If you're anything like me, October Baseball usually means that you're sorta hiding from the reality of a lot of games going on that don't involve the Mariners. It's a hard reality, but a reality nonetheless, that a handful of successful teams get to fill the heads of their respective fan bases with dreams of champagne locker rooms and weird uses of Oakley goggles. When you're on the outside looking in, it can be hard to look in at all. To help guide your wandering soul, the crew at Lookout Landing has provided their particular bandwagon for the postseason, just in case you were in need of a little push.
Me, personally, I'm cheering on Cleveland. It's a town that I know absolutely nobody from, which bears absolutely no weight on my life due to it being quite sad and quite far away and never covered. A Cleveland World Series win will be forgotten in a matter of days, and then we just move on.
I gotta be honest with you. There's a tiny part of me that kind of wants to see how far this whole thing can go. But whatever, a winning Cubs postseason run would be good TV. I mean think about it for a minute: do you honestly want a Giants-Red Sox World Series? No! Just imagine the final game of the NLDS at Wrigley--cuts to the Bartman seat, an interview with some 102-year-old lady who wasn't even alive the last time they won it all. That's my shit.
More Importantly, a Cubs victory would solve a serious quandary for those of us who unashamedly are attracted to the #narrative: I want the Mariners to beat the bad guys when it finally happens. And unless Rob Manfred finally gets back to me about my proposal to move the Rangers to the NL, we might as well make sure everyone over there has the chance to turn into the 2007 Boston Red Sox before we do.
At the risk of climbing aboard a bandwagon already creaking with the weight of a million deep dish pizzas stuffed into Kris Bryant jerseys, I will be supporting the Cubs, for one reason, and one reason alone: Michael Paul Montgomery. As a Mariners fan, there is little left for me in the postseason except the bittersweet satisfaction of knowing I was right about that being a horrible trade, and seeing MiMo pitching in the World Series is the only way to pay off the agony of watching three months' worth of the bullpen struggling to put together anything resembling competent long relief (let alone the spot starts MiMo could have provided), Pat Venditte be called upon as a lefty specialist, and the final punctuation of Vogelbach striking out to end the Mariners' last game of the 2016 season. My ideal scenario: Aroldis Chapman blows a save, and MiMo comes to the rescue. Ultimately, I am a small person, and we take our small joys. Go Cubs.
I will be rooting for the Mets this postseason.
Given that I'm attending a school on Long Island, I'm surrounded by Mets fans. The fandom has somewhat rubbed off on me, in the sense that I have unofficially claimed the Mets as my National League team. They're a fun team in the sense that they're kind of the Mariners of the NL. Both squads have been lacking in terms of recent success but have become semi-interesting in the past couple of seasons. The Mets are built on the back of a terrific pitching staff and a mediocre offense, much like the M's have been recently.
Should the Mets be eliminated, I've got a couple of backup plans. My girlfriend grew up a Nationals fan. My parents grew up as diehard Cubs fans and my sister still is one. I have a lot of reasons to be interested in various teams. As a result, there's a pretty good chance that I'll be rooting for the National League team in the World Series. Just anyone but the Rangers, Dodgers, and Giants please.
(Editor's note: DERS we are so sorry that your #1 backup team failed to make it out of the Wild Card round. It's such a shame. Hopefully you're able to quickly find something to replace the baseball-shaped void in your soul until spring training starts up. I hear that shuffleboard is a nice way to make new friends.)
My mother and her family grew up just outside of Chicago. They were raised as Cubs' fans, and my uncle Fred was actually featured in an SI story on the Cubbie faithful during their last period of playoff relevance.
Beyond the personal connection, this team is great to watch. Personality-rich pitchers, powerful hitters 1-9, and some of the sharpest uniforms in the league. Those threads grace one of the most unique and storied stadiums in professional sports. Yes, Joe Maddon's smartypants shtick is exasperating, but before the trade deadline this would have been an easy non-M's choice. Unfortunately this team went out of its way to acquire Aroldis Chapman, and spiked most of the enthusiasm I had for them in the dirt.
