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Who should you root for in the postseason?


We have two games and a lot to decide today, but we know all ten playoff teams, so let’s do what we always do on this day-after-the-season-ends and try to figure out who to root for this postseason.

As usual, if your favorite team is in the postseason, you root for them. That’s simple. For the first time in several years that gives me a clear #1 in the Atlanta Braves, for whom I will root unless and until they are eliminated. Which, if I were a betting man I’d say is “four games into the NLDS because I’m a pessimist about such things” but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. The real question comes when your team is not in the postseason. What then, man?

Here’s my hierarchy and my explanation for each. And before you say a thing about it, yes, this is subjective as hell, often petty, often unfair and laden with decades of resentment and irrationality I have developed as a baseball fan. And that’s fine, because that’s exactly what sports rooting is all about.

1. Atlanta Braves: I’ve been rooting for this laundry for over 30 years and I’m too old to stop now. Even if it wasn’t for the laundry, though, there would be quite a bit to root for here, though. Ronald Acuña is the brightest young talent in the game. Freddie Freeman is going to be the answer to the “who was the most overlooked superstar of the twenty-teens?” question when it’s asked a decade or two from now. Obviously the Tomahawk Chop is a turnoff, though. It’s dumb and racist and I hate it and it’s probably enough for every single person who is not a decades-long Braves fan to root against them and, frankly, I don’t blame a single one of you for doing so.

2. Oakland Athletics: Their payroll is loose change, their ballpark is a medieval torture chamber and everyone expected them to lose like 90 games or more this year, yet here they are. We’re a big fan of rooting for underdogs in this house, so this underdog will be rooted for as long they are alive. Really, unless your team is playing them, you have no excuse not to root for them.

3. Milwaukee Brewers: Obviously a talented team who many expected to challenge for the playoffs this year, but historically speaking they’re still an underdog of sorts. They don’t have a World Series title and only have one pennant. Milwaukee baseball fans deserve it. I’ll probably root against Josh Hader, though. I’m still rather annoyed about that whole “high school Twitter-gate” thing so many players got caught up in this past summer. It’ll keep me from being enthused about Sean Newcomb too. If the Brewers can win in spite of Hader and the Braves in spite of Newcomb, I’d be fine with that.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers: They should totally be below the Rockies and Indians based on my underdog tendencies, but I have a weird thing for the Dodgers and have generally treated them like a secondary rooting interest for several years now. I wear a Dodgers cap a lot. I watch a lot of Dodgers games. I really, really love their ballpark, both in person and on TV. I have some good friends who are Dodgers fans and I want them to be happy. My kids have largely let baseball go, but they still ask about them sometimes based on an odd, temporary fandom they had a few years back. It’s complicated. I totally get why everyone else would want them to lose today AND lose the Wild Card game and be gone, though.

5. Colorado Rockies: All the same reasons as the Brewers, even if they have a shorter history. Bonus reason: if we ever get a snowed-out World Series game — real snow, like six inches, not that spitting crap we had in Philly back in 2008 — it’s gonna be because of a Coors Field World Series game. We should all want that, even if it means people would haul out their dusty old “Neutral World Series Site NOW!” columns from a few years back. Bring it, old men. I still have my dusty old “A Neutral World Series Site is DUMB” columns from then too and I can copy and paste faster than you.

6. Cleveland Indians: I’m happy Chief Wahoo will be gone starting next year, but I’m all for hastening the end of his time on my TV during baseball games. Sorry Cleveland, I know a 70-year drought sucks, but as you know better than anyone, there’s always next year. Do it next year with some better uniforms. Another reason not to root for Cleveland comes from my living in the Midwest and really, really hating that “root for the struggling city” dynamic which is oh so common in recent years — see whatever is written about Detroit, basically always — and which I find condescending and counterproductive. A sports championship doesn’t “save” a city or solve any of its problems no matter how many times Joe Buck says otherwise and I really don’t wanna hear that noise.

7. Houston Astros: They’re not this low because of Roberto Osuna‘s presence and the Astros’ front office’s extraordinarily disappointing explanations for picking him up which tried, badly, to cover for the fact that they treated domestic violence as an arbitrage opportunity, but it sure doesn’t help. Nah, they’re mostly this low because, as a rule, I don’t root for repeats. You shouldn’t either. It leads to insufferable commentary — after a year or two of great play, commentators get bored with giving hat tips to baseball talent and move on to claiming that superior character is why teams win a lot — and there’s enough insufferable commentary out there. Give me parity and attributing winning baseball to good baseball players and leave the myth-making out of it.

