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What if the 2019 Phillies were the Avengers?

Marvel Kids

This week marks the Endgame for the last 11 years of Marvel films; a culmination of over a decade’s worth of interwoven stories, relationships and end credit scenes that is almost unrivaled in today’s pop culture landscape. When Avengers: Endgame hits theaters, people all over the world will watch their heroes put it all on the line to save the galaxy from the darkest evil mankind has ever known.

The term hero spans multiple mediums, including sports. Athletes are commonly referred to as role models or heroes to fans. Those heroes do not wear capes. They are regular people, like you and I, but through hard work, determination and an undeniable spirit, they have achieved their dreams of playing professional sports.

Let’s play a fun game of What if the 2019 Phillies were the Avengers?

I am going to list characters from the MCU version of the Avengers & recast them with their Phillies counterpart. Goodbye Chris Evans! Move over Paul Rudd! These ball players are about to take your spot in the fight against Thanos!

Let’s start with the architect, Nick Fury. For the most part, he put this roster together and leads the charge from the press box. He could only be played by the hero who won us the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, GM Matt Klentak.

As much as Iron Man thinks he is the leader of the Avengers, we all know the role falls on Captain America, aka Gabe Kapler. A player’s manager, who showed Monday night against the New York Mets that he can bring the fire, Kapler is looking to lead this Phillies team back to the postseason for the first time since 2011.

Some may say Iron Man has been the ace up the Avengers’ sleeve since his theatrical debut in 2008, even surpassing Captain America as the leader of the squad. Speaking of aces, it is only natural to cast our very own stud, Aaron Nola. The leader and ace of this pitching staff, the former first-round pick has an arsenal rivaled by only Tony Stark himself.

The mighty Thor wields Mjolnir (and Stormbreaker), is a god among men and has strength far beyond his body’s capacity. Enter Rhys Hoskins, who with his mighty 34/32 sized lumber, showed big league power from his first game with the Phillies. Many say Thor is the catalyst of the Avengers; the same could be said of Hoskins and the Phils.

The new girl on the block, Captain Marvel had a massive theatrical debut, grossing over $1 billion, and is said to potentially be the most important member of the Avengers. Without her success, Thanos, much like in Infinity War, would end up besting Earth’s mightiest heroes. One of the new guys on the block, the Phillies success in 2019 heavily relies on that of catcher J.T. Realmuto. He could very well be the key cog to get the Phillies back to the playoffs, and even beyond. His combination of arm strength, keen eye and surprising pop makes him the Captain Marvel of the group, minus the $1 billion.

With pinpoint precision (most of the time) and getting towards the end of his Avengers career, Hawkeye is going to give it one last run in Endgame. Jake Arrieta also demonstrates mostly pinpoint accuracy on the mound and has reformed himself into a different, but still effective, pitcher than in his Cy Young-winning days with the Cubs. He is looking for another ring before he hangs them up, much like Hawkeye.

An unsung hero who is a professional in every sense of the world, Falcon, or Andrew McCutchen, is quickly gaining popularity amongst the fan base. Known for his innovative offense and rock solid defense, Cutch could easily take flight in the role of Falcon.

Black Widow’s solo film begins shooting this summer; the same could be said for Jean Segura, as he does his best work all summer long, too. The silent assassin of the group, Segura simply gets the job done from the number two hole in the order. He, much like Black Widow, probably deserves a raise.

The only King on this list, Black Panther’s theatrical debut smashed the box office and exceeded almost everybody’s expectations, especially for what was expected to be a supporting character role in the MCU. Maikel Franco has done the exact same thing out of the eight hole this season, and with five more months to go, may finish the season with career best numbers.

Bruce Banner had a difficult time turning into the Hulk in Infinity War, but when he does go green, there is no stopping him, unless you’re Thanos in the opening scene, of course. Vince Velasquez has the pure power arm and raw ability like the Hulk, but has been more Banner-ish for the majority of his career. So far in 2019, Velasquez has been a monster, and he will look to continue that into the fall.

Vilified with the Washington Nationals, the second he signed on the dotted line in Philadelphia, Bryce Harper has become a fan favorite; a cultural phenomenon in every sense of the word. Who does that remind you of? That’s right; Loki may have been killed off in Infinity War, but he has gained mass popularity since his 2012 villain role in the original Avengers film. He has since come to the good side of the fight in an effort to rid the world of evil with his brother, Thor, by his side. If this doesn’t describe Harper to a T, I do not know what does. Even down to his bromance with Hoskins.

Spider-Man has had a tough go of it over the years. He has been rebooted more times than the Ninja Turtles, but has since found his footing in the MCU, being played by Tom Holland. From All-Star to outcast, Odubel Herrera has rebooted his role multiple times in his Phillies career. He no longer has to be the best player on the team and will fill the Shane Victorino role on the 2019 (and beyond) version very nicely.