The first few rounds of the NL playoffs are full of teams I have a mild affinity for, other than the goddamn Giants, making the march to the World Series interesting, but tough to differentiate. Of that group, the Dodgers are the most attractive to me. Rooting for a Seager, an ace pitcher with little playoff success despite a legacy of regular season greatness, a strong Japanese #2 starter with spectacular movement on his pitches, and an exciting Cuban outfielder makes this team feel a bit like home. My feelings on the AL's options range from simmering resentment from the 90s & early 2000s (Cleveland) to unbridled loathing (all of the other teams). Unless Chapman is rendered unable to play, I will be unable to endorse their curse-breaking bullet train. Hopefully the West Coast's only tolerable representative will joyfully romp to an exciting Fall Classic victory.
This postseason I'll be eschewing my usual underdog tendencies and cheering on the boys in Dodger blue, mainly for the sake of family. On a personal level, my family lived in southern California for the better part of a century, and the Dodgers are a big part of why I grew up loving baseball. On a less personal, but still family-related level, I like Kyle Seager, and the rest of his butt wiggling North Carolina clan, and Corey is (incoming blasphemy) even more talented than Kyle. Beyond all that, watching Yasiel Puig play in this shifting era of baseball acceptance is like feeding a single third grader massive amounts of sugar, and then letting him loose in the classroom. He infuriates some, he entertains others, and watching it all happen is such a joy*. Other pro-Dodgers rooting rationale includes, but is not limited to, the fact that we should thank them for returning Hisashi Iwakuma to his rightful home (practice appreciation, not ha-ha-tricked-them gloating), and that they will be starting a tall guy named Clayton Kershaw, who's pretty good at throwing a baseball.
*If you choose to root for the Dodgers with me, don't hope for too much postseason success from Puig. We want to keep his value nice and low, so Jerry doesn't have to give up too much to get him in the offseason.
Picking a team to root for is hard. The Rangers are a rival, and the Blue Jays are easy to hate (though I am indifferent towards them). The Nationals and Dodgers are just rich smelly buttholes, and we don't need any more Giants in our lives. So, I am rooting for a club in the Central, and I have chosen the Cubs. Yes, the Cubs are a juggernaut and their fans are annoying, but I respect the way they've been built. While there's plenty of money floating around the club, the core was acquired either on the cheap, the draft, or through smart trades. It's time to end The Curse of the Billy Goat and move on to The Curse of Jake Arrieta's Decaying Shoulder.
Los Angeles Dodgers
I spent the first twenty-four years of my life in Southern California and grew to hate roughly 95.8% of it (you're cool, San Diego), but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't rooting a little harder for the Dodgers to win the whole damn thing over everyone else. I have several family members who cheer for the Dodgers. I have an endless amount of friends who cheer for the Dodgers. Watching them gush and reminisce during the final days of Vin Scully: broadcaster made me reflect on all the hours of my youth that were spent doing homework or playing video games with the Dodgers game soothingly acting as background noise. Whether I intended to or not, I grew up with the Dodgers and watching them win the World Series in Vin Scully's final season would pull at my heartstrings slightly more than watching Josh Donaldson and that stuff he calls hair lift up a trophy. Honestly, as long as neither the Rangers or Blue Jays win, I'll be content. That being said, Puig is indeed my friend.
The Boston Red Sox
There's a scene in Blues Brothers 2000 where Police Commander Cabel Chamberlin is in hot pursuit of the Blues Brothers Band to arrest them for their various crimes. Elwood went to Cabel earlier in the film to offer him a spot in the band because Cabel was the offspring of their surrogate father, Curtis Blues. Cabel refuses initially but eventually, he tracks down the band at a church where James Brown is giving the sermon and when he speaks he indirectly tells Cabel he should join the band because of the "Calling of the Blood" It ends in a musical number and I'm the only one that loves this movie.
What I'm trying to tell you is that I have family in Weymouth, Somerville and their surrounding areas and try as I might to not like the Boston Red Sox, it's the calling of my blood.
