Who to root for in the postseason — American League

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If, like most of us, your preferred rooting interest is not in the playoffs, you have two choices: tune out totally and throw yourself into another sport or pick a surrogate rooting interest for the post season.

I mean, sure, maybe you can just “watch for the love of baseball” and not root for anyone, but then who would you took smack about? Man, you GOTTA pick a postseason rooting interest.

 

A couple of universal rules however:

1. You are totally excused from picking a division rival to your actual rooting interest. You can if you want to of course, but intra-division hatred is likely to trump all of the pros and cons listed below and you need not apologize for that.

2. You are totally free to go back to hating your postseason rooting interest next spring when the new year starts. Indeed, you probably should. I know a lot of people have “second favorite teams” but that’s not a good look for anyone over 12. I sorta like the Dodgers, for example, but I’m never gonna describe them as “my second favorite team,” ever, and when they play the Barves next year, I am going to hope they get beat 20-0 every game because they ain’t my team, get me?

OK, with that aside, let’s break them down. First with the AL. The NL will follow in a bit.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Why To Root For Them: They overcame big injuries — Weiters, Machado — and big disappointments — Chris Davis, the Ubaldo Jimenez signing — and cruised to the division title. That’s pretty cool. Adam Jones is a fun guy who is hard to hate. They hit a lot of home runs, and that’s about as rare these days as a profitable unicorn farm. Buck Showalter has, inexplicably, transformed from something an uptight killjoy back in the 90s to one of the more loose, “I don’t give a crap” quote-giving managers around, and that can be refreshing.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Peter Angelos is pretty awful. Based on their comments at this blog, Orioles fans may get on your case if you don’t root for then in EXACTLY the right way. Non-trivial chance that Ray Lewis may be featured in the commentary somehow, and that’s too unimaginable to contemplate.

Detroit Tigers

  • Why To Root For Them: Man, if you’re not from Detroit I am having a hard time thinking about why you’d adopt them. Nothing personal, but they’ve been in the playoffs a lot and if you’re an AL fan already you are probably too used to rooting against them. Plus the fatigue factor. I’d say Victor Martinez is a good reason to root for them. He seems cool. Brad Asumus is Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager, and that probably counts for something. I also feel like it’s a good time to buy low on Joba Chamberlain. He actually had a bit of a bounceback year, but it still widely loathed, I feel. But now he looks like Steve Earle or a Duck Dynasty dude and if he gets a key out in a big moment, it will drive Yankees fans totally nuts, and that’s what it’s all about, you guys.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: The aforementioned fatigue factor. The fact that, no matter how valid a point it is that Detroit has had hard times and loves its Tigers — it has and they do — the whole “you gotta pull for the Tigers because they represent a city that has had tough times” thing is both old and pretty condescending to Detroit. If you want to support Detroit, go visit there and help the economy — there’s actually cool things to do there besides take pictures of ruin porn — don’t shallowly adopt the Tigers for three weeks.

Kansas City Royals

  • Why To Root For Them: The underdog factor, which is hard to resist, I appreciate. If you dig pitching, they have good pitching and almost all of their pitchers are (a) fun to watch; and (b) have been given way less exposure than most great players this year. Also: they have Ned Yost on their side, so they’ll need all the help they can get.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: That bandwagon could get AWFULLY crowded. Every person who had a layover in Kansas City and ate some watered down airport version of their good BBQ once is going to inflate their ties to and love for the place, and God that can be exhausting. Did I mention Ned Yost? Anti-statheads are gonna pound that “all of the calculator lovers in their mom’s basement thought the James Shields-Wil Myers trade was gonna be a bust for the Royals, and boy aren’t they DUMB!” until we’re all numb, and who needs that noise.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • Why To Root For Them: Mike Trout is awesome, and if we’re ever going to get out from under the dumb “oh noes, what will we do without Jeter?” panicking, we’re going to need a new superstar to shine in the postseason for a bit. That’s kind of all I got for them.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols storylines have been pretty much beaten into the ground for the past decade and those 40 minute World Series postgame shows are going to be even more unbearable if we have to endure more of them. Since Tony La Russa retired, there has been a dearth of “[Manager] is a genius” talk, and don’t think for a minute that the commentators aren’t going to remember that they used to say that about Mike Scioscia back in the day. Do you really want more Mike Scioscia in your life?

Oakland Athletics

  • Why To Root For Them: Because you finally want to shut up “Moneyball” critics, even if their criticisms were outdated eight years ago. Less negatively, because they friggin’ went for it this year with the Jon Lester trade, and it’s about time they did that. Because the longer the ballpark is hosting sellout crowds in October, the more likely it is that they’ll have another disaster with the plumbing, forcing Bud Selig and the rest of the Lords of Baseball into uncomfortable situations on national television. Because Adam Dunn plays for them and if you are a right-thinking person you realize how awesome Adam Dunn is and you want nothing more than to see him taking a champagne and beer shower at the end of the month, announcing his retirement and then walking the Earth like Caine from “Kung Fu.”
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Because they traded a top prospect for Jon Lester  Jeff Samardzija thereby betraying their “Moneyball” roots. Hahaha, just kidding. No one cares about that crap. If you do, man, reevaluate. Really, the biggest reason not to root for them is that they wear white cleats and white cleats are awful.

