As a fellow Blue Jay fan, I feel your pain. Our team was supposed to be playing meaningful games right now, as we head down the stretch. They were supposed to be battling for the franchise’s first playoff spot since 1993. Sadly, they are not.
As a fellow baseball fan, I also feel your worry. I, like you, am still glued to the pennant races, watching the scoreboard to see who will be in and who will be out. But, and this is the million dollar question, who do we cheer for now?
If you are like me and didn’t live in another baseball city as a kid, or don’t have friends or family or any personal reason to cheer for another team, then your September and October fanhood is up for grabs.
I’m here to help. Below is 500 Level Fan’s Guide to which team you should be cheering for down the stretch and into the playoffs.
By my count, half of baseball is still involved in a pennant race. Some teams, like Boston and the Dodgers, are virtually assured of a playoff spot. Others, like Washington and the Yankees, are barely hanging on.
But all in there are 15 teams vying for your support.
Using six easy rules, we can start to trim those teams down.
Rule 1 – You can’t cheer for a team that has a slugger who was implicated with performance enhancing drugs, has a second baseman who is a weasel (an actual, physical weasel), and has a manager who is a slimy, arrogant, coward with no soul
This gets rid of the Boston Red Sox
Rule 2 – You can’t cheer for another team from the AL East
The Yankees are obvious. Nobody likes the Yankees. And while the Rays and Orioles were once lovable losers, the fact that they have become sustainably good makes them enemies.
Besides, these are the teams that crushed the Jays this year.
Rule 3 – You can’t cheer for the teams that are ALWAYS here
It’s just too boring. As fans, we need to see new blood in October.
So get rid of Texas. The Rangers have made the playoffs in three straight seasons, including back-to-back trips to the World Series in 2010 and 2011.
Scratch out Detroit as well. Though it would be nice to see quality veterans like Torii Hunter and Justin Verlander win a ring, the Tigers have been to the playoffs two years in a row and three of the past seven. Included in that is two trips to the World Series.
You can also take St. Louis out of the mix. The Cardinals won it all in 2011 and in 2006, and also qualified for the playoffs in 2012, 2009, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001, and 2000. Enough already.
Finally, and most obviously, you can’t cheer for the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have made the playoffs for 78 consecutive years. It seems like that anyway…
Rule 4 – You can’t cheer for the uber rich
Sorry LA Dodgers, this means you. You’d just feel dirty pulling for a team with that much money. It’s like cheering for the late 90′s Yankees. No thanks.
Rule 5 – You can’t cheer for a World Series favourite
That’s right Washington. The Nationals were the pick of many, including Sports Illustrated, to win it all this year. The fact that they are putting on a heroic late season run is nice, but you’d seem like a bandwagon fan. Stay off.
Rule 6 – You can’t cheer for a team that broke Blue Jay hearts
It has been a long time since it happened. 28 years now actually. The best Toronto Blue Jays team ever assembled – 99 wins, the first AL East crown in history. A 3 – 1 series lead. On the cusp of going to the World Series. Then it all fell apart.
Though it’s been 28 years, I still hold a grudge. So should you. You can’t root for the Kansas City Royals. Not yet.
The Final Four
We are down to four teams remaining: Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in the NL; Oakland and Cleveland in the AL. To help you pick one team from each league, we will use a handy rating system based on five categories:
Canadian Content – which team has more Canucks
Blue Jay Content – which team has more ex-Jays
Drought – what city has been waiting longer
Story – what team has become the best story in 2013
Intangibles – anything else to help
Canadian Content – Pittsburgh has Russell Martin and Justin Morneau, while Cincinnati has Joey Votto. Edge: Pittsburgh
Blue Jay Content – The Pirates have A.J. Burnett, John Buck, and Travis Snider. The Reds don’t have a single player who used to play for the Jays. Edge: Pittsburgh
Drought – Pittsburgh’s last playoff spot was 1992 and last World Series title was 1979. Cincinnati made the playoffs in two of the past three years, and last won it all in 1990. Pittsburgh’s been waiting longer. Edge: Pittsburgh
Story – The Pirates have become baseball’s best story in 2013 as they finally snapped a North American sports record 20 consecutive losing seasons. They are the underdog of underdogs. Edge: Pittsburgh
Intangibles – Pittsburgh is closer to Toronto, so there’s that… Edge: Pittsburgh
Final Verdict – Pittsburgh wins 5 – 0
Canadian Content – Neither team has a Canadian on its active roster. Edge: Neither
Blue Jay Content – Oakland doesn’t have any former Blue Jays, while the Indians boast Marc Rzepczynski, Yan Gomes, and if you want to count him, Mike Aviles. Edge: Cleveland
Drought – Oakland has made the playoffs 8 times since 1990, but haven’t won a World Series since 1989. However, Cleveland has been waiting since 1948 to win it all. Edge: Cleveland
Story – The A’s came from nowhere last season to win the AL West, and are showing staying power by looking good again in 2013. They are a scrappy team that plays the game hard and is fun to watch. Cleveland has put together a rag-tag team of youngsters and veterans and they have come together under Terry Francona. Both stories are good, but I like Oakland’s rags to riches a bit better. Edge: Oakland
Intangibles – Oakland was featured in the movie Moneyball, which was really good. But Cleveland was featured in Major League, which was one of the greatest movies ever. Unfortunately, Cleveland also has Nick Swisher on the roster, a douche canoe of a player. That’s enough to give it to the A’s. Edge: Oakland
Final Verdict – Tied 2 – 2…cheer for both!
So there you have it. According to the 500 Level Fan Guide to Who to Cheer For, there are three teams to stand behind this September and October. If all goes well, Oakland will play Cleveland in the ALCS with the winner heading to Pittsburgh to play the Pirates.