The Red Sox are a little more fun now than in recent years. Ortiz's farewell tour hasn't been nearly as exhausting as Rivera's or Jeter's, and Porcello has done wonders for my fantasy team. Plus, they're not a bunch of overpaid jabrones on the team. Betts, Bogaerts and JBJ are young guys that came up through the system and have actually paid off, no pun intended. Plus, after the Cubs win, Red Sox Nation will go back to being the second most insufferable fanbase in Major League Baseball.
Before we start out with a few words about who I am rooting for, it might be easier to discuss who I am not rooting for: Toronto (a bunch of drunken Canadian morons who deserve nothing less than to be locked forever in their cold, cold, cold country); Texas (as much as I would love to see Adrian Beltre win a World Series at some time in his life I can't root for an AL West foe); Boston (yeah I get it, Big Papi's final season, but lest we forget, these are the epitome of masshole fans we are talking about); Washington (only two teams in the MLB have never been in the World Series: Washington and the Mariners, so the hell I want us to be in that sad stat by ourselves); L.A. (seriously, the Dodgers can go to hell quicker than most teams can); San Francisco (I have too many tired Bay Area friends who love nothing more than pointing out how their mediocre at best team wins on even years); and finally, Chicago (I don't care about the curse, even though the Cubs have been one of the best teams in baseball all year long, they don't deserve it over the team that does).
So now that the teams I dislike out of the way, here is the team I'd like to see win the 2016 World Series: Cleveland (because I have family that lives there, and come on, that city has had a rough sports life, maybe a couple of championships in the same year will lift the spirits for the next 60 years).
I'm having a hard time figuring out who to root for this postseason—for me the grief is still too near. I can tell you who I'm not rooting for. Definitely not the Rangers because you never root for a rival. Not Toronto because Canada. Certainly not the Red Sox because they've had their moment and their fans are already annoying enough. Not the Cubs because no one likes the favorite. The Nationals? Boring. No one outside of LA willingly roots for an LA team (also #beatLA). The Indians could be fun but then I remember what Ichiro had to say about Cleveland. I guess that leaves the Giants, and since its an even year, you can't root against science. I think I'll just root for good, fun baseball.
From a RATIONAL perspective, I feel like it's important to bandwagon on a team that's at least somewhat of an underdog. There are lots of different metrics a person could use to try and determine a team's underdog status, but I've opted to use MONEY as my main figure of merit. (I imagine many of the folks who rooted against the Evil Empire in the '90s can identify with the logic of not picking a high-salary team as your secondary rooting interest.) Below is a graph showing the payrolls for the eight remaining playoff teams and their payroll ranks in MLB.
(Payroll numbers are from spotrac.com, which is maybe a reputable source?)
From this graphic, it's pretty clear that rooting for the Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs, or Giants is particularly inadvisable. It's also quite obvious that Cleveland is at the biggest disadvantage when it comes to dollar dollar bills (y'all). Cleveland has zero players making more than $9M. In contrast, the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs have nine, eight, and seven such players, respectively. That is quite a discrepancy. Simply put, I think it's a bit less fun to root for a team that goes out and buys a large portion of their talent.
Additionally, I also have an EMOTIONAL attachment to Cleveland's baseball club. My grandparents live in Oberlin, OH (about 40 minutes SW of Cleveland) and when I was wee my family would visit them every other summer. I went to many games at Jacob's Field back when that team was good (I have a special spot in my heart for Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome, and Charles Nagy) and it was always such an amazing time. On top of that, Cleveland's current roster is full of fun, amazing, compelling players. Their rotation might be the second most dynamic in the league (behind the Mets), they have the very best young player in the AL playing shortstop for them, and their ~best hitter is a catcher turned first baseman who Terry Francona hit in the leadoff spot for more than half of the season. Such crazy fun! I can kind of understand why people might be tempted to root for the Cubs or the Dodgers in the playoffs this year, but for me the choice is clear. Go, Cleveland!