Who to root for in the postseason — National League

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We did the American League, now it’s the National’s turn. Same deal: if your favorite team is out, who do you root for and why? Same caveats:

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.

The options:

Washington Nationals

  • Why To Root For Them: I’d say Bryce Harper, but he hasn’t been a big factor this year. Same deal as Mike Trout in the AL, though: because it’d be good for a young superstar to break out in the postseason to erase all of the Jeter Mourning. Other reasons: There are certain types of people who like to root for the best team and, though there was no 100-win team in baseball this year, the Nats are arguably the best team going right now. They may have that 1990s Yankees thing about them too. No, they’re not as good as those teams, but they have the same sort of “hardly any weaknesses in the lineup” thing working right now, making them hard to pitch to. Again, if you’re in to that sort of “anyone can be a hero any given night” kind of vibe.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: You’re from Quebec and still hold grudges? You root for the Barves (this is a limited sub-category, I realize). You don’t like bandwagony fans. I mean, yes, the Nats have grown the fanbase since they’ve been there and been winning, but there is a still pretty healthy contingent of Washington fans who are newbies or who already shifted their allegiance to the Nats in recent years and perhaps you’re the type who thinks a fan base needs to endure more before they experience success. I think that’s a tad bitter, but I know a lot of you roll that way.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • Why To Root For Them:  I know this will be interpreted as hate, because all Cardinals fans interpret everything short of “GO CARDS!” as hate. But really, it’s hard to find a good reason to adopt the Cards if they’re not already your team. They’ve won a lot in recent years and they have the same fatigue factors working for them Detroit does. I guess you can appreciate how good Adam Wainwright is. I spent the World Series in St. Louis last season and I had a lot of fun and enjoyed my time there, so if you have something similar I suppose that’s something. But really, it’s hard to gravitate to a team that has been such a postseason fixture in recent years. Their struggles this year notwithstanding, if you adopt the Cardinals you’re an overdog lover in some ways, and that’s never a good look.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: No matter what you think of the whole Best Fans In Baseball thing (Cards fans tell you that’s a myth perpetrated by haters, even though that is clearly not the case) they really don’t need anyone else’s help.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Why To Root For Them: Andrew McCutchen is another in that “amazing young stars” group with Harper and Trout who can be baseball’s next big face, and we need that, just to shut everyone up. It helps that he’s amazing to watch play too. If you’re the analytical type, the Pirates have just as good a claim to being the next sabermtric darling team as anyone. Baseball isn’t random enough, so why not root for a team who has Edinson Volquez lined up as its number one playoff starter right now?
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Remember in the late 80s through the mid 90s when Steelers fans were confined to Pennsylvania and you didn’t think much about them? Yeah, those were good times. Know a lot of Steelers fans now? Aren’t they awful and insufferable? Do you really want that to happen in baseball too?

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Why To Root For Them: If you can’t appreciate Clayton Kershaw there is no helping you. Puig is simultaneously another candidate for the young breakout star thing AND a guy you have to love if you love seeing crusty people who don’t enjoy flamboyant players and amazing fun get all bent out of shape. Indeed, you’re not just rooting for the Dodgers and Puig to win it in that case, you’re rooting for Puig to hit the go-ahead homer in Game 7 of the World Series, flip his bat and run the bases backwards, then ending the game in the bottom of the ninth on an off-balance, airmailed, miss-the-cutoff throw that still somehow nails the would-be tying run at home plate. After which he ascends into heaven with his tongue sticking out and the old double freed0m rockets aimed at the press box where Bill Plaschke sits, gasping for air.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: I don’t subscribe to anti-Los Angeles/Hollywood sentiment — I rather like L.A. for some reason — but I understand it, and if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like L.A. and all it stands for, I can see not liking the Dodgers. I can also see someone being that un-fun, Play The Game The Right Way person who allows their Puig Derangement Syndrome to get the best of them. There’s at least an outside chance that Brian Wilson has a big moment in a playoff game, and we’re all still trying to recover from 2010 and 2012, so I can totally see not wanting to see that.

San Francisco Giants

  • Why To Root For Them: Hunter Pence is just plain weird, and I mean that in the best way possible. If you can’t watch him hack at the plate and play defense and not smile at least a little bit you’re dead inside. Pablo Sandoval is on a nice streak of showing us, every other postseason, that you can love arepas and still be a world class athlete. Personally, I’m covering the World Series again this year and I would like to go back to that doctor who gave me the amazing drugs the last time I was in San Francisco.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Two World Series titles in the previous four years puts them in the Cardinals-Tigers fatigue category. Non-trivial chance that the existence of Buster Posey in the playoffs and the new plate collision rule will lead to multiple replays of the play that injured him back a few years ago and who the heck wants to see that.

 

So there you have it. You have until tomorrow evening to make your choice. Choose wisely.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.