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.

This Day in Transaction History: Padres pawn off James Shields

James Shields
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For a few years, starter James Shields was quite dominant. From 2011-14 with the Rays and Royals, the right-hander made a minimum of 33 starts each season with a 3.17 ERA. He peaked in ’11, finishing with a 2.82 ERA and finishing third in American League Cy Young balloting.

Shields leveraged that 2011-14 run into a four-year, $75 million contract with the Padres, inked in February 2015. It wasn’t an outright disaster of a contract for the Padres, but Shields did not live up to expectations. In his first year with the Padres, he posted a 3.91 ERA. Through the first two months of the 2016 season, Shields allowed 32 earned runs over 67 1/3 innings. The Padres, however, scored only 22 runs in his 11 games, so he was 2-7 after 11 starts. Shields also gave up one of the more memorable home runs in recent history on May 7, 2016:

On June 4, the Padres moved Shields and $27 million of the $58 million remaining on his contract to the White Sox. The White Sox gave up pitcher Erik Johnson and an infield prospect named Fernando Tatís Jr.

If the White Sox had a do-over button, they would have pressed it. Shields, 34 at the time of the trade, had a disastrous rest of the 2016 season, posting a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts for the White Sox. He finished out the remainder of his contract in Chicago, registering a 5.23 ERA in 2017 and a 4.53 ERA in ’18. Shields went into free agency but went unsigned and hasn’t pitched since.

Johnson flamed out after the 2016 season, yielding 20 runs in 19 2/3 innings in four starts for the Padres. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 and spent the ’18 campaign between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso.

Tatís, as we know now, was the jewel of the trade. The White Sox signed Tatís as a 16-year-old as a free agent. A year later, before he ever appeared in a professional game in the White Sox organization, he was moved in a big trade. While it took him a couple of years to appear on top-100 prospect lists, his talent was readily apparent. In 2017, Tatís spent most of his season with Single-A Fort Wayne. He accrued 26 doubles, 21 homers, 29 stolen bases, 69 RBI, and 78 runs scored in 518 trips to the plate. Going into the 2018 season, Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus each ranked him among the top-10 prospects in the game.

Tatís was off to another great start in 2018. Through 88 games, he had a .286/.355/.507 line with 22 doubles, 16 homers, 16 stolen bases, 43 RBI, and 77 runs scored spanning 394 plate appearances. Sadly, in mid-July, Tatís broke his left thumb and suffered ligament damage while making a head-first slide. He recovered from the injury, playing in the Dominican Winter League and having another strong performance over 23 games. Tatís followed that up with a productive spring training, giving the Padres only one choice. He began the season on the Opening Day roster and jumped out to become one of baseball’s best players.

Over his first 84 games as a major leaguer, Tatís batted .317/.379/.590 with 13 doubles, six triples, 22 home runs, 16 steals, 53 RBI, and 61 runs scored over 372 plate appearances. Baseball Reference put him at 4.1 Wins Above Replacement. Sadly, similar to 2018, Tatís suffered a season-ending injury, a stress reaction in his lower back. At the time, he was neck-and-neck with Pete Alonso and Mike Soroka in the NL Rookie of the Year race. The injury allowed Alonso to win the award in a landslide while Tatís finished third.

While the White Sox would have loved to have Tatís at third base, they did end up finding some quality players in Yoán Moncada at the hot corner and Tim Anderson at shortstop. The White Sox and their young corps are close to being competitive again, but having Tatís in tow certainly would have sped up the process. And the Padres likely never would have gotten Tatís if they hadn’t inked Shields first.