8. Instantaneous Heat Death of the Universe: Look, we’re all going to die one day, so is it not better that it happens in a massive cataclysm in which we all go together rather than have us all die off piecemeal? And wouldn’t it be better for that to happen before another Yankees, Red Sox or Cubs World Series championship? I tend to think so. I mean, yes, death is not a thing I’m looking forward to, but I might take it before some other “zany” Joe Maddon motivational stunt. In your heart you know I’m right.

9. Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs: If they’re your teams, great, have fun with ’em. Just don’t be surprised if no one else gets on your bandwagon.

Have fun this October, folks! And be careful out there.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Where we stand:

  • The Brewers and Cubs both won, giving them each a half-game boost over the Phillies and a full game boost over the Mets, who lost, but keeping the status quo between themselves. Chicago has a one-game lead over Milwaukee for the second Wild Card and a five-game lead over both New York and Philly;
  • The Nationals lost to the Cardinals, reducing their lead for the top spot in the Wild Card race to a half game. We’ve sort of assumed for a couple of weeks that they were a lock at the top but, know what? They’re not;
  • The Twins put a half-game more on their lead over the idle Indians in the AL Central, making the margin five;
  • The Rays and Indians both had the night off while the Athletics lost, putting the Rays a game and a half behind the A’s in second and first, respectively, in the AL Wild Card race while Cleveland trails Tampa Bay by one and a half.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 5, Orioles 2: When I did yesterday’s recap I didn’t realize that this was a wraparound series and none of you corrected me so I guess that tells ya how this matchup rates in our collective consciousness. Jordy Mercer hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Victor Reyes hit a two-run double in the second to help Detroit earn the split.

Brewers 5, Padres 1: Corey Spangenberg spent five years with the Padres before this season but he set any residual loyalties aside while facing his old comrades, driving in three runs, including a tie-breaking, two-run triple in the fourth inning. Zach Davies, meanwhile, allowed one run over five and the Milwaukee pen held San Diego scoreless for the final four innings. The Brew Crew has won ten of eleven.

Twins 5, White Sox 3: The Sox took an early 2-0 lead but those were the only two runs Twins starter José Berríros allowed while pitching into the eighth inning. Jorge Polanco hit a sacrifice fly and Nelson Cruz knocked an RBI single in the second to tie things up and Mitch Garver‘s RBI double in the fifth put the Twinkies ahead for good. They didn’t hit a homer in this one. I hope they feel OK.

Cardinals 4, Nationals 2: Marcell Ozuna drove in all four of the Cardinals runs with a two-run homer and a two-run double. He also nailed a runner at home plate in the fourth to keep the Nats from tying things up:

The Nationals are looking over their shoulder and seeing the possibility of three NL Central teams making the postseason while they’re on the outside looking in. Not saying it’s gonna happen, but it could.

Cubs 8, Reds 2: Kyle Schwarber hit a three-run homer and Nicholas Castellanos hit a two-run double while five Cubs relievers tossed five and two-thirds scoreless innings. Schwarber — who we have always identified with stellar defense, right? — also made this diving catch:

Rockies 9, Mets 4: Rockies pitcher Antonio Senzatela hit a tying, two-run single in the fourth after which Trevor Story, a far more usual offensive contributor, smacked a three-run homer to blow things open for Colorado. In all the Rockies roughed up Steven Matz for seven runs on six hits in four innings. Before that single, Senzatela had been 0-for-44 on the year.  Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil each homered in a losing cause for New York.

Diamondbacks 7, Marlins 5: Robbie Ray pitched five and two-thirds innings of no-hit ball and left the game after allowing only one run in six innings. Once he was gone, however, the Fish put up a five-spot in the top of the seventh to come back from being down 3-0. Their lead didn’t last long as the Snakes put up a four-spot in their half of the seventh, including a bases-clearing three-run double by Jake Lamb, to give themselves back the lead and, ultimately, the game. Lamb also knocked in the game’s first run while being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the first. There are easier ways to get an RBI but whatever works, right?

Royals 6, Athletics 5: The A’s six-game winning streak comes to an end thanks to some late inning heroics by Royals batters. Specifically, Brett Phillips hit a tying home run off Liam Hendricks in the ninth after which Adalberto Mondesí hit an RBI double to put Kansas City on top. That Mondesí double isn’t an RBI if not for the fact that, one batter earlier, Whit Merrifield reached second thanks to a Ramón Laureano letting the ball simply pop out of his glove. Oops.