If you are under the age of 25, you remember Pokémon. That's not a question, that's a fact.
You watched the TV show. You played the video games. You even collected the trading cards, but you mostly just looked at them because the card game kind of sucked.
Even if you never cared that Nidorino needs a Moon Stone to become Nidoking, you'd probably recognize a Pokéball and Ash Ketchum's trademark "L" hat if you saw them. Unless you've been living under the stairs for the last decade-plus, you undoubtedly know who the yellow mouse on the left is.
There are now 493 Pokémon (back in my day, there were only 150), each of whom has different powers and a distinctive personality.
Here's a look at how 10 characters from the Kanto universe match up with Major League Baseball stars.
The leader of Ash's group and one of the most powerful Pokémon in the world, Pikachu is the face of the Pokémon franchise and one of the stars of the TV show. The only possible comparable player is The Machine.
Even though he's having one of the worst seasons of his career (15 homers and a .977 OPS—what a tragedy), Pujols is the unquestioned best player in the game in any serious baseball fan's mind.
Unlike most of the big sluggers of his generation, Pujols has never been the subject of serious allegations of steroid use. Unless he's really good at hiding it, he's kind of like Pikachu, who refused to use a Thunder Stone to evolve into Raichu.
Pujols is a great player and a popular figure, and I think I speak for all baseball fans when I say I wouldn't be surprised if he could shoot thunderbolts.
Meowth was the mascot for Team Rocket, a mafia-like organization whose goal as stated in every single episode is "to denounce the evils of truth and love" (is there a single person under 25 who doesn't know the next line?)
But, sinister though he may have been, you could never really dislike Meowth because he was the comic relief player. You couldn't help but smile, even as he tried to steal Pikachu.
In that sense, he's a lot like Derek Jeter.
I'm a proud Yankee Hater, but I have no personal dislike of the Bombers' captain. Not many people could pull that off.
Tim Lincecum doesn't do a lot of things right. His delivery is weird. His mechanics are off. His hair is too long (kids these days...).
That makes him a lot like Bulbasaur.
Ash's Bulbasaur resisted conventional wisdom and peer pressure by deciding not to evolve when he had the chance. Just like Lincecum uses his unorthodox windup to his advantage, Bulbasaur's unevolved state allowed him to learn advanced attacks faster than his supposedly stronger friends.
Bulbasaur also dealt with abandonment issues, having been deserted by his trainer before meeting Ash. Deep down Lincecum might feel the same way, given that he was twice drafted and left unsigned before catching on with the Giants.
David Ortiz is like Squirtle because they both wear sunglasses.
More importantly, though, when Ash found Squirtle, he was a mischievous troublemaker. He kidnapped Misty, which is a lot like Ortiz taking steroids.
But, like Big Papi, Squirtle can be a loyal teammate and a skilled fighter.
Also, the sunglasses thing.
Early in the course of Ash's adventures, he came across an abandoned Charmander on death's door (remember, most Pokémon just faint). Ash nursed him back to health, and he became one of his most powerful and loyal Pokémon.
Then he evolved.
As a Charizard, he was perhaps Ash's most powerful Pokémon. However, he became surly and short-tempered; he stopped listening to Ash and refused to battle unless it was for his own reasons.
When Milton Bradley is focused, he's one of the best hitters in baseball—his .999 OPS in 2008 led the American League. But his infamous outbursts and inner angst often get in the way of his production, earning him a reputation as a clubhouse cancer.
One of the first Pokémon Ash caught in his Kanto adventures, Pidgeotto (later Pidgeot) was one of his best Pokémon, but never one of his leading men.
Pidgeotto was far from a first resort in a fight, but he could always get the job done when Ash needed someone to carry Pikachu into battle or pop a hole in Team Rocket's balloon.
Mariano Rivera isn't the first guy out of the gate for the Yankees, having made exactly 10 starts in 944 appearances. But he was one of the first members of the new Yankee Dynasty, and he's not one to let his teammates down when they need him (except, of course, in the 2001 World Series and 2004 ALCS).
The lovable Snorlax looks like a comically oversized green cat. It weighs over 1,000 pounds and sleeps...well, all the time.
I can't speak to Fielder's sleeping habits, but if anyone can match the Sleeping Pokémon's girth, it's Prince.
But that's not their only similarity: Just as Fielder's bat is among the most feared in baseball, Snorlax becomes one of the most powerful Pokémon when he wakes up.
In the first Pokémon movie (there have been about 37 of them), Mewtwo decides to steal the best trainers' Pokémon so he can use their talents for himself.
Yes, his method of kidnapping and cloning Pokémon was a bit less conventional than George Steinbrenner's, and his plot to inspire Pokémon to rise up against their trainers was much more sinister than the Boss' desire to win the World Series.
Okay, maybe this is kind of a stretch. But every fan who's lost a hometown hero to the bottomless wallet of the Evil Empire knows what I mean.
The father of sabermetrics, Bill James' obsessive desire to ask questions and tinker with statistics has produced groundbreaking new ways to measure players' talent and performance.
Ash's mentor, Professor Oak, has a similar insatiable curiosity. In his lab, Oak researches Pokémon science, from discovering new species to improving the Pokéball.
Neither is a central figure in the public's mind, but both have made invaluable contributions to their respective fields.
If you're reading this site, there's a very good chance that you play fantasy baseball. How is that any different from what Ash does?
You choose real, living creatures to be your minions. You assemble them into a team and match them up against other people's lineups, yelling at them to make them do better (or is that just me?).
You won't be satisfied until you win every category or matchup. Gotta catch 'em all!