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
- 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.
- You should not root for a team from your own team’s division.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.