Two weeks ago, as it became more and more clear that September baseball in San Diego would have no actual meaning beyond soaking in the last few rays of summer and attending Beer Fest, I poised the question: “what NL team are you jumping on the bandwagon of?”
In fairly overwhelming fashion, the Pittsburgh Pirates ran away with that vote, garnering more than half of all of the responses. The Pirates, for their part, have responded by maintaining a slim lead in the NL Central and securing their first non-losing season since Crystal Pepsi was on the shelf.
The second more popular response? “Screw the NL, I’m going AL!” A decent amount of you are foregoing your NL roots this year and hitching your star to the DH. But who in the AL is worthy of your half-hearted rooting interest? As before, we will break it down Pro and Con style. Teams within 5 games of a playoff spot are eligible.
1) Texas Rangers (1st in AL West, 0.5 games up)
Pro: Lose Hamilton, Wilson, and back-to-back World Series in dramatic fashion? No problem. Blow a large division lead in 9 days? Brushed aside. If nothing else, the Rangers have been resilient these past few years. Rooting for Texas means you get to watch Yu Darvish do his thing, Ian Kinsler do his thing, and a ton of offensive firepower.
Con: But…you are rooting for a team from Texas. And Ron Washington’s (ahem) “style” of managing. More importantly, they’ve had their time, they had their shot. How many more at-bats does this team get?
2) Oakland A’s (2nd in AL West, 0.5 games back)
Pro: Small market teams unite! This is your David vs the Goliaths of MLB. They have a small payroll, they have guys you may not have heard of, they play in a stadium that is never full. But man are they fun to watch. This is the team you root for if you want a West Coast team but can’t stomach rooting for LA with the added bonus of rooting for a financial underdog.
Con: Of the Bay Area cities, you can do better. Way better. Plus, who are these guys? And what is that logo? An elephant balancing on a ball? Is that supposed to be athletic?
1) Detroit Tigers (1st in AL Central, 6.5 games up)
Pro: It’s always fun rooting for absolute, pure talent and Miguel Cabrera is that. We could argue whether or not he is the best player in baseball but there seems to be little argument that he is the best hitter in baseball. Justin Verlander (of the “What Might Have Been Padres”) is must watch tv but is also mending a broken heart after his break up with Kate Upton (that would take awhile for anyone to get over). And Detroit could use some good news.
Con: It’s a big money team that’s been there before. Nothing wrong with that per se but it’s just…boring. We’ve seen the Tigers in the World Series as recently as last year. They basically have had a stranglehold on the Central for the past few years and it’d be nice to see someone else for a change.
2) Cleveland Indians (2nd in AL Central, 3.0 games back in Wild Card)
Pro: The Indians are the Midwest Padres except they aren’t. What do I mean? Similar market size, similar payrolls, similar media contracts. Except the Indians spent their off-season adding to a core group of players by signing Michael Bourn and trading for Drew Stubbs. Vocal Minority talked about this back in the off-season and the plan is close to working. Plus, imagine all of the “Major League” references you can make!
Con: The Indians are throwing Scott Kazmir tonight. In a huge game (they all are at this point) the Indians are turning the ball over to Scott. Kazmir. Yikes. Basically, the pitching leaves a bit to be desired. And that’s a tough thing to root for into October.
3) Kansas City (3rd in AL Central, 4.5 games back in Wild Card)
Pro: Hooray for small market underdogs! Basically the Pirates of the American League, the Royals haven’t been this relevant this late into the season in what feels like forever. The Royals are finally seeing their efforts in the draft pay dividends.
Con: If you hated the Wil Myers trade then rooting for the Royals is not for you. Because the more success the Royals have, the more that trade looks like the right move for Kansas City. At least in the short-term. Or maybe the constant booing of Curtis Granderson at last year’s ASG turned you off. On the other hand, maybe that should be a pro?
1) Boston Red Sox (1st in AL East, 6.5 games up)
Pro: I don’t know…Jake Peavy? Maybe you’re a big Neil Diamond fan? I don’t know, it’s the Red Sox.
Con: Fever Pitch. Sense of entitlement. JAKE PEAVY IN A RED SOX UNIFORM!
2) Tampa Bay Rays (2nd in AL East, 1st in WC)
Pro: As well run of an organization as there is out there. Basically the team most Padres fans wish the Padres were. Trade James Shields? Don’t skip a beat. And if you like rooting for hot shot rookies but can’t get behind Puig mania, may I introduce you to Wil Myers? The guy doesn’t even use batting gloves! And what a head of hair!
Con: Tropicana is a terrible place to play baseball in. Perhaps Joe Maddon is a bit too eccentric for your palette. I don’t know. There’s not much here to hate.
3) New York Yankees (3rd in AL East, 2.5 games back of Wild Card)
Pro: Mariano Rivera. End of list.
Con: Everything else. Basically the team that you either love or hate. And most hate for good reason. Blamed for exploding the free agent market, they are the example of financial inequality in baseball. Alex Rodriguez.
4) Baltimore Orioles (4th in AL East, 3.0 games back of Wild Card)
Pro: They’ve proven that last year was not a fluke by continuing to play good baseball in 2013. Manny Machado (Yonder Alonso’s soon-to-be brother in law) is as fun a player to watch and root for as there is. Crab cakes! The Wire! Camden Yards!
Con: Not much. Except rooting for them is a vote against Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Cleveland.
So, there you have it. Make your pick!