Probably my favorite Avenger, Winter Soldier survived a freakin’ plane crash and is now equipped with a bionic left arm. When I think of a player who has had a career much like a crash, it’s Adam Morgan. Some fans wonder how he still has a job with the Phillies, but Klentak knows what he has in the southpaw. This season, Morgan has tweaked his devastating slider to add almost two inches of sharp break. Talk about a bionic left arm! Morgan may be the best overall reliever in the Phillies bullpen this season.

Vision has the potential to be the most powerful Avenger of the bunch, but has been a punching bag since his MCU debut in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thanos also put him on the shelf by breaking the most important part of him in Infinity War. Enter David Robertson, who has the potential to be the best pitcher out of the Phillies bullpen, but is currently on the shelf nursing his best weapon, his arm, back to health. Poor Robertson, I mean Vision.

The time-bending Dr. Strange uses magic far beyond our human capabilities to keep the badies at bay. He may not have the greatest natural ability, but he is the backbone of the Avengers, even going as far as telling Iron Man how many possible outcomes pits the good guys on top in their fight against Thanos (the answer is one by the way). When I think of a stabilizing, back end piece who does not have the best raw stuff, but gets the job done, I think Zach Eflin. Pitching only once at home all season, Eflin has kept the Phillies in all but one game he has pitched. Not bad for your number four starter.

Scarlet Witch feels like the backup to Vision, Black Widow and Dr. Strange, but is getting her own Disney+ series and continues to have a bigger role than she should. Yes, I am undervaluing what Cesar Hernandez can do for this club, but he is not a starter on a World Series winning team… and I am just a huge Scott Kingery fan.

Speaking of [Scott] Kingery, he is primed to take the role of another Scott, but in the MCU. Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, did not take the world by storm with his first solo Marvel film. His second movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp, was praised by critics and fans alike. That pretty much sums up Kingery’s two-year career. Get well soon, Scotty Jetpax.

The Wasp, Ant-Man’s pivotal partner in do-goodery, should have had a bigger role in previous films, but her time to be popular and relevant may have passed. The skillset is there, but will she ever get the chance to star again? This goes hand-in-hand with Aaron Altherr. He made his major league debut all the way back in 2014 and as he continues to struggle with the Phillies, his career-best 2017 season gets further away. He may need a change of scenery to get another chance in the spotlight.

War Machine is often injured during the big moments, but always finds a way to nurse himself back to health. He keeps getting opportunities with the team because of what he could bring to the table. I defy you to tell me that is not Roman Quinn in a nutshell!

Quicksilver was killed in the first film he was in and never mentioned again. Yup, that’s Andrew Knapp.

I am ending with the Guardians of the Galaxy, most of them anyway, because nobody knew who they were before their 2014 MCU debut, but have since become the darlings of Marvel’s cinematic universe.

Star-Lord, the brash, cocky and hilarious Peter Quill, is the leader of the Guardians. He came out of nowhere to be the well-respected front man of a smaller group of side heroes, aka the Phillies bench. Acquired in the Cole Hamels trade with the Texas Rangers, Nick Williams was not brought up through the Phillies system by way of the MLB Draft, but is the leader of the Phillies bench, the most trusted pinch-hitting option for Kapler and when given the chance to start, could surprise you. I would not call him brash or cocky, but I am sure* he is hilarious.

*Not sure at all.

Groot, reborn as Baby Groot, grew up right in front of our eyes across his MCU appearances. We love him. Everybody loves Groot. Seranthony Dominguez, in only his second major league season, is blossoming into a dominant reliever right in front of us. Kapler has to improve the spots he uses Dominguez in, as he is capable of high-leverage situations, but I think we all feel like that will come with time.

Rocket Raccoon is a bad-mouthed badass who fires bullets. He often overcomes an internal conflict, putting the team first, and saves the day in the end. Maybe Jerad Eickhoff does not have the best stuff in the rotation, and fires fastballs far from the speed of a bullet, but after his start on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies, he may just save the rotation. Four runs across six innings at Coors Field – after four shutout innings in relief of the now-demoted Nick Pivetta – that is a stat line Rocket would be proud of.

Drax is the guy I trust the most in the Guardians, maybe all of the Avengers. His combination of size, athletic prowess and the ability to stand so incredibly still that he becomes invisible to the naked eye makes him an ideal closer. Hector Neris has had the opportunity to be the Phillies closer and failed before, but look at him since the season opener. As of this writing, he has not allowed a single earned run since that day. When he is on, he is unhittable. I trust he puts it together this year, even if Kapler will not fully commit to a single option at closer.

So there you have it. If the 2019 Phillies were Avengers, I would absolutely sit through a three-hour movie to watch them defeat the galaxy’s greatest evil! Heck, baseball games are generally way longer than that as it is!

 


You can follow Greg Hall on Twitter (@WePodAndWeKnow) and e-mail him at gjhall35@gmail.com.

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