Cubbies assemble! In reflecting back on the last season and looking forward to the next, I had a moment of clairvoyance. The Chicago Cubs ARE the Avengers. They both boast a cast of larger-than-life personalities, and while they both ended 2018 on a sour note, I like the prospects for 2019, sub-ideal start be damned. We’re about wade into the deep end, amigos. Grab your water wings.
Let’s open with our core players, our primary Avengers. First up we have Jon Lester; Ironman. When the Cubs signed Lester to his $155 million pact it signaled the beginning of something big. Not without risk, but fortune favors the bold. Just like Marvel kicking off the MCU with Ironman, they forked over the dough needed to make a splash, and it paid dividends.
Ironman may have launched the franchise, but he wasn’t the first of his kind. The OG was there at the start of things, Captain America: The First Avenger. Or Anthony Rizzo. The decision to trade for him (shout out Andrew Cashner) was the first building block. How perfect that he is genuinely one of the nicest people in the world and the ultimate leader. Just like our dear Cap, he has the demeanor and perseverance to ride out the early swells of 2019.
The whole team is as powerful as hell, but Thor is a damn god. He’s an absolute stud and has a skill set that is seldom rivaled. Of course he’s Kris Bryant. They both have accolades stacked and, let’s face it, piercing eyes. Definitive hunks through and through. I have a lot of confidence that he can re-find his hammer before this young season gets much older.
Hulk Smash. We all know who I’m putting here. It’s as obvious as it gets. The real question you have for me is how is Kyle Schwarber on our core list?
- There has to be a Hulk on your Avengers list. Just facts.
- You cannot equate any player on the Cubs, or honestly, in all of baseball, to the Hulkster other than Schwarber.
- It’s my GD list.
Lest we forget, the rumors have long been that the front office is mum to trade Schwarber, viewing him as a primary contributor. Let’s also point out some striking similarities. Other-worldly strength? Check. Occasionally absent for long stretches of time, only to come back at the most opportune moment? Check. At times a shell of their true self throughout 2018? Check Republic. A contender to be THE force who turns the tide in 2019 leading to the ultimate triumph? Check-It Ralph.
Over time, other heroes emerge as even more popular and dynamic than your main stable. 2018 saw one skyrocket to the forefront. They netted out some awards, ultimately falling short when it came to the top prize, but they earned their seat at the grown-ups table. Certifiable sex bomb. Is this comparing Javy Baez to Black Panther or vice versa? You literally CAN’T tell, that’s how damn similar these two are. Early returns in 2019 only fuel further optimism.
2018 gave us some great mirrored redemption opportunities. Yu Darvish caught some serious flack for being THE reason the season fell apart. Yes, it sucks that he wasn’t able to live up to his tutelage and billing. Just like Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord. It wasn’t his fault either, but life would have been a whole lot easier if his muck-up could be unmucked. Darvish and Star-Lord (Dar-Lord? Dar-Lord.) are also sexy picks for zero to hero status this year, I’d keep an eye on each.
It’s fitting that Darvish is Star-Lord because the pitching staff is effectively the Guardians of the Galaxy. Kyle Hendricks is the smartest one, and wildly effective. He’s our Gamora. Drax isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and when he comes at you he brings it. Cole Hamels. Jose Quintana has a filthy repertoire, an arsenal if you will. Sure, the last few years haven’t been what they could have been, but no one forgets when our eyes were opened in 2014; it was no fluke and he was a legit badass. Classic Rocket Raccoon. Tyler Chatwood IS GROOOOOOT. The rest of the bullpen falls in line, too. We’ve got Carl Edwards Jr. throwing darts, but he doesn’t always know where they will end up – Kraglin anyone? Both of those guys have accuracy issues to address, and correcting that can change the game. Mike Montgomery, upon return from the injured list, will be counted on out of the bullpen but could find himself starting some too. A dual-threat. Our Nebula, cheers to him coming back equally as bionic. The question is, which Cub/Guardian is most likely to make the greatest impact through the rest of 2019? My money is on Pedro Strop. Please be our Mantis. You’ve both got the power to do great things.
We’ve still got some Cubbies left to cover, but fear not, we’ve got Avengers too! Albert Almora can scale the wall and amaze you, not unlike a certain web-slinger we all know. The Black Widow has unreal fighting skills, no denying that. The problem is, does that really help against a catastrophic intergalactic crisis? Not on its own, it’s almost like… being a perennial Gold Glove fielder with no bat to go with it. Here’s to you, Jay-Hey, may you continue to make this take look more and more incorrect with every passing day! Ben Zobrist is almost cybernetic with the way he can take basically any position on the diamond. He’s a catch-all, he’s Vision. Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier looks primed to take on a big roll in the wars to come. Do he and Willson Contreras have that in common? So far the big guns are out, it looks like both needed a full refresh by the end of 2018. David Bote took a small opportunity in 2018 and turned it into something huge for himself. That’s as Ant-Man as a Pym Particle.
Despite having talent for days, every team needs a leader. The Cubs have their very own Nick Fury in Joe Maddon. He’s an interesting combination of old school and new school, and not to speak his mind. They may not always be everyone’s favorite, and they may go by the beat of their own drum, but results tend to speak for themselves.
That brings us to the architects. The trio of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod. It’s very fitting that so much of what the Marvel Universe has become originated with another trio: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko. The similarities extend too, Stan Lee gets the lions share of credit, just like Theo. Jack Kirby has a bit more clout and title, similar to Jed. Jason is occasionally left unmentioned like Steve Ditko. The fact remains, each trio’s work led to something truly special, and hopefully we still remember the Cubs’ works 50 years later just as fondly as we do the Marvel team.
Did I stretch a lil bit on some of these? Sure. We’ll see how it all shakes out. As we learned in 2018, life can change with the snap of a finger.
Featured Photo: Fanatics