From True/Slant on October 7, 2009:
Pick a Baseball Bandwagon for the Postseason.
What’s that? You don’t have a team in the baseball playoffs, but you want to be able to guzzle beer at yon local Sports Bar like a pro? Here’s a handy rooting guide for fans without a dog in the hunt:
If you live some place like Pittsburgh or Baltimore, it’s probably a good idea to designate a fall-back team in April, one with at least a snowball’s chance in hell to make the post-season. The Yanks and Sox do not count. So pick from some other pool.
My friends will point to a litany of reasons to root against the Boston Red Sox, but their manager, Terry Francona is a strong check in their favor. First of all, Francona’s always a class act and he calmly stared down irate from Red Sox fans his first year to go with his gut. It’s amazing how a couple of World Series rings will shut people up. Francona has equanimity. That’s so appealing. (Also, on a personal note, Francona grew up a short distance from Pittsburgh and I heard it from a guy who heard it from another guy that he’s a good guy. That’s good enough for me.)
Then there’s Ron Gardenhire in Minnesota, who is one of the best managers in the bigs and does more with his puny payroll than anybody I can think of.
On the other end of the spectrum,
there is the insufferable Tony LaRussa. I personally hold LaRussa responsible for the lengthening of baseball games. Used to be that you could go and enjoy a game without any added stimulants, but now you need a Red Bull, a Double-Shot and one of those 5-hour energy things to get through a Cardinals game. If LaRussa were allowed to carry 27 pitchers on his roster, he would, just so that he could switch hurlers with every single batter from the first inning forward. Just to prove that he is a master tactician. Oof. Plus, he’s a lawyer.
The Big Star
Every team in the post-season is powered by at least one star.
Do you like Manny of Mannywood? Really? You do? Are you impaired in some way that I’m not aware of?
Maybe you prefer A-Rod. C’mon now. You’re joshing. Nobody likes A-Rod. Not even Yankees fans.
Or, even better, the unbelievable Joe Mauer with his gaudy batting average and reasonable salary. The guy has a huge upside.
I like a speed game, so I give my nod to Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins. But your mileage, as always, may vary.
Automatic demerits to any team that plays in a dome or on any surface other than normal, garden variety grass.
Then there are the aesthetics of the place. I’m a traditionalist. I love Wrigley. I love Fenway. I also love Dodger stadium and I hear good things about the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The altitude at Coors is nettlesome. Demerit. The new Yankee Stadium goes to the bottom of the pile for it’s heinous homer-vacuum to right field, and the even more heinous prices for field box seats.
You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. Uniforms are huge. Any uniform with a mish-mosh of fonts is anathema. Last year’s Devil Rays were guilty of all kinds of crimes of fashion in this regard. When it comes to uniforms, belted and old-timey is best. The Yanks, the Card and the BoSox are at the top of the list of any sartorially minded fan.
Do you think it’s ridiculous to spend TARP-like money on a baseball team? Well, put the Yanks at the bottom of your list and move the Minnesota Twins to the top of the pile for this one. Like I said, year in and year out, Gardenhire does more with less than anybody.
When it comes to football, I often root for the Saints, just because New Orleans is one of my favorite places on earth. There’s no reason the same ‘logic’ cannot be applied to baseball.
Do you hate New York traffic? Boston Baked Beans? Or Coors beer? Then move the Yanks, Sox and Rockies to the bottom of the list.
Is ‘Rocky’ your favorite movie and cheesesteaks your favorite hangover food? Clearly, you should haul your butt onto the Phillies bandwagon.
This is the most important category. It over-rides all other categories, domes and salaries be damned. Do you have a personal beef to pick with one (or more) of the remaining franchises?
Are you a Braves fan or a Padres fan? You don’t have to go far back to remember when the Yankees steam-rolled your team in the World Series.
If you live in Detroit, the wounds are very, very fresh, so you obviously won’t be rooting for the Twins.
Sports are all about teamwork and community building, but they are also about acrimony and resentment. So when all else fails, find your inner sports-hate ball and let it guide you.