Last week, Canada, you’ll recall that I was compelled to break down the World Series as Justice Leaguers. Tony LaRussa was Batman (paranoid and unstable, and an actual detriment to the group) and Albert Pujols was Superman, and those are looking pretty damn prescient today. Michael Young continues to be whatever writers, fans, and broadcasters want him to be. I believe he may have healed a leper this morning, or maybe he just threw a bowl of cornflakes on Elvis Andrus. Really, it depends on your perspective.
Anyway, since that worked so well, I figured we needed to round out the rest of the League, because Batman, Superman, and the Green Lantern are gonna need help if Bud Selig and his Legion of Doom start plotting their destruction.
Kinsler is really good at baseball. Did you know that? Did you know that he hit 32 home runs this year with a 117 OPS+ from second base? Did you know that he’s one of the best defensive second basemen in the game? Did you know he was second in the American League in runs scored thanks to 89 walks and a .355 OBP, and also knocked in 75 runs from the leadoff spot? Did you know he played 155 games this year? Did you know that FanGraphs has calculated him as being worth 7.7 wins above replacement this year, fourth in the American League? And did you know that Ian Kinsler leads the Rangers this World Series with a .455 on-base percentage?
Of course you didn’t. Kinsler has only scored one run…because nobody’s driving him in (except that that one run was the tying run in game 2, after he singled, stole second, went to third on Andrus’ single, and scored on a sac fly). Plus, he doesn’t have a great narrative. Michael Young is the team’s leader (allegedly). Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli (more on him later) are its heavy bombers. And Ron Washington is fun to watch dance (actually, yes he is). Why would you want to hear about Ian Kinsler, then, when he’s only the best player on the whole damn team?
The Flash, while not the best Justice League member, is also largely undervalued. He’s the fastest man alive, is witty, and clearly has a ton of fun being a superhero. Watching The Flash fight crime is simply more fun than watching Batman (so intense) or Superman (dude’s invulnerable). Plus, as it turns out, The Flash is the heart and soul of the Justice League. In the Justice League cartoon that ran from 2001-2006 on Cartoon Network, Flash is the lynchpin that holds the team together. When, on a parallel Earth, he’s killed by Lex Luthor (who’s been elected President of the United States), Superman uses his heat vision to finally kill his nemesis. After that, the Justice League becomes the Justice Lords and take over the planet, hunting down lawbreakers and legitimate protestors, and eliminating them with ruthless efficiency. They are, of course, defeated by the real Justice League from our universe. Flash not only makes the Justice League better, he makes them good.
Adrian Beltre is so smooth and so pretty, it reminds me of Wonder Woman…
This is strained, I realize, but we can’t ignore Wonder Woman, who is one of the only members of the Justice League that is consistently part of the lineup. Plus, she’s awesome, with her magic lasso, her super strength, and her invisible jet (and sometimes with her ability to fly on her own, depending on what continuity we’re working with). She never seems to get dirty or break a sweat, no matter how much ass she kicks.
Similarly, Adrian Beltre simply never looks strained in the field. He’s so smooth, so perfect. Every movement is efficient and every play is beautiful. Watching Adrian Beltre play third base is a joy, and I even wonder whether we should start to talk about him and Brooks Robinson in the same breath.
A lot of you are going to mock Aquaman in the comments. I think that’s sad. What you don’t realize is that Aquaman is essentially in charge of 75% of the planet as the ruler of Atlantis and the Prince of the Ocean. He maintains international commerce by keeping shipping lanes safe. He’s also not restricted to the water, as he has super strength and a kick-ass trident. And just so we’re clear, Aquaman is the boss of sharks. Like, he tells them what to do, and they do it. So, dude, don’t mess with him. I firmly believe that 2012 will be The Year of Aquaman.
Similarly, Tony LaRussa probably shouldn’t be messing with Mike Napoli at this point. Napoli is the most important player in the AL West, as his trade from the Angels essentially decided the entire division. As a result the Angels ended up using Jeff Mathis and acquiring Vernon Wells, while Napoli ended up powering the Rangers all year long. Now the catcher and first baseman is hitting .308/.389/.846 in this World Series with two homers and his resounding double last night. He has nine RBI despite continuing to hit 8th. He is a force and we should all probably start recognizing him as such.
Josh Hamilton should really be much better than this, and so should Martian Manhunter…
When he’s healthy, Josh Hamilton is probably the best player on the Rangers. He’s a dynamic hitter with the ability to turn games around on both sides of the baseball. He has hit 57 homers over the last two years, and won an MVP award. But he’s hurt. He’s swinging almost entirely with his arms, which makes it impossible for him to drive the ball. And it’s showing. With just three hits in 21 plate appearances, Hamilton is not showing what he can do, putting up just a .158/.190/.211 stat line. Believe it or not, that’s actually better than last year, when he hit .100/.143/.250. Despite all his talents, Hamilton simply has not been able to shine on baseball’s biggest stage.
It’s also unclear why J’onn J’onzz (the Martian Manhunter) hasn’t performed as well as he should. This is the last living Martian, who has super strength, can fly, can change shape, reads minds, and phases through solid objects. And yet, he’s relegated to the second string. It’s ridiculous. This guy should be performing on the same comic book level as Superman, but he’s relegated to the second string. With DC’s relaunch this Fall, the Manhunter has actually been removed from the Justice League entirely, and is now part of something called Stormwatch. He should be on the A-list, and somehow got stuck on the B-squad. It’s sad to watch.
Let’s be honest, Berkman, Holliday, Molina, and the rest of the Cards are pretty good players, but the team belongs to Pujols and LaRussa, just like no matter how hard Green Arrow, The Atom, Firestorm, Hawkman, Black Vulcan, Apache Chief, Samurai, and El Dorado try, they’ll never lead the JLA.
I don’t care how good Mat Holliday, Lance Berkman, and the rest of the Cardinals are. There’s one player that will be able to lead the Cardinals back from down 3 games to 2. That’s Jose Alberto Pujols. We’ve already seen what happens when he gets locked in. He has the ability to turn this series around by himself, and that’s probably what it’s going to take, so long as his manager doesn’t get in the way.
Likewise, heroes like Green Arrow and The Atom are pretty cool in their own rights. Arrow is irreverent and iconoclastic, and has that whole Robin Hood look going for him. The Atom can be handy, even if being tiny isn’t always all that intimidating. But with the world on the line, there’s no way these second-stringers are going to measure up to Superman and Batman. Worse, guys like Apache Chief and Black Vulcan were simply made up and glommed on to the group in the 1970s and 1980s for the Super Friends cartoons. Never heard of El Dorado? Neither had anyone else before 1985, when he randomly showed up on the SuperFriends with his ability to teleport. These guys were superfluous, and never did anything truly worthwhile to aid the cause. A little like Jon Jay, when you think about it.