As a network, SB Nation is getting together this week to write Marvel themed articles and these are going to be especially prevalent on the team sites throughout SBN. Given that we don’t have very much actual baseball to talk about just yet, I figured I would take a crack at this while I await news about the draft so that I can scratch my itch to talk about minor league baseball.
Given how omnipresent The Avengers were for the better part of a decade in the world’s consciousness when it comes to movies, virtually everyone knows who the various Avengers characters are so I don’t necessarily feel a compulsion to reintroduce all of them here. The goal here was to take all-time Braves greats and say which Avengers characters they took after the most. Sounds like an easy enough task, right?
I actually found this to be insanely difficult. For starters, there are a ton of characters in those movies and there are a lot of Braves players of note. I figured out pretty quickly that matching that many names was never going to happen and I also didn’t want this to be a 10,000 deep dive. As a result, I had to trim things down. I decided to only use the main Avengers plus the Guardians of the Galaxy. This gave me enough different types of characters to work with without it being too overwhelming. As a result, you won’t see Dr. Strange, Black Panther, or Loki in here. I also didn’t include female characters in this because it seemed like poor form to do that to some amazing fictional female role models. That would have also required a level of parsing that I didn’t want to do for this.
With all of that out of the way, below you will find my list of all-time Braves greats if they were The Avengers. Friendly reminder that I could honestly justify several of these players in several different slots, so don’t start egging my house because I didn’t put someone in exactly where you thought they should go. I am also going to do my best to include other names that were considered as this goes along just for the sake of discussion.
Captain America - Dale Murphy
There are few Braves greats that are held in as high of esteem amongst Braves fans as Murph, so he absolutely deserved a slot in the Br-Avengers. I decided to slot him in here because he has been a tireless ambassador for the team in much of the same way that Cap was for America. Plus, Captain America is a bit underappreciated as a superhero and that holds true for Murph as a baseball player as well...at least outside of Atlanta anyways. Hank would have been a justifiable inclusion here as well, but I feel really good about Murph in this slot.
Hulk - Bob Horner
Here is another guy that modern Braves fans don’t appreciate just how good he was at his peak. He hit four homers in a game back in 1986 and his career would have been more widely appreciated if it weren’t for injuries and owners colluding to drive down free agent salaries which cost him at least one season in the majors. I am not sure that Hulk is a perfect fit here, but he did have a certain amount of reckless abandon at the plate and the guy could definitely mash dingers. Evan Gattis while stealing signs or Ryan Klesko with that Captain Caveman swing of his would be defensible choices as well. This is the pick that I am the least sure of I think, but I wanted to make sure that Horner got some love.
Thor - Hank Aaron
Where to put Hank was the hardest decision for me. Captain America would have been a reasonable choice as you can do far worse than having Hank as the de facto leader, but I don’t think he would have wanted that level of responsibility. Plus, Hank is royalty as the Home Run King. I decided to go with Thor because Hank is in the upper echelons in terms of ‘power level’ in combination with the royal bloodline stuff. It isn’t a perfect fit especially with the level of silliness that Thor demonstrates in the later movies, but I am happy with it overall. Freddie would have been a good fit as well just based on physique plus he does have a funny streak, but I had other plans for him.
Iron Man - Freddie Freeman
Iron Man is a tough one because, despite my furious letter writing campaign, the Braves haven’t signed any cyborgs in free agency that I am aware of. The Cal Ripken/Iron Man connotation isn’t lost on me though, so I went with someone that plays a ton of games even when he probably shouldn’t. That is Freddie Freeman to a T. Plus, I could see Freddie and Tony Stark having similar dance moves.
Spider-Man - Ronald Acuna Jr.
Shawn is going to be doing a very similar exercise based on the current Braves roster and this is going to be the one spot where there is going to be overlap between the two lists. For Spider-man, we would be looking for very young, obscene athleticism, and constantly joking around and having fun. If that isn’t Ronald Acuna Jr., I don’t know who is. As he gets more time in the league, I could see Ronnie in at least half a dozen spots on this list. Andruw Jones is another really good pick for this spot especially early in his career and with his defensive acumen, but I decided to give the edge to Ronnie.
Ant Man - Rafael Belliard
Look, Ozzie Albies is a pretty obvious choice here for a lot of people, but I really wanted to give some love to the original tiny infielder that Braves fans loved...although in Belliard’s case the love was a tad more inexplicable and I say this as someone who loved that little guy. He was a glove first shortstop whose glove was suspect at times and who couldn’t hit, but he was fun to watch and seeing how excited everyone was when he hit his first home run in a decade is a memory I will not forget.
Rafael Belliard's 2nd career home run that he hit over 10 years after his first is one of my I remember where I was sports moments pic.twitter.com/3OUgeB9Z3s— Chad Jiles (@Chad_Jiles) May 3, 2020
Hawk-eye - Greg Maddux
I didn’t feel like there was a great fit on The Avengers for Maddux as he is as smart as Iron Man, as likely to prank teammates as Rocket Raccoon, and is among the all-time greats in the game like Thor or Captain America. I went with Hawk-eye simply because it exemplified what he wanted to do on the field. He wasn’t flashy and he had complete and total control over his arsenal. Again, not a perfect fit, but I think it works.
Vision - Eddie Mathews
Eddie Mathews is a guy that if you mention his name, Braves fans will be able to tell you that his number is retired by the Braves but they might not be able to tell you much else. However, he was an absolute stud as he is a member of the 500 homer club and posted an insane 96.2 career rWAR which is a full 10.9 rWAR better than Chipper Jones. Underappreciated, one of the absolute best/most powerful of the bunch....yep, that sounds like Vision to me.
Star-Lord - Tom Glavine
Again, not a perfect fit here but I do think that Glav has a sense of humor and on the mound he was a bit of a field general who relied on out-thinking batters rather than overpowering them which is pretty much how Star-Lord got things done. Glavine has that presence to be a leader in clubhouse conversations and while that isn’t always a good idea when folks are listening to Star-Lord, the fit works well enough.
Drax - Chipper Jones
Folks are going to lobby for Chipper to be Captain America or Iron Man or Thor partially because of recency bias or partially because Chipper is truly one of the best of all-time. I respect those opinions and he would be a fine fit there. I went with Drax because not only doesn’t he hold his own in the Marvel universe against the best of the best, but he is also the guy that is the most likely to have no filter and say something he shouldn’t that will get most of the universe mad at him. If you follow Chipper’s Twitter account or remember when he got the entire city of New York to hate him, well....parallels exist.
Rocket Raccoon - John Smoltz
This was a bit of process of elimination and I wanted to make sure that Smoltz was included in this, but the fit does work. If any Braves pitcher was going to use overwhelming firepower to get the job done, it was going to be Smoltz. Plus, while he didn’t have as strong a reputation as a prankster as Maddux, I wouldn’t have put it past Smoltzy to steal a guy’s fake leg to get a giggle. I also happen to think that Rocket’s importance is underappreciated.
Thanos - John Coppolella
Did bad things for the greater good.
Did not think he did anything wrong.
Made the Braves lose a chunk of their prospects only to get removed himself at the end.
Yep, thats Coppy.