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

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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.

Royals-Angels?
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!

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”