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How to decide who to root for in the World Series

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Obviously most of us are neither Tigers nor Giants fans, so how do we choose a rooting interest for the next eight days?  Just some out loud thinking:

  • If you’re a Dodgers fan or a fan of whatever team has decided that the Tigers are their big rival lately — White Sox maybe? — your path is clear: you root for the other guy because eff those Giants/Tigers.
  • The Tigers have a pretty high payroll: $132 million, which is fifth in baseball this year. The Giants are eighth at $117 million. Not a big difference, but if you like to root against a team that spends more, the Giants are your huckleberries.
  • That said, San Francisco has a larger media market than Detroit — 2.5 million TV households to 1.8 million — so they are presumably the richer, better-supported team overall, which kind of blurs the finances and changes the Tigers story from “rich team with bigger payroll” to “generous owner spending what it takes to win.” If you’re into that whole game, maybe the Tigers should be your horse.
  • I have always liked the Giants standard uniforms a lot (though I hate the orange alternates), but the Tigers are far and away the best-dressed team in the game, especially at home. If you’re a uniform junkie this is a great series, really, but you probably need to root for the Tigers.
  • The Giants big star is Buster Posey. It’s hard to find anything to dislike about him. The Tigers big star is Miguel Cabrera. He has had his past issues. If you follow the star power and if that sort of thing bothers you, go for the Giants.
  • If you’re looking beyond the biggest names, you have a bit of a mixed bag. And almost too-quirky-by-half thing with the Giants (Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson) that can be a bit annoying. Some Tigers who are either execrable (Delmon Young) or at the very least kinda douchey (Jose Valverde and, to some degree, Justin Verlander, even if he is a freaking pitching machine). Call that a tossup.
  • The Giants play in what I consider to be the best ballpark currently in use in all of baseball. The Tigers, however, used to play in the best park to ever exist in baseball and in a current park that is definitely top five. If you care about home park optics, the Giants probably get the edge.
  • Fan bases are an interesting way to determine a rooting interest. The Giants definitely have a wild-and-crazy vibe in the park and, as I mentioned this morning, the city is currently bonkers for the team.  Detroit, however, has what I consider to be one of the most knowledgeable and sophisticated fan bases around, even if they haven’t drawn as consistently as the Giants have over the past 10-15 years. I’d caution you against going with stereotypes here — not all Detroit fans riot and burn things when the team wins and not all Giants fans are latte-drinking liberal weenies who just discovered the team in October 2010 — but I do think you have a clear choice between a lower-intensity but sophisticated fan base with Detroit and a higher energy but maybe a bit more touristy fan base in San Francisco. Pick whichever floats your boat.
  • Playing styles: The Giants get good pitching and a are an opportunistic balls-in-play kind of offense. The Tigers get good starting pitching — and have the best pitcher on either team in Verlander — but on offense they’re a slower, more power-oriented team. The Giants may be a bit more aesthetically pleasing in doing what they do if that kind of thing matters to you.
  • What’s your take on history? The Giants have had more overall success and have won more World titles, but a ton of that came a looong time ago. They certainly have the more recent title — 2010 — but since 1945 both teams have exactly two championships, with the Giants winning seven pennants and the Tigers five. Just an insane amount of overall history here regardless. Cobb, Mays, Greenberg, Matthewson, McCovey, Kaline, Bonds, Trammell and on and on. This is a traditionalists dream.

Personally: I’m not rooting for anyone. This is less a fancy media “I must remain objective since I’m here on the scene” kind of thing than it is me really being at a loss as to how to choose. When my team is out of it I tend to go for the team that has had the longest championship drought, but it’s not like the Tigers are plucky underdogs or something. There are players on each club I like and players on each I do not like, but no serious man-crush that would tip the scales one way or another.

I want good baseball. I wouldn’t mind it going seven games. Short of that, one of these guys is gonna have to win me over on the fly.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.