Who really cares who wins the World Series?
Casual baseball fans had plenty to cheer for when postseason festivities began a week and a half ago. If your favorite team didn’t make it to October, there were plenty of suitable candidates to pull for in the playoffs. (My favorite team, the Minnesota Twins, didn’t even make it to May, so I began my bandwagon adventure long before the first day of Wild Card matchups.) The Braves, Orioles, Nationals and Athletics each provided viable options for those of us who love the underdog, or a little sentimentality.
Chipper Jones’ impending retirement gave fans a reason to pull for the Atlanta Braves. His 20-year big league career, which will likely put him in Cooperstown, included more than 2,700 hits, 468 home runs, an MVP (1999), a batting title (2008) and 8 All-Star Games. Not a big fan of Chipper? Then how about pulling for a team that blew a 10 and a ½ game lead to the Cardinals during the2011 season to MISS the playoffs and was fighting, tooth and nail, for retribution in 2012?
Baltimore, headed by manager Buck Showalter, was one of baseball’s biggest surprises in 2012. Led by young stars Adam Jones, Matt Weiters and Manny Machado, the rest of the team was a collection of ragtag misfits, castoffs and has-been’s (Nate McLouth, Lew Ford and Jason Hammel, anybody?) that pieced together a remarkable run through baseball’s deepest (and priciest) division and earned a spot in the playoffs. Could you pull for a team making its first postseason appearance since Justin Bieber was a 3-year-old?
Even more miserable a history than the Orioles’ lay just down the interstate in Washington D.C., a city which had last hosted a postseason baseball game during FDR’s first term (1933). The upstart Nationals featured great pitching, a budding young superstar in Bryce Harper, and a beautiful ballpark. They finished with the best regular season record in baseball, 98-64. If you were a Washington baseball fan, could you have gone 79 years (some without a professional team at all) between playoff appearances? Could you pull for such a team, and a city?
Finally, the Oakland Athletics added another chapter to the “Moneyball” legacy in 2012. Despite a payroll built of pennies, nickels and the Cuban peso, Billy Beane’s bunch of kids, outcasts and anonymous Joes caught the mighty Texas Rangers with a furious late season surge in which they captured the American League West crown on the season’s final day. Despite playing in the league’s worst stadium and owning the second-lowest payroll in baseball, the team won 94 games, or, 25 more games than the Boston Red Sox did with triple the cash. Can you see yourself rooting for such a team?
Well, too bad, so sad, all of them are done, toast, kaput. Atlanta, done in by errors and a infield-fly call gone horribly wrong. Baltimore, halted in five games by the evil New York Yankees. The Nationals, beaten in five by last year’s champion, the St. Louis Cardinals. And Oakland, a team with a payroll of $55 million, toppled by a Tigers team featuring three players (Fielder, Cabrera and Verlander) who earned a combined $64 million in 2012.
Isn’t baseball heartless? What’s left for matchups after every longshot was eradicated? The New York Yankees versus the Detroit Tigers in the American League, and the St. Louis Cardinals versus the San Francisco Giants in the National League. It’s as soul-crushing and painful as it gets. There’s no team left that anyone can root for in good conscience… or is there?
The New York Yankees
Reasons to despise them: They’re the Yankees. Alex Rodriguez is on the team. You’re not from New York. You’re not a celebrity, or a politician. You’re not a sellout. You have a soul.
Reasons to like them: You’re from New York. You’re an a**hole. You go to casinos and cheer for the house to win. You’re also a fan of the Lakers, Cowboys and the Alabama Crimson Tide. You are a celebrity. You’re a New York politician. You don’t have a soul.
The Detroit Tigers
Reasons to despise them: You’re not a fan of Little Caesar’s Pizza, which is how Mike Ilitch, the owner of the club, makes his fortune. You think obesity is a problem, and not something to award with $200 million contracts. You’re opposed to alcoholism and spousal abuse. You’re appalled that a Cy Young Award-Winning pitcher could dump their high school sweetheart in favor of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl Kate Upton and get away with it, balls intact.
Reasons to like them: They are not the Yankees… or, you’ve had a smoke with Jim Leyland, Tigers manager, at some point in the past.
The St. Louis Cardinals
Reasons to despise them: You’re not a fan of disgusting neck tattoos. You’re pretty sure someone with a forehead the size of Matt Holliday’s is doing something illegal. Their smugness. You resent the way Joe Buck (son of former Cardinals announcer Jack Buck) and Tim McCarver (former Cardinals player, current purveyor of bats***) slant the FOX telecasts of World Series games in their favor. They won it last year, and in 2006, and you’re sick of the same team being good all the time.
Reasons to like them: They lost Albert Pujols (the game’s best player) and Tony La Russa (one of its best managers) and are still in the hunt. They are also, in fact, not the Yankees.
The San Francisco Giants
Reasons to despise them: They harbored obvious cheaters (Guillermo Mota and Melky Cabrera) for much of the season. You’re not a fan of cheaters. They won the World Series in 2010 and you wanted to see someone new, different and exciting win it all. You are SO over Tim Lincecum and his long, unshowered mane, and Brian Wilson and his long, unfettered facial hair. They once employed Barry Bonds.
Reasons to like them: They’re not the Yankees, Tigers, or the Cardinals. Once Melky Cabrera was outed as a user of performance-enhancing drugs, they shunned him entirely. Until they won the title in 2010, it had been 56 years since their last title, so 2 in 3 years would be palatable. They’re built on pitching, defense and timely hitting, appealing to the classic baseball purist in all of us. They play in a really cool ballpark, built on the Bay, beautiful in the early evening shadows.
But mostly… they’re not the Yankees, Tigers or Cardinals.
BreakTheHuddle is a fan of the Twins, Timberwolves and the 13-time World Champion Green Bay Packers. Reach him at BreakTheHuddle@gmail.com, @BreakTheHuddle on Twitter or leave a comment below!