It’s Marvel Week at SB Nation, and that means it’s time to match up the Red Sox with their Avenger counterparts. I have tried to put this list together pretty faithfully but have been burdened by the day-to-day trouble of negotiating this silly virus, family, and work, so forgive me if it’s not complete — I’m leaving some players and characters off in the name of expediency, and also to give you something to do. I’m also only going back as far as the movies go, which means Rogers Clemens and Ted Williams have been left off. Sorry guys.
I also did not do this alone. Brady Childs helped me over DM and I’ve submitted thoughts he’s added here and there, because they are very good. To the list!
Iron Man — David Ortiz
The only one in the middle of damn near everything, and the only choice. Both Tony Stark and Big Papi know all too well they’re flesh-and-blood, helped by the largesse of modern medicine to survive (and thrive), and, both Papi and Robert Downey Jr. looked like they were toast despite prodigious talent before hitting it bigger than big, at which point they proceeded, inexplicably, to top themselves several times over.
Thor — Manny Ramirez
Captain America — J.D. Martinez
Captain America is boring. That’s not a criticism. It’s a choice, and it’s why the Captain America movies easily blended into the Avengers movies and made Winter Soldier and Civil War so good. Superheroes are naturally reactive — they are not the “Pre-vengers,” per Tony Stark, so their behavior is always under duress, in order to highlight, for dramatic effects, the differences among them. Tony wanted to chip away at “our precious freedoms,” in Ultron while Cap says they’re good enough, even as he’s obviously burdened by his role in perpetuating them. This tension between Cap’s internal poles is, frankly, not that interesting to me, but something about what everyone else thinks about it makes most of his scenes and storylines worth following.
I don’t think J.D. Martinez is interesting either, frankly, and that’s cool. But he looks the part, and his skills, such as they are, benefit everyone around him, prodigious as they are. That’s also true of Captain America’s physical skills, in which he’s matched by a single Avenger: Thor, whose hammer he can wield because they are basically the same, but from different planets, a point that is made less and less subtle as the movies move on. Manny Ramirez was just as powerful as J.D. Martinez, and is also from another planet, and is apparently trying to play baseball again at age 1,000 so — Thor.
Spider-Man — Rafael Devers
He’s so incredibly good and so painfully young that I’m choosing him over Jackie Bradley Jr., who just hit age 30, plays like he’s 30, and has done both for most of a decade, but has some Spidey in his game. Quoth Brady of Devers: “Young, developing, changes in his body. Being pressed into a leadership role too early.” Yes, those.
Scarlet Witch — Pedro Martínez
Jarvis/Vision — Jason Varitek
Captain Marvel — Chris Sale
I like Endgame plenty, but one of my nitpicks is how strong Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel are compared to literally everyone else, Thor included, and how both characters had to be snapped away or, like, serving other customers for the final movie to make sense. This is a recurring theme with Wanda Maximoff, who entering Infinity War was, conveniently, holed up with Vision in Scotland, in which Scotland represents “off the map,” and at the end was blipped by Thanos only by the power of being able to reverse time via the Gauntlet, which was the only way to get and beyond her level. It’s even more egregious with Captain Marvel, who’s the Chekhov’s Gun of Endgame and shows up just in time to shut shit down, and I gotta say her entrance kinda reminds me of Chris Sale’s in Game 5 of the 2018 World Series.
You see where this is going: Both Pedro and Sale were of talents so immense at their peaks that they were on another level, even among superheroes, in terms of sheer power. Given Jason Varitek’s exquisite pitch-framing numbers (thanks, comrade!) and his connection with Pedro, plus his development from Seattle trade bait to a full-fledged legend, plus the neat thing with the initials of his name and the character’s, make him a nice fit for Jarvis/Vision.
Hulk — David Price
This one seems simple enough and maybe a little hopeful for Price, who could stand to grow into the Professor Hulk phase of his career out in L.A. He’s obviously smart and perceptive but sometimes is also a big angry maniac actively trying to break things.
Hawkeye — Andrew Benintendi
Seems like he belongs here but also hasn’t proven why, has no superpowers, and is the de facto replacement for his better half...
Black Widow — Mookie Betts
This might seem like an unflattering comparison, and I don’t necessarily love it either. Neither Black Widow nor Scarlett J. is my cup of tea, but I can’t deny her appeal and utility to the group the way I can Hawkeye’s — she’s just too good at what she does. The whole Avengers scene were she’s “interrogating” her interrogators is 10 times better than anything Hawkeye ever did. That’s like Betts, who, like Natasha Romanoff, is amazing, hot, tiny and, oh yeah, gone. Like Romanoff, Betts did his best work exactly two years before the world ended and was sacrificed for it and we had to make due with Beni.
Baby Groot — Brock Holt
He’s cute and can fit any and every need. You love him.
Dr. Strange — Tim Wakefield
“It’s a simple spell, but quite unbreakable” is the story of the knuckleball, and just as Dr. Stephen Strange was one in a line of caretakers for the Time Stone (and a goatee), Wakefield was one in a line of caretakers for the knuckleball (and a goatee).
Black Panther — Xander Bogaerts
A certified badass from a place you couldn’t find on a map and our next best hope for the future, X marks the spot here.
Rocky — Dustin Pedroia
Small and irascible and impossible to miss or get rid of, he’s here to do two things: crack jokes and shoot lasers.
Ant-Man — Jackie Bradley Jr.
Can fit into spaces no one else can, capable of amazing physical feats, also capable of coming up insanely big or disappearing completely.
Think these choices are bad? Want to cast the rest of them yourselves? Winter Soldier? Loki? Star-Lord? Do so in the comments or yell at me on Twitter. I’m off to dance with Peggy.