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

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.