Who do you root for when your team is eliminated?

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I’m going to root for my Barves as long as they’re still playing. Nothing will stop that. Not silly unwritten rules enforcement, not dumb “choptober” hashtags on Twitter, nothing. They’re my team and you root for your team until they’re eliminated. That’s how sports works. Even when they annoy you, they’re your guys.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t transfer allegiances if and when they’re eliminated. Or, if your team didn’t make the playoffs, that you can’t pick a playoff rooting interest. I do this every year to some degree. Indeed, being a Braves fan, changing one’s rooting interests in the middle of the playoffs has become something of a necessity over the years.

This is subject to change depending on what annoying playoff habits/chants/rituals any of these guys get into and drive me crazy, but for the moment my secondary rooting interests break down like this:

National League:

1. Dodgers: I love Kershaw and Greinke. I’m a slave to Puig-mania. I’ve come to respect what Don Mattingly has done this year. I also want Boston people who are convinced that Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are poison to have to explain how they can play on a World Series winning team. Lots of fun to be had here.

2. Pirates: Good story, Andrew McCutchen is a God. Pittsburgh deserves something to cheer for. My only reservation is that this bandwagon is going to be overflowing if the Pirates advance and I don’t want to be in that crowd.

3. Reds: Pattern here: I tend to like teams whose best player has skills I love to see. Joey Votto has the best batting eye in baseball and while a team full of guys like him make for long, boring games, I like to see him ply his trade. Plus: viva Ohio.

4. Cardinals: Eh, just not gonna happen. I don’t hate them. I don’t think there are any bad guys on this club. I just don’t like watching them for some reason. Maybe it’s a Buck/McCarver thing and the way their commentary gets when the Cardinals are involved. Maybe it’s the Best Fans in Baseball thing. But no, I can’t see myself cheering for the Cardinals at least until the World Series (I’m an NL guy) and maybe not even then.

American League:

1. Athletics: This is basically the “Major League” team here. Their owner is trying to move them and they play in a ballpark that is literally full of crap. I also want to see Bartolo Colon raise the AL Championship trophy while sucking on a BBQ rib bone or something. Plus: I’m covering the World Series again this year and I’d like to return to the Bay Area without being near death’s door due to that plague or whatever it was I had last year in San Francisco.

2. Tigers: Nostalgia. It will make my girlfriend happy and if my girlfriend is happy I’m happy. I’m not anything approaching a Tigers fan anymore, but I’ve met a lot in the past few years and I like them. Plus I know the fun places to go in Detroit now. Shut up, there are fun places in Detroit.

3. Indians: More viva Ohio. More comeuppance for the Boston scribes who thought Terry Francona was a problem (or who let the front office tell that story for a while without pushback). Chief Wahoo makes it hard, but I’ll get over it.

4. Rays: There is still some underdog appeal here and I’m a sucker for good starting pitching, but I feel like Joe Maddon’s Phil Jackson impression has worn thin and I really can’t root for a team that features a rapist, an anti-semite and a homophobe.

5. Red Sox: Eh, it’s been a nice turnaround and there are some likable players here, but non-Sox fans rooting for them is almost as bad as non-Yankees fans rooting for New York. They’re the classic overdog. Plus, they tend to play games that last until 1AM and I just can’t do that every October. The one saving grace is that I’ve never been to Fenway and now I possibly could. But I could also just fly there next summer if I want and not have to endure Sox October baseball.

So that’s how it breaks down for me. Lots of appealing options and a potential Red Sox-Cardinals series that may drive me back into being a football fan.

What’s your view on all of this? If your team tanks or has already been eliminated, who ya got?

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.