Caps On!

And that’s a wrap. The MLB regular season ended yesterday and the playoffs start tomorrow with the American League Wild Card game.

That means it’s time for the annual guide to who to root for. Normally, this post would go up on Tuesday, but I thought I’d do it today so you have time to visit the sporting apparel venue of your choice to pick up a cap or shirt to highlight your rooting interest.

Those of you who root for teams that made the playoffs, congratulations and good luck. The rest of us–those who normally root for someone else and those who don’t usually follow baseball–are unbearably jealous.

As usual, let’s start with a recap of the rules.

Rules for Rooting, 2015 edition

  1. Unless it’s the team you follow during the regular season, you must not root for any team that has been promoted as “America’s Team” or otherwise held up by its owners and/or the media as the ultimate expression of the sport.
  2. You should not root for a team from your own team’s division.
  3. That said, you really ought to root for somebody from your own league. Crossing the league boundary without a really good excuse is in bad taste.
  4. Possession of team merchandise with sentimental value OR a history of following a favorite player from team to team trumps Rules Two and Three. It does not override Rule One.
  5. Teams with a record of futility or legitimate “misfit” credentials get bonus points in the decision process. What constitutes legitimate misfittery is up to you. Be honest with yourself.
  6. All other rules notwithstanding, you are always free to root for the Cubs. As I noted last year, this rule does make things a bit awkward, but–all Back to the Future jokes aside, next year’s rules will need some revision if the Cubs go all the way this year.

Got it all? Good. Here’s how it shakes out:

In the American League, the playoff teams are the Blue Jays, Yankees, Royals, Rangers, and Astros.

By Rule One, nobody but year-round Yankees fans may root for them in the playoffs.

Kansas City, of course, made it to the World Series last year before losing to the Giants, Texas played in the 2012 AL Wild Card, and Houston was the 2005 World Series loser. Toronto, however, ended MLB’s longest playoff drought–21 years–by winning the AL East.

Sentiment aside, that makes the Blue Jays the runaway choice for playoff-only fans and those who normally root for teams in the AL West or Central divisions. Non-Yankee AL East fans get the Astros, a fine dark horse.

Turning to the National League, the candidatesteams are the Mets, Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, and Dodgers.

Last year, I said that “if the media turn 25% of their collective attention elsewhere…the Dodgers will be readmitted to the ranks of the root-worthy.” That is the case, leaving us with no teams to eliminate from consideration under Rule One.

St. Louis, LA, and Pittsburgh all made the playoffs last year, which means the Rule Five decision comes down to Chicago (last playoff appearance in 2008) or New York (playoff-free since 2006).

Rule Six is optional, but the recent playoff appearances of the Cards, Dodgers, and Pirates tend to reinforce it. My ruling: If you don’t normally follow baseball, or follow a team in the NL West or Central, pull for the Mets. If you usually follow the Nationals, Marlins, Braves, or Phillies, it’s “Go Cubbies!”

The major media are salivating at the thought of another Subway Series (Yankees/Mets)–what could be better calculated to help them spread their opinion that civilization ends somewhere around the middle of the Hudson River.

The sensible among us, however, will be rooting for an International Series (Mets/Blue Jays). I’ve got a sentimental attachment (with cap!) to the Mets, so I’ll be pulling for them to go all the way, and–as usual and despite my qualms about November baseball–for the series to run seven games.

Until we get there, though, I invite you all to join me in front of the TV Tuesday to cheer the Astros as they try to knock the Yankees out of the playoffs in the first round.

6 thoughts on “Caps On!

  1. Thank you for the timely and necessary clarification and guidelines. I must add, however, a rule that may not mean anything to baseball fans under the age of, say, fifty: You may not root for teams that did not exist when you were a kid. That eliminates the Mets, and what the hell are the “Astros”? Teams that no longer play where they should be playing, like the Giants and the Dodgers, constitute a grey area. As a Giants fan, I clearly have no choice in the matter, but, since I contain multitudes, and also because they are our arch-rivals, the Dodgers will always be that Brooklyn team that has never really taken to its transplanting. This is why there is a soft spot in my heart for the legitimate “old time” teams- the Red Socks, the Cards, the Indians (Don’t start.), and, if forced to it, even the Yankees, as long as A-Rod is not playing. If this makes me a troglodyte, so be it. True baseball fans resist change. I dislike the new “challenges”, and if the strike zone comes to be defined by a computer, I will join the resulting violent uprising to sweep away the current apostates. Another subject, I know. Just needed saying.

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    • Hmm. I don’t think I can support the “No teams younger than you” rule. Aside from limiting the potential fanbase for the younger teams (say, Seattle, if they ever make it back to the playoffs), it raises the potential for nasty conflicts between the rules, especially in combination with your proposed relocation rule. Would it mean that nobody under twelve could root for the Nationals if they get into the playoffs next year? (Well, OK, the Nats are eliminated from consideration under Rule One, but you take my point, I’m sure.) Or, if the Athletics succeed in moving to San Jose, would they have to wait an entire generation to pick up playoff-only rooters? That seems unduly restrictive.

      Did I just kill my troglodyte credentials? I hope not–I’m on record as disapproving of automating the strike zone, and in favor of eliminating “in the vicinity” calls on double-plays (if replay forces second basemen to actually touch the bag before throwing the ball to first, I’d consider that a significant point in replay’s favor).

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    • PS: As for the Astros, they joined the NL in 1962, same as the Mets. Do they lose credibility as compared to their expansion mates because they changed their name in 1965 or because they moved to the AL in 2013?

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  2. By the way, per NPR, the “A’s moving to San Jose” thing appears to, finally, be dead. Now, maybe the A’s ownership will either get serious about building a new park in Oakland, or selling the team to people who are. As unpopular as this makes me, I have been kind of hoping for the A’s to leave, in hopes that they might be replaced by a Triple A team. Again, childhood nostalgia. Hopeless.

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    • Not dead, merely in abeyance. The Supreme Court declined to hear San Jose’s case, but the information I’ve seen suggests that may be because of flaws in San Jose’s attempt to make the land available to the stadium developer than to the merits of the actual issue (MLB’s ability to restrict teams from relocating).

      I do suspect, though, if the As moved to San Jose, the SJ Giants might head north. Maybe not to Oakland, but someplace close enough to lure some fans in. Might be interesting to see what increasing their fanbase might do for their budget and subsequently their minor league classification.

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