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

Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK (AP) Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost four of five following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.