Your team has been eliminated. Now what do you do?


This is not just a question I’m asking myself this morning, it’s a question all sports fans ask themselves at some point. When your team is knocked out of the playoffs, do you search for a new, temporary rooting interest? Do you simply watch objectively for pure entertainment? Do you disengage completely?

I am capable of watching baseball for pure entertainment. I do it most
of the regular season in fact. I’ve never picked a side in a Yankees-Red
Sox game, for example, and never will. I root for good baseball in
those games. I rarely get it, but I still root for it.

Orioles-Jays? Brewers-Astros? I’m able to mine the tiniest bit of
minutiae from almost anything baseball-related, but for any one game —
especially a game with low stakes — it’s usually a bit too much for me
to pick a side. This used to happen to me in the playoffs too, but since
I’ve been writing about baseball it’s been hard for me to go the
Switzerland route for a seven game series. Eventually I start pulling
for someone. But who do you root for?

I’ve done the carpetbagger fan thing before.  In some ways it’s the most natural thing there is. Your team has been sent home, but you’re still watching the games. Events on the field spark something deep and primal within you, and you find yourself rooting for one of the teams that are still alive. Maybe you like Brian Wilson’s beard. Maybe you really want to see Cliff Lee or Evan Longoria stick it to the Yankees. Maybe you don’t want the North Korean World Cup team to be sent to slave labor camps upon their return home.  The point is, you latch onto something on the spur of the moment and ride it for a while.

Or you can go the calculated route. I’m less prone to doing this — I tend to decide who I’m rooting for after I turn the game on — but I’m seriously considering it for the NLCS at the moment. What makes me more angry: the fact that the Giants eliminated the Braves or the fact that the Phillies beat them out for the division title and embarrassed them in two September series? At the same time, what appeals to me more: the fact that Tim Lincecum, my favorite non-Brave is pitching for the Giants or that Charlie Manuel, my favorite non-Bobby Cox manager is in charge of the Phillies?  I haven’t quite figured this out yet.

The last option — total disengagement — is impossible for me because I’m paid to write about baseball, but it’s something some people do. “My team’s gone? Screw it: I’m spending my October evenings catching up on my knitting or else I’m going to go crazy with rage!”  I can’t relate personally to this sort of thing — see last night’s rough-and-tumble Bobby Cox thread for some reasons why — but I sort of understand it.  But only sort of.  If you’re one of those people who is a big enough baseball fan to read this blog but one who nonetheless won’t be watching the rest of the playoffs, please, enlighten the rest of us as to your thought process. Do you simply not care anymore once your rooting interest is gone, or is it too painful to watch the game being played without them?

Anyway. The Rays and Rangers play tonight. I think I’m going to root for the Rangers. My distaste for Jeff Francoeur is outweighed by my admiration of Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson and a handful of other Rangers (and really, if I get loopy enough I could probably took myself into rooting for Frenchie in some ironic way).  The NLCS starts, I dunno, eight weeks from now, and I’m probably going to pull for the Giants. This could change, though — I don’t like Brian Wilson’s beard, after all.  The Yankees are right out no matter who they’re facing. They have been since 1996. They’ll be fine without me, I assume.

No matter how it shakes out, though, I’m rooting for three exciting seven-game series. Followed immediately by the Earth passing through a worm hole and magically transporting us to mid February when pitchers and catchers report.

Go, whoever!

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.