So, if you’re not a fan of the Royals or Giants, who ya got?

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Before the playoffs started I talked about why you should or shouldn’t root for various teams if you have no dog in the fight. I feel like a couple of weeks of games and emerging storylines changes all of that a bit. We’ve gotten a different look at these teams through the postseason lens and our feelings may have changed. So I ask: if you’re not a Giants or Royals fan, who are you gonna root for in the World Series and why?

Here’s a possible calculus. Not all of the pros are things I necessarily care about and not all of the cons are things that actually bother me, but these are categories of things that encourage and/or bother some people, so let’s put it all out on the table.

GIANTS PRO:

  • I tend to favor the National League because I’m old and I remember when the leagues meant something;
  • Their history is hard to hate, what with guys like Mays, McCovey and others, all of whom were great but none of whom have been truly shoved down our throats like Yankees or Dodgers icons have. Add in Barry Bonds and all of the politics which surround him which, while a con for most people, is a big pro for me;
  • It’s not some star-studded team. They’re doing this without their two highest-paid players in Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum and another top-paid guy (for them) in Angel Pagan.
  • Bruce Bochy is a hell of a manager and in a day and age where teams have, for whatever reason, decided that managerial experience is meaningless, he is showing us all that, yep, experience matters.
  • They are clearly not the national, non-aligned favorite and there’s something good about separating yourself from the herd.
  • San Francisco is a way-cool city, maybe my favorite city in the country and while that probably shouldn’t matter much for baseball, dammit, I always have good associations with that place.

GIANTS CON:

  • Stars or not, they’ve been there. Three times in five years? Eh, give someone else a chance.
  • They’re an 88-win team and a second wild card. Embracing a Giants World Series victory means embracing not just the wild card, but the second wild card.
  • Giants fans. Look, I’m not going to put too fine a point on it as it’s a very small point in the grand scheme and doesn’t particularly bother me personally — and I’m certainly not going to overly-generalize, because it certainly does not apply to everyone — but based on my experiences at AT&T Park and based on what some of my friends in the Bay Area tell me, Giants fans aren’t uniformly the best or most-informed baseball fans around and, if you’re in to this sort of thing, maybe they haven’t quite earned it. There are a huge number of people who have come to San Francisco in recent years and gotten really good paying jobs and becoming a Giants fan is just as much part of that deal as jacking up the housing market is. So a big portion of Giants fandom — especially those who can afford season tickets in that park — are a tad, well, green. Hats off to the old timers who used to freeze in Candlestick and root for Shawn Estes and Glenallen Hill, but there are a lot of people who joined the bandwagon for Bonds’ big numbers, got off when he went away and then hopped back on in 2011, and maybe they could stand to suffer more before getting their third ring. It’s not a Cardinals thing in that I’ve never really met a smug or entitled Giants fan, but it’s something at least some of you either care about or have mentioned in comments before.
  • That’s really all I got in the cons. We all talked about being tired of the Giants and Cardinals in the NLCS, but I feel like the groaning at that was about 80-20 in terms of groaning about St. Louis.

ROYALS PRO:

  • They came (seemingly) out of nowhere and are trying to slough off 29 years of futility. Yes, that talking point has been beaten into the ground over the past few weeks, but that makes it no less true. Royals fans deserve this after so much crappy baseball and so many poorly-run Royals teams.
  • The defense, she is spectacular, and that should be rewarded. And say what you want about the tenets of power-driven, take-and-rake baseball, but all of the bunts and steals and crap are certainly interesting. I wouldn’t want my team doing that 162 games a year, and yes, sometimes the small ball makes us cringe, but it’s certainly true that we haven’t been able to look away.
  • Power bullpen arms are always awesome.
  • Kansas City is no San Francisco, but it’s a great city as well. At least it has been in my experience. And not just for the BBQ. I used to go there for work a lot and found it to be a really enjoyable place with nice people. As a Midwesterner, it’s hard not to have some love for the place.
  • Admit it: we’re all looking forward to IHOP or Denny’s signing Billy Butler to a national TV deal pitching “Country Breakfast” specials.

ROYALS CON:

  • The bandwagon is pretty full right now. I get why it is, but always beware of what the crowd is doing.
  • Ned Yost is, objectively, not a good manager and sometimes it’s really hard to see people fall into success despite themselves. This could be mitigated against if, as he sort of did during the ALCS, he shows that he’s learning from his mistakes on the fly, but it’s also possible Yost Yosts it up, the Royals nonetheless win and we’re stuck with a winter in which we’re subjected to “Ned Yost: smarter than you think” articles.
  • Related: a winter full of commentary about how the Royals are the new baseball paradigm and everyone should emulate them, blah, blah, blah, all the while ignoring the fact that, yo, this is still an 89-win team here.
  • Your girlfriend roots for an AL Central team that is not the Royals and if you root for them it could be bad for you for a week or two. (note: this may not apply to everyone).

THE VERDICT:

Man, I have no idea. It’s hard for me to hate either of these teams. I can’t unconditionally love one or the other, but neither is ire-inducing in any real way. We say “I just want to see a great, competitive World Series” all the time, but rarely is it actually true. We usually prefer one team over the other pretty sharply. But in this case I really can’t give one team an edge in the personal sentiment department.

It’s been a crazy, improbable and exciting postseason so far. More of that please, and let the chips fall where they may.

Braves sign Marcell Ozuna to one-year, $18 million deal

Marcell Ozuna
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The Braves have announced on Tuesday evening the signing of free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that it’s a one-year contract for $18 million.

Ozuna, 29, hit .241/.328/.472 with 29 home runs, 89 RBI, 80 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 549 plate appearances for the Cardinals last season. He’s been consistently above-average in each of the past four seasons, which also included a career year in 2017 in which he was worth 6.1 WAR, per Baseball Reference.

It is surprising that Ozuna, a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner, had to settle for a one-year deal. The Braves are happy he did as he will help make up for some of the offense lost when third baseman Josh Donaldson became a free agent and ultimately signed with the Twins. Ozuna can become a free agent again after the 2020 season but won’t have qualifying offer compensation attached to him, part of the reason why his market may have been slow to develop.

Along with Ozuna, the Braves have signed in free agency this offseason reliever Will Smith, starter Cole Hamels, and catcher Travis d'Arnaud. They re-signed relievers Chris Martin and Darren O'Day, catcher Tyler Flowers, infielder Adeiny Hechavarría, and outfielder Nick Markakis.