What do you do when your team is eliminated and baseball is moving on to the postseason?
In Chicago, this is almost never a hypothetical question.
The immortal Mike Royko would predict the loser of the World Series based on the statistically unsound yet forever intriguing Ex-Cub Factor (any team with more than 3 ex-Cubs was bound to lose….) But he would also choose a team to support based on which cities were in the playoffs. You could never root for New York, ever. But if it was a Rust Belt town against someplace sunny and bland, go with Pittsburgh over Atlanta every time.
Royko was Chicago’s greatest Cubs fan, so he went with his gut. For ChicagoSide, I aspire to be impartial: I know how I’d sort the teams as a Cubs fan, but what about our Sox fan readers? I try to imagine what it’s like to be inside the head of a Sox fan:
…everything gets dark…what’s that smell?…steel mills and stockyards, Old Spice and Parliament Lights…Get me out of here!
It’s simple: whatever Cubs fans root against, Sox fans root for, and whatever Cubs fans root for, Sox fans root against. I’ll try to sort all of this out below. I’ll factor in the cities, their food and their politics, and baseball history in making my rooting recommendations.
These recommendations are for recreational purposes only; please, no betting.
AL Wild Card: Orioles v. Rangers
This one-game playoff is suddenly a huge deal, and once again purists like me who didn’t like the three-division lineup and the single Wild Card might have to eat crow (if not oriole.) Although since Baltimore and Texas finished with identical 93-69 records, even under the old rules there would have been a 163rd game for one team to advance to the Division Series.
But the A’s dramatic last-day victory over Texas pits the Rangers against the Birds. Baltimore has better food than Texas, even conceding Texas its barbecue ribs, and Texas has had two years in a row in which they couldn’t win it all. Plus Rick Perry is their governor. So screw ‘em. Even if Buck Showalter is a dick, he’d be a bigger dick if he were from Texas. Orioles.
(Oh, and did I mention how sad it is not to see the Red Sox and the Rays this year? No, I didn’t. Because it’s not. In an ideal world, though, the AL East would only supply a division winner and not a wild card, just to piss off ESPN, the Eastern Seaboard Programming Network.)
NL Wild Card: Braves v. Cardinals
Cubs fan loyalty comes into play. I CANNOT root for the Cardinals. But, hell, who wants to root for the Braves, a team that was dominant and dull for so long? The two cities are a push food-and-drink-wise, though St. Louis has cursed America with Budweiser. Chipper Jones’s last year? Meh.
Then again, maybe the Cardinals: If they win without Pujols, that’s a nice slap at the free agent marketplace and how it’s skewed the game. And then they can lose at a later stage, a more crushing blow for their fans. And Sox fans will be rooting for them too, so we can have nine innings of civic unity. Cardinals.
ALDS: Tigers v. Athletics
Two cities that have fallen on hard times economically, two places where if aliens from outer space arrived, they might conclude the zombie apocalypse had already occurred, and that AMC’s “The Walking Dead” was a reality show. The Cubs fan in me goes for the Tigers, of course, and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Now, the question is: Can Sox fans spell “A’s”? Tigers.
ALDS: Orioles/Rangers v. Yankees
The Yankees. Everyone loves the Yankees, right? Right? They will probably win, so root for ‘em? No, just cannot. Either Baltimore or Texas, on the Please Dear God Let Someone Else Win Principle. Plus, do we want Joe Girardi to have to change his uniform number to 28? No. Not the Yankees.
NLDS: Giants v. Reds
Let’s see: some of the best food in the world v. spaghetti in your chili…McCovey Cove v. swarms of insects from the Ohio River…one of the world’s great skylines v. a view of Kentucky. Even if the Giants won it all two years ago, Joey Votto is a jerk and Dusty Baker might have a maxi-stroke if the Reds win. Plus, Cubs fans still blame Dusty (rightly or wrongly) for overusing Prior and Wood back in 2003. This one’s easy: Giants.
NLDS: Braves/Cardinals v. Nationals
This one’s simple, too. Though when the Expos relocated to DC, they should’ve named the team the Grays to bring Negro League historic nomenclature into the majors, you gotta root for the Nationals just for the sake of getting fresh blood. The Cards and the Braves have cluttered our post-season TV schedules for decades. Support the newbies, even if their best pitcher is being saved, absurdly, for some magical future season that may never happen. Nationals.
Mind you, these aren’t predictions: they’re the rooting preferences of a bitter Cubs fan. If the past is any indication, every team I have chosen will lose, and the ALCS will be New York/Texas v. Oakland, and the NLCS St. Louis/Atlanta v. Cincinnati.
Because that’s the way it is for Cubs fans: We fail. And that, of course, makes Sox fans happy.
We here at ChicagoSide aim to please.