As much as I love comics, sports might be my one true love of a hobby. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, I take great joy from it, whether it’s basketball and football or Formula 1 racing and cricket. But my earliest love was baseball, as I was both an avid player – mostly pitching but also everywhere in the infield besides shortstop – and fan.
In a lot of ways, it was also one of my gateways into comics, because the sport and medium have long intersected at a surprising rate. Whether it was the Avengers and West Coast Avengers squaring off or one of the million games the X-Men played, I was always enamored with the idea of comic characters – particularly superheroes! – playing baseball. It was one of my favorite what if scenarios: who would be the best baseball players in comics?
With the 2021 baseball season kicking off in just over a week, I thought it was time to answer that question, at least to a degree. To do that, I recruited an old pal in Multiversity Comics editor Brian Salvatore to fantasy draft the best baseball teams possible from the world of comics, with the two of us attempting to outdo the other. Because baseball has rules, though, our draft must have those as well. With that in mind, here were the considerations both Brian and I had to keep in mind as we drafted:
- We were drafting full rosters for an average game, without the entourage of relievers you would normally see in today’s game. That means we were drafting a catcher, first baseman, second, third, shortstop, left field, center, right, starting pitcher, a closer, and to ensure it isn’t a hot mess, we also draft a manager.
- It’s snake draft style, so first Brian goes, then I go second, and the order flips from there, with myself going first and then Brian, ping ponging until we conclude.
- All comic characters are available (not just superheroes), but once one is taken, they’re off the board
- Abilities – i.e. super-strength, super-speed, super-reflexes, etc. – are all usable, but powers – i.e. flying, teleportation, concussive blasts, etc…basically anything that isn’t an extension of something a normal human can do – cannot be used
- EXCEPT ONE. We can have one person who uses powers.
- Once teams are selected, we have a guest – Jason Wood of 11 O’Clock Comics podcast, who is also a huge fan of baseball – choose a winner
That’s it! With those rules in mind, Brian and I attempted to draft the best baseball teams possible. The results are spectacular…for one of us. Let’s get to that, and hey, let me know who you think would win the title in the comments!
David: Alright Brian, it’s time for baseball, as Spring Training has kicked off and hope springs eternal once more for fanbases, even ones as put upon as mine as the Seattle Mariners are starting the year off in a uniquely depressing manner. But this time, it’s not about the real world, as we’re kicking off our comic character fantasy baseball draft, in which we’re endeavoring to make the best baseball team imaginable purely out of comic book characters.
I’m envisioning the West Coast Avengers vs. the Avengers in West Coast Avengers Annual #2, except better because it doesn’t involve the Astrodome or Wonder Man. We’re going to be drafting a relatively full lineup of players for any given day, minus about 15 pitcher changes, and because your actual favorite baseball team is better than mine (that’s the New York Mets) and because you’re the guest, you get to pick first. Who is the Ronald Acuña, Jr. of the comics world?
Brian: Woah, woah, woah. How do we know there won’t be Wonder Man present? He basically looks like Jose Canseco, and probably could hit better!
I kid, I kid.
With my first pick, I’m going to draft, at catcher, Eel O’Brien, aka Plastic Man. While you may think it would be better to draft a literal genius with the same powers in Reed Richards, most pitches are called from the dugout these days anyway. And Eel would be so obnoxious behind the plate, he’d be 10x better at getting players to swing and miss or pop it up than Jake Taylor in Major League. With Eel, you get no passed balls, an obnoxious distraction for your team, and hopefully some above average pitch-framing.
Who ya got?
David: True story, I’ve been noodling around with the idea of drafting someone who can stretch, but I haven’t committed to it…yet. We shall see. But we are definitely on the same wavelength at catcher, although I will reveal mine later. Instead, I’m going with my classic pick for every comic and sports mashup question: Taskmaster! My guy has photographic reflexes, which means we can put him on a steady diet of Adrian Beltre defensive highlights and Mike Schmidt mashing at the plate (okay, to be honest I’d probably have him watch someone modern at the plate who doesn’t necessarily play third, like Freddie Freeman or Juan Soto) on YouTube and all of a sudden you have a first ballot hall of famer starting at the hot corner for me. Plus, I’d require him to wear his skull mask out on the field, which would bring a little extra fear into the heart of hitters.
Of course, when we’re talking ultra-strong, ultra-fast players in an era that’s obsessed with launch angle, is it a good idea to lead with a third baseman? Probably not! I don’t care! I’m drafting Taskmaster first anyways.
Speaking of ultra-fast, I need someone that’s got wheels in center field to offset the fact that I’m going to have boppers in the corners. With my second pick, I’m drafting Wally West – ideally the cheerful version from the 1990s, because I don’t want a toxic locker room presence as he’s proven to be in the recent past – to take the 8 and hit leadoff for me. Huge speed, a big arm, and the type who can definitely analyze every aspect of a pitch as it heads to the plate to make sure he puts the ball in play, Wally’s going to have a BABIP that’s both 1.000 and utterly sustainable. Two of my most important defensive positions are covered with my first two picks. I hope you don’t draft anyone that brings a lot of power to the table because that could be a problem.
Brian: I thought I was going to be able to grab Wally, as I had you pegged to be grabbing Bart Allen. But, Wally wasn’t going to be my second pick. I took my niche specialty player at C, but I feel like when you’ve got a 5-tool player on the table, you’ve got to grab him before anyone else can.
That, of course, is Superman. He is (close to) as fast as a Flash, much stronger, and is as American as apple pie. Superman is basically the baseball of comics: the first of the major players, often dismissed as being behind the times, but will likely outlast everyone else. Plus, he would be the consummate teammate, able to step up and lead when need be, but not a pushy ego maniac. He’s patient, and would likely never swing at a bad pitch. An OBP of 1.000 isn’t out of the question for someone with the eye and the impulse control of one Kal-El. He would likely be able to hear the catcher’s fingers switching signals, but would never do that, because that’s cheating.
With my third pick, I want someone who is going to be able to take the mound and give my team the sort of pinpoint control that could only be rivaled by my beloved Jacob deGrom, and that is Bullseye. We’ve seen him throw just about anything you can imagine with both precision and speed. Give the man a baseball and he’s painting the corners like Greg Maddux, but with the velocity of Randy Johnson.