It’s common practice in comic book mythology to plan out a big story arc around the passing of a beloved character, whether it’s an actual death or the handing off of a metaphorical torch. For a handful of years in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Cubs fans marveled at the exploits of The Hawk, a 8-time All-Star and Gold Glover who won MVP despite playing for a last-place team.
Equipped with a rocket-powered right arm that fired baseballs faster than speeding bullets and a powerful club that caused countless more to leap chain link fences in a single bound, it’s no wonder so many tuned in to all summer long just to watch Andre Dawson.
One can only imagine what more he could have done had the poisonous kryptonite in Olympic Stadium’s artificial turf not leached into his knees and robbed him of his health. The man’s pre-game wrapping and warm-up regimen was nearly as legendary as his play on the field, like Willis Reed game played in perpetuity.
Dawson would go on to play four more seasons after leaving Chicago, but his mantle and cowl remained behind unused. That’s not to say there was no one there to fill the void; the cartoonish exploits of Slammin’ Sammy were all the rage for a dozen years after Hawk flew the coop.
The authors of the Cubs comic have tried everything since then to regain the rapid popularity of those bygone days. But whether they dabbled in Manga (Kosuke Fukudome), horror (Nate Schierholtz), or flat-out anti-hero villians (Milton Bradley), they just couldn’t strike the right formula for success. Until now.
Possessed of the enormous stature of a comic book character and wearing a mask to conceal his features, Jorge Soler certainly looks the part. And with the way he cuts down runners and launches home runs into the stratosphere, he’s got the skill set to live up to the title of El Hacón (that’s The Hawk or The Falcon for all you gringos).
To be sure, Soler is part of the new breed of larger than life Cubs. Whether it’s his frame (6’4″/240), his home runs (406-foot average), or his strikeout rate (25.2%), this Cuban bird of prey doesn’t do small. He’s got a long way to go to rack up another 431 homers and 153 assists, but the pedigree appears to be there.
And that’s not just speaking from an awed blogger’s perspective; even those who played alongside Dawson see Soler’s potential to duplicate some of The Hawk’s feats. One such person is Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, a man who’s seen both players up close.
“I saw ‘Hawk,’” Martinez gushed. “I saw ‘Baby Hawk’ out there. I played next to ‘Hawk’ and (saw) some of the throws he made from out there. And as soon as (Soler) threw the ball, that’s the first thing I thought about.”
“He’s a beast, but he does a lot more than just hit the ball hard,” Maddon’s chief lieutenant continued. “He’s a young baseball player that’s learning how to play the game the right way.”
Soler may have come to Chicago on a 9-year, $30 million deal instead of a blank check, but if he can indeed follow in the hobbled footsteps of the all-time to whom he’s being compared, his signing could end up being just as important for the Cubs.