There is the information. Make your choice wisely. The National League is next.

HERE’S THE NATIONAL LEAGUE

This Day in Transaction History: Phillies acquire John Kruk from Padres

John Kruk
Bernstein Associates/Getty Images
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John Kruk is one of the more underrated hitters in baseball history. Kruk, who is currently a broadcaster for the Phillies, had a 10-year career during which he hit exactly 100 homers, batted exactly .300, and posted an excellent .397 on-base percentage. In baseball history, there are only 32 members of the admittedly arbitrary 100/.300/.395+ club. Kruk is one of only 10 members of the club that played after 1963. The others: Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Manny Ramírez, Frank Thomas, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez, and Wade Boggs. Of them, five are Hall of Famers. Trout and Votto will be, and Helton and Ramírez should be.

On this day in 1989, the Phillies made a franchise-altering trade, acquiring Kruk along with infielder Randy Ready from the Padres in exchange for outfielder Chris James. The Padres had just swept the Phillies at home and were hoping to jump into the playoff race. They immediately went into a losing skid, but caught fire at the end of the season, finishing 89-73. However, that wasn’t good enough as the Giants won the NL West with a 92-70 record. James was solid for the Padres, posting a .743 OPS with 11 homers and 46 RBI in 87 games.

Kruk had an interesting but brief major league career with the Padres. His roommate, Roy Plummer, was an armed robber. Kruk was completely unaware of this. In spring training of 1988, the FBI informed Kruk of his roommates’ activities. Kruk feared retribution from Plummer and said that the anxiety affected his baseball performance. In 1988, Kruk batted what was for him a poor .241/.369/.362 with nine homers and 44 RBI over 466 plate appearances.

The Phillies didn’t enjoy immediate success upon Kruk’s arrival in 1989. The club finished the season with a losing record and would do the same in the ensuing three seasons. None of it was Kruk’s fault, though: in aggregate, from 1990-92, he hit .303/.393/.459, earning two All-Star nominations. In this span of time, the only other first basemen to hit above .300 were Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor, Hal Morris, and Rafael Palmeiro. The Padres had used Kruk both in the corner outfield and at first base, but the Phillies made him a full-time first baseman, which turned out to be a good move.

In 1993, everything came together for the Phillies and Kruk had what was arguably the greatest season of his career. He hit .316, which was actually seven points below his average the previous year, but he drew 111 walks to push his on-base percentage up to .430. Kruk hit third in the lineup, creating plenty of RBI opportunities for Dave Hollins in the clean-up spot, Darren Daulton at No. 5, and the trio of Jim Eisenreich, Pete Incaviglia, and Wes Chamberlain in the No. 6 spot. The Phillies shocked the world in ’93, winning the NL East by three games over the Expos with a 97-65 record. They then dispatched the Braves in six games in the NLCS to advance to the World Series against the Blue Jays.

Kruk was productive in the NLCS, contributing six hits including a pair of doubles, a triple, a home run, four walks, five RBI, and four runs scored. But he turned things up a notch in the World Series, registering multi-hit performances in the first three games. He would finish the World Series with eight hits in 23 at-bats along with seven walks, four RBI, and four runs scored. The World Series was winnable for the Phillies as they lost a barnburner Game 4 15-14, and of course, dropped the deciding Game 6 on a World Series-clinching walk-off three-run home run by Joe Carter off of Mitch Williams.

1994 was tough on Kruk in many ways. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in spring training. Knee issues continued to bother him, and then Major League Baseball had a work stoppage. In an abbreviated season, Kruk hit a still-productive .823 OPS. He became a free agent and, when baseball came back, he signed with the White Sox. In the first inning of a July 30 game against the Orioles in ’95, Kruk singled to left field off of Scott Erickson. He reached first base, bowed to the fans, and walked off the field into retirement. Kruk told the media, “The desire to compete at this level is gone. When that happens, it’s time to go.”

Kruk has spent his post-playing days working in sports media as both a broadcaster (Phillies, ESPN nationally) and as a commentator (The Best Damn Sports Show Period, Baseball Tonight). The Phillies inducted him into their Wall of Fame in August 2011. One wonders if Kruk hadn’t been bit by the injury bug, and if there hadn’t been a work stoppage, if he might have been able to accrue some more numbers to have a borderline Hall of Fame case. Regardless, he’ll go down as one of the games’ quietly great hitters.