By the time you're reading this, I've already had a very public, teary breakdown in a movie theater. I took my sister to her first Star Wars in-theater experience last night when the first screenings of The Force Awakens started across the country and both of us rode in the car home in silence in awe of what we had just witnessed.
I'm a pretty simple guy and I enjoy a few things in this world. Besides my family and friends (psh, whatever), I really hold a passion for a few things in this world. I love writing (or the feeling of having written, depending on what time you catch me), whether it's about sports, pop culture, life or for a witty one-line Tinder or Twitter bio. I also love Star Wars, which you probably know if you follow me on Twitter because that's been the entirety of my feed in the two weeks leading up to the premiere of The Force Awakens.
Somehow, the movie fulfilled the lofty, seemingly impossible expectations I set for myself. Without spoiling any plot details, JJ Abrams did a marvelous job of setting up Rian Johnson, who will be directing Episode VIII, for success in the next two films by giving us a new generation of amazing, unique characters in Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren, as played by Adam Driver who delivers one of the series' best performances for one of its most interesting new faces.
In the leadup to this film, I really only thought about two things (the benefit of being on winter break from college): baseball and Star Wars. So, naturally, I had to combine the two. So with some help and suggestions from the rest of the Over the Monster crew, here's a reimagination of the classic series with Red Sox players in the roles of legends (and Jar Jar Binks) free of any spoilers from the film, because if I ruined that filmgoing experience for someone, I don't think I would be able to live with myself. Also, I like having some fun with Photoshop.
Dustin Pedroia as Han Solo
Rewind all the way back to 2007. Dustin Pedroia is a rookie second baseman for the Red Sox. At the end of April, Pedroia is hitting .182/.308/.236 and looks overmatched at the plate. People are calling into talk radio saying that Terry Francona made a mistake by going with the rookie over grizzled veteran Alex Cora as the starter out of spring training.
Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi walk into the Mos Eisley Cantina. Han Solo is a sketchy dude with a major debt to Jabba the Hutt and a saucer-looking spaceship. He asks for a lot of money in exchange for flying Skywalker and Kenobi. Han shoots Greedo. The audience begins to wonder if Skywalker and Kenobi made a mistake by going with the...morally complex Solo to get out of Tatooine.
By the end of the 2007 season, Pedroia looks like a mainstay at second base and acts as a valuable, vocal presence in the clubhouse. That leadership soon paired with the MVP-type performance on the field that Red Sox fans will talk about for generations to come. Pedroia is the heart and soul of the Red Sox.
By the end of A New Hope, Solo looks like a mainstay for the Rebel Alliance as a valuable, vocal presence on Yavin 4. That leadership soon paired with multiple legendary performances in the battlefield that people throughout the galaxy, such as Daisy Ridley's Rey and John Boyega's Finn, will talk about for generations to come. Han Solo is the heart and soul of Star Wars.
Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts as Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa
Editor's note: Y'all are gonna have fun with this one, aren't you?
In the midst of another disappointing season in 2015, the Red Sox had two beacons of hope in Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. Believe me, I wrestled with who I should be Luke and who should be Leia, so indulge me.
Mookie Betts came out of nowhere a few years ago in the Red Sox farm system to become one of the top prospects in baseball, but there was still a bit of uncertainty surrounding him before his major league debut. Because of the meteoric rise, people questions whether or not Betts could truly make an impact. Similarly to Luke, Betts was something of of a wild card before making his presence immediately known in his ability to make an impact (blowing up the Death Star and posting a 6.0 bWAR in a full season are equivalents in this scenario).
Bogaerts on the other hand takes the role of Leia; in The Force Awakens, Leia takes on the role as the general for The Resistance similarly to how Bogaerts, as a shortstop, is the general of the Red Sox infield. Bogaerts, in his much-ballyhooed rise to the majors, always garnered more unanimous praise from prospect evaluators than Betts, who carried his fair share of doubters after his 189 at-bat stint in 2014. While Betts has the propensity for the flair and miraculous (the home opener against the Nationals was among the most entertaining single player performances I've watched), Bogaerts remains a steady hand for the Red Sox lineup, consistently gathering hits, with the added potential, just as Leia's faimly heritage would suggest, for something more incredibly special.
Mike Napoli as Chewbacca
So there's more to this than just the beard. The traits that defined Chewbacca in the original trilogy were loyalty, stubborness and strength (ignore his cameo in Revenge of the Sith because it was a cheap, absolutely pointless and did nothing to add to his character). It's hard to question Napoli's devotion, not just to the Red Sox, but the city of Boston. In 2013, Napoli was one of the most vocal members on the team in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, immediately providing a helping hand to those who needed help.
While many players leave town in the offseason to train, Napoli stayed in Boston and bought a house. "[Boston]'s kind of how I am," Napoli told WEEI.com in 2014. "I feel like it's a blue collar city," claiming that he wanted to be a Red Sox for the rest of career, something that obviously did not end up happening; however, as something of a Shawn Thornton type, Napoli feels like the kind of player who could end up hanging around Boston at the end of his playing days, roaming Boylston Street shirtless, cigarette in tow. He's in Cleveland for now, but you never quite leave where you win your ring.
Also, if you could imagine Chewbacca playing baseball, he would hit Green Monster moonshots like Napoli, without a doubt.
