As has been the case in every postseason since the strike, neither of my rooting interests has appeared at the playoff prom.
I gotta cheer for somebody. Objectivity, ennui and baseball mix about as well as David Samson and pituitary glands. Generally there’s somebody, or something out there that catches my fancy, and I hitch my [band]wagon to that. For example, here have been my cheering patterns throughout the aughts:
2000: The small-market, small-budget A’s shrug off several years of mediocrity to challenge the big boys.
2001: Seattle Mariners have lost Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. Mariners continue to prove that baseball is a team game. They also acquired Ichiro Suzuki and John Olerud was on the roster, as well as the classy Edgar Martinez. An easy team for which to root.
2002: Speaking of shaking off the small-market blues—the Minnesota Twins return to the postseason for the first time since the early 1990s.
2003: Aw c’mon—Red Sox and Cubs both in the playoffs? Surely one (or preferably both) can shake off their decades-long October malaise. Thanks [in part] to Grady Little and Steve Bartman, neither team made it to the Fall Classic.
2004: Rooting for an ALCS rematch. Got it, Red Sox end long drought. Finally one of my horses cross the finish line.
2005: The Astros just won’t die in the regular season and [first two rounds of the] playoffs. White Sox have iconic Frank Thomas seemingly at the end of the line. Neither had won a World Series since Babe Ruth had become a Yankee. (It should be noted that the Astros had a better excuse.) Was happy for the White Sox, saddened for the never-say-die Astros.
After spending a good chunk of the year as a weekly guest on The Mike Gill Show rapping about the Phillies (among other things, such as the CFL), I began to develop an affinity for the club and was rooting hard for them to cop the Wild Card.
Alas it was not to be.
This year there are so many compelling storylines that I’m not sure who to throw my cheers behind. Here is what I’m watching in these year’s playoffs: (Hey, if you didn’t care what I think then why are you here? Oh? To point and laugh? Okay, carry on)
New York Mets
Although Tom Glavine has had enough October exposure I’ve always been a big fan of his and was probably among the first to start trumpeting his Hall of Fame credentials. (Then again folks will tell you I‘ve always had an itchy trigger-finger.) It’s terrific to see Carlos Delgado finally reach a postseason. It’s a shame he couldn’t get there in Toronto, but I’m looking forward to seeing how he’ll perform on baseball’s biggest stage. And of course how can you not cheer for Old Man River himself: 47-year-old wonder geezer Julio Franco.
St. Louis Cardinals
Whenever I watch Chris Carpenter pitch, I remember that there used to be a Chris Carpenter who pitched for Toronto. They were twins, much like Jose and Ozzie Canseco; one was good, one couldn’t pinch-hit for the love child of Rey Ordonez and Venus DeMilo. As to the Carpenters: One is an ace pitcher and Cy Young winner for the St. Louis Cardinals, the other was a cross between Matt Young and Anthony Young and he pitched for the Blue Jays. Invariably when somebody dares remind me that they are indeed one and the same person I vent my frustration on my cat. Suffice it to say I don’t like watching Carpenter much at all, and quite frankly my cat isn’t real fond of him either.
Having said that, being forced to open a six pack of Torquemadaen whoop ass on my cat is a small price to pay to watch Albert Pujols bat in the playoffs, or during the regular season, or during spring training, or … well you get the picture.
San Diego Padres
Twice World Series bridesmaids. They have some terrific players who have yet to enjoy the long dog pile of the season: Mike Piazza, Mike Cameron, Brian Giles, and of course, former Blue Jay Woody Williams. I loved watching him pitch—for six innings anyway. Other than fans of the opposing team, anybody else not want to hear “Hell’s Bells” played in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series? Hard to believe that Trevor Hoffman was acquired back in 1993 in the Padres’ fire sale trade of Gary Sheffield to the Marlins.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Yeah, I know he can be a bit of a pinhead. Despite that I’ll always have a soft spot for Jeff Kent. He was traded to the Mets along with Ryan Thomson for David Cone back in 1992, which led to the Jays’ first title. He acquitted himself well in his brief stint with the Blue Birds (109 OPS+) and has gone on to a career that will probably land him in Cooperstown. He got a ring with the Jays, but he’s never enjoyed an October-ending champagne shower, and although he’d probably deny enjoying it, I think he would. I’m also rooting for Greg Maddux to cop a second ring, and I’ve always been a big fan of Kenny Lofton, who is enjoying a solid age-39 season. The well-traveled Lofton is playing for his eighth team since 2001 (Indians, White Sox, Giants, Pirates, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies and Dodgers). Lofton has a pretty sizeable playoff monkey on his back as well. In 17 postseason series (336 AB), he’s .250/.322/.354 (although he has swiped 32 bases in 37 attempts). It would be nice to see him have a monster postseason and win some jewelry.
New York Yankees
Well, the Phillies have a couple of representatives in the Fall Classic. One of them is a guy I’ve loved watch play for a long time—Bobby Abreu. I was thrilled when he won the Home Run Derby at last year’s All-Star Game, because it finally gave a criminally underappreciated player some much deserved attention. Hopefully he’ll get a lot more positives happening to him this October. As always, I find it very difficult to root against Bernie Williams. Of all the people in the major leagues I’ve had the privilege of meeting, he and Cito Gaston were by far the classiest. I wouldn’t cry to see one-for-the-thumb for the hopefully future Hall of Famer.
Let’s see: watching Johan Santana’s magic is always fun. Remember when everybody slagged the Twins for taking Joe Mauer in the amateur draft over Mark Prior? Who’s laughing now? Justin Morneau is Canadian and everybody loves Canadians, right? Speaking of the Great White North, it would be nice to see Rondell White (Expos) and Shannon Stewart (Blue Jays) walk away with the big prize. This could be Brad Radke’s final hurrah, and he’s determined to make it a memorable one. Probably the most important thing is how much fun it is to say Boof Bonser. Boof Boof Boof Boof. Ou est la boof?
Of course by the time this makes copy the Twins might be history.
Boof Boof Boof Boof.
After suffering through the 1989 ALCS and, to a lesser extent the 1992 LCS, I find it hard to view the A’s as an underdog. After all, I’ve seen them in the postseason 15 times in my life winning six pennants and four World Series. They’ve had a rough time, however, in October in the aughts having yet to survive the division series, losing four times in the deciding fifth game. It’s immortalized A’s GM Billy Beane’s remark that his [ca ca] doesn’t work in the playoffs. It would be nice to see this edition of the A’s shake the monkey off its back—all the more so with a resurgent Frank Thomas on the roster (with apologies to Don Mounce).
Boof Boof Boof Boof.
The Toronto Blue Jays’ epic collapse in 1987 began on September 24, in the third inning in Toronto. In the top of the third inning, Bill Madlock singled to left. Kirk Gibson came up and hit a grounder to second baseman Nelson Liriano, who flipped the ball to shortstop Tony Fernandez. There was a collision and Fernandez’s season was done. So were the Blue Jays. On October 4 in Detroit, Larry Herndon drove the final nail in the Jays’ coffin off Key with a second-inning home run that was the only run of the game. The Tigers went to the ALCS and Toronto went home.
Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Regardless, before 1977 the Tigers were my AL rooting interest. I spent many happy times at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. I read some of the funniest critiques (heck funniest anything) about the 1990s Tigers from an internet poster known only as “pure bull.” Tigers fans have suffered enough. They had the Randy Smith era. They had Milt Cuyler in center field. They had pitchers named Walt Terrell, Sean Bergman and Mike Moore. They had the whole Juan Gonzalez debacle. They deserve some fun. Let the Tabbies roar!
Boof Boof Boof Boof.