to try to prove that I belong here and ... that I'm an everyday, middle-of-the-order-type player for a big-league club."
I reached out to Carrabis, the Red Sox writer still mourning Ding Dong City's loss, to get his thoughts on Shaw:
"It's been a roller coaster 24 hours for me. Losing the Mayor was tough, but I got a chance to talk to him last night, and he's excited for the opportunity that he's going to get in Milwaukee," Carrabis said. "We both agreed it was probably best. He's a highly motivated player. He got his break with Boston in 2015 during a last place season, and he wasn't even a top 10 prospect when he got the call. He made a name for himself by just keeping his mouth shut and doing his job to the best of his ability.
"I will say that it seems like you get the most out of him when there's some sort of competition or something to prove. He was at his best when he was trying to overtake Sandoval at third base, and kind of fell off a cliff when Sandoval was no longer in the picture. But then he got red hot again when the Red Sox called up Yoan Moncada.
"Most of the time, you like the player that's going to say that they'll do whatever the team asked of them, but I really enjoyed Shaw's attitude last spring, that he was showing up to win a job and he trained all offseason to be an everyday player. He has a chip on his shoulder, and I think that if he puts it all together, he can be something special. He drew comparisons to Adrian Gonzalez with his swing, so I believe he could be a high-average-type hitter, and obviously the power potential is there, too.
"Brewers fans are going to love the guy. He's soft-spoken, but he likes to let his bat do the talking."
So now the Mayor of Ding Dong City brings his platform to Milwaukee, where our own Tom Barrett is recovering from hip replacement surgery last month and Shaw's Rooseveltian policies like "speak softly and carry a big stick" and grinding should appeal to this blue-collar constituency. Yes, we look forward to quickly running this joke into the ground.
And, assuming Ryan "The Hebrew Hammer" Braun is traded, Shaw will be unopposed in his bid for the Brewers' best player nickname.
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