David Ortiz as Yoda
Ortiz and Yoda could not be more different in stature, but as the elder statesman of the clubhouse, the Red Sox designated hitter has taken many of the young players in the clubhouse under his wing. Players such as Bogaerts and Betts view Ortiz in incredibly high regard and often go to him for advice. Ortiz's accomplishments precede him at this point, but some day down the road, there will be a time when the majority of Red Sox fans cannot remember the postseason heroics and the speech following the Boston Marathon. They'll just know the legend of Big Papi he built throughout his Red Sox career.
David Price as Lando Calrissian
The history between David Price and the Red Sox is certainly well documented, to the point that some were concerned that the lefty ace would not consider signing in Boston given his history with David Ortiz. For years, Price terrorized the Red Sox, posting a 3.08 ERA in 23 games with 139 strikeouts in 152 innings pitched. Price was the charismatic guy on the other side who wasn't afraid to speak his mind, a combination that lead to Red Sox fans heckling Price for years. Well, until he signed to anchor the rotation this offseaosn.
At this press conference, Price brought a charm reminescent of what Lando Calrissian brought to the table in his introduction at Cloud City that seemed to make Han jealous. But like Calrissian, Price switched sides from a face of the Red Sox's mortal enemy who pissed off central characters to someone who will now be a cornerstone for the team for years to come.
Wait, didn't Lando pull a triple-cross? Doesn't that mean...? Oh no, the opt out!
Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy as R2D2 and C3PO
The lovable duo who don't impact anything on the field, but certainly help us enjoy the presentation even more.
Harry Frazee as Emperor Palpatine
The plans of Frazee, as Red Sox lore (somewhat unfactually) states, to finance No, No, Nanette with the money acquired from the flip of Babe Ruth to the Yankees set off years of suffering for the Red Sox Nation.
And while the suffering suffered by fans of the team probably doesn't compare to those on Alderaan, whose planet was literally blown up, the flip of Ruth to the Evil Empire set off a train of events that was akin to the flip of Anakin Skywalker to, well, the Evil Empire. Emperor Palpatine's meticulously planned, incredibly manipulative plan to bring the Sith back to power lead to years of oppression and suffering throughout the galaxy, not disimilar to Frazee's effect on Red Sox fans for generations.
Hanley Ramirez as Darth Vader
After taking on the role of Anakin in The Phantom Menace, Jake Lloyd became something of a scapegoat for the film's many failures thanks to his weirdly offputting performance. But George Lucas' script surely did not put him in any position to succeed. He was set up for failure, as was Anakin.
Almost from the beginning, it was evident that Anakin had no business being a Jedi: he was easily manipulated and self-centered. But through the unusual circumstances surrounding him, Anakin's fate was to end up terrorizing the galaxy because that was all he had left. At the end of the day, though, he found his way back from the dark side, made the switch, and ultimately fulfilled the prophecy.
Hanley Ramirez, likewise had no business being in left field last year, which was immediately evident from how he stumbled around down in Fort Myers during spring training. And sure, there may be some blame to place on Hanley: if he put the effort into making it work out there, at the very least it certainly didn't show. But with a switch back to the infield (and a much less demanding part of it), and distance from his collision with the wall, there's still hope that Ramirez can find his old form at the plate and not be too much of a defensive liability.
Pablo Sandoval as Jar Jar Binks
There was so much hope and excitement with Pablo Sandoval going into the season. He represented one of the big ticket free agents that the Red Sox acquired in order to turn things around after a last-place finish, something that had become far too common in recent years. The Red Sox's failure, of course, never really completely fell on the shoulders of Sandoval, but tied with his Instagram use on the toilet during the game and the team scuffling and struggling to put together wins, the third baseman became the face of the Red Sox's failure.
The aura of awfulness surrounding Sandoval last season did not necessarily stem circumstance (althought that certainly contributed heavily), but rather as a product of intrinsic terribleness, stemming from the inevitable offensive regression and the need for a scapegoat as people grasped for a player to blame to place into the narrative. Yes, Jar Jar was the combination of his awful CGI-ness and his creation for marketability's sake more than anything else created an easy scapegoat, but he was also such a terrible, annoying pointless dope of a character that felt superfluous and brought down the entire ship in the process.
The bad taste left in our mouths with Sandoval didn't just come from the surroudning circumstances, but rather his own flaws that still remain. Pablo Sandoval and the 2015 Red Sox were both awful, and each would've still been bad without the other.
While The Force Awakens was an excellent film and probably my favorite movie-going experience ever, my favorite part of the evening was having the opportunity to take my sister, who I first introduced to Star Wars a few years back, to her first in-theater experience with a galaxy far, far away.
We have an eight-year age gap, so I've been able to introduce her to several things in the pop culture sphere that my parents, as first-generation Americans, never really got into in their first 20 years in the United States. I remember being her age and watching Revenge of the Sith with my dad, who is not a big Star Wars fan, and applauding as soon as the crawl came across the screen. Seeing my sister immediately holler and clap as soon as the horns from the John Williams score came on made me even more excited than seeing the beginning of a film I've been anticipating for 10 years.
My sister isn't nearly obsessed with sports as I am. She loves going to baseball games, but asks to change the channel at dinner when I turn on the game. So at the end of The Force Awakens when my sister turned to me and gave me a look, I recognized exactly where she was coming from.
It was the same look I gave my dad after our first game at Fenway Park.