I think it also speaks to a certain lack of imaginative quality among announcers. You're not getting a good nickname from the quietly competent like Kaspar and Brenly, for instance.
Two of the theories advanced on Hang Up And Listen, IIRC:--Splintered media lessens ability of individual sportswriters to bestow monikers--Chris Berman killed nicknames
Chris Berman did coin at least one nickname that will live on in infamy: "Leather."
Joakim Soria had one of the few non initial+1st syllable of last name nicknames in recent memory, at least until spring training. (Which is good, because "J-Sor" would have been awful.) He was known as "The Mexicutioner," for his Mexican heritage and the way he closed out games with brutal efficiency. Reportedly, he wanted to get away from the nickname given the all too real drug-related violence in Mexico, so he politely asked that it be dropped.Berman did not really bestow nicknames; he created name puns that didn't have an existence separate from the player's actual name. You would never watch a game that Bert Blyleven was pitching and call out "Strike him out, Be Home!" It only worked (to the extent it ever worked) if you said it all together to another person: "Hey, how about that knee-buckling curve from Bert 'Be Home' Blyleven!" That's something, but it ain't a nickname.
The late Dave Niehaus reallocated Death to Flying Things to Franklin Gutierrez two years ago, and it stuck. I believe they even planned a Death to Flying Things Night at Safeco before his GI system went haywire. Seattle also has King Felix, and it has kind of stuck, though more people seem to just use "Felix." I feel like Seattle has had its share of well-known nicknames over the years. Before Griffey got old, people called him The Kid, and he played in an outfield with Bone behind the Big Unit.
Hawk Harrelson used to be on his game with The Big Hurt (Frank Thomas), El Caballo (Carlos Lee) and the Cuban Missile (Alexei Ramirez, when he still hit consistently). I can't think of any more recent nicknames. Is that because he's lost interest or the the current crew of White Sox are kind of bland? Surely, Mark Buerhle needs a nickname. And is "Paulie" really the best we can come up with for Konerko?
Gutierrez is definitely known as Death to Flying Things at this point and the Mariners marketing department is pushing the King in King Felix very hard. There's now a "King's Court" section for his games and other crown merchandise you can buy/receive at the game. There is much discussion about what Pineda's nickname should be. Mariners fans are certainly calling Figgins lots of NSFW things at this point, but I guess that's slightly different than a nickname...
I think another point to be made is that (as I believe isaac's and lauri's comments above reflect) many "real" baseball player nicknames these days are local or regional, rather than national/zeitgeisty. Many Phillies fans could tell you that our first baseman's nickname is "The Big Piece" (TM Charlie Manuel), that our catcher is "Chooch," that our CF is "The Flyin' Hawaiian," that the 2008 champs benefitted from a perfect season of save opportunities from "Lights Out" Lidge, or that our current closer is "Mad Dog." But I'd bet that the only current Phillies nickname widely known outside of the Philadelphia Phanbase (and maybe hardcore MLB fans) is "Doc."
Don't forget Hollywood
That was meant to be a reply at Adam C.
Our second baseman has been referred to as The Man.
No. No. No. No. No. No. No. That's just wrong. "The Man" has been retired.
My own preference for our second baseman is "Chutley," but even that's not a "real" nickname. It's just fun to say.
When I say that Felix's name has only kind of stuck, what I mean is that people know it's his nickname, but ordinary non-press people don't really use it all that often. You'd say "Felix is pitching," not "the King is pitching." Though I guess people never really called Griffey "Kid" or Buhner "Bone." Maybe Magic, Clyde, Dr. J, Oil Can, and Sugar Ray are the only real nicknames.
Fun nicknames still exist. Just in baseball in the past decade, I've been familiar with The Rocket (Clemens), The Big Unit (Johnson), The Kid/Junior (Griffey), Big Papi (Ortiz), El Guapo (Garces), Doc (Halladay), El Hombre (Pujols), The Mexicutioner (Soria), The Flyin' Hawaiian (Victorino), Kung Fu Panda (Sandoval), The Freak (Lincecum), King Felix (Hernandez), El Duque (Hernandez), Slammin' Sammy (Sosa), Big Cat (Galarraga/Delgado/both?), Boomer (Wells), and The Crime Dog (McGriff). That doesn't even count the many localized nicknames I hadn't heard before this thread. Granted, some are reissued (Kid/Freak), some are just plays on the guy's name (King Felix/Doc/Slammin Sammy) and some are derivative of older names (Duque/Hombre), but the names are there and they are used.
I like to say it like I'm in a Chia Pet commercial: "Ch-ch-ch-chutley!"
Rich Garces denies that that's his nickname.
Rich Garces is lying. Also, he has no say in this.