|Jim Leyland on Casual Fridays|
Another chance to watch the ageless Derek Jeter and resurrected Andy Pettite on the big stage. And, err, that's about it. Screw the Yankees. They've won enough already.
The St. Louis Cardinals
Overcame a staggering number of injuries to reach the postseason. Made it in despite losing one of the best players in baseball history to free agency in the off-season, and filling the gaps with guys named Kozma and Craig and (the other) Carpenter. No brawls with the Cincinnati Reds all year. Rookie manager Mike Metheny had the stones to start Kyle Lohse - THE Kyle Lohse - in a win-or-go-home playoff scenario. And the chance that this might be the last go-round for Fat Elvis Berkman.
Plus, they're not the Yankees.
The Cincinnati Reds
They're the best team nobody's heard of. Their closer throws faster than Sammy Hagar is capable of driving. Bronson Arroyo rocks (literally). Joey Votto is a beast. Jay Bruce is a slightly smaller beast. Brandon Phillips is the second-funniest tweeter still playing (sorry you're home, @TheRealTPlush). Johnny Cueto had the best season by a pitcher you didn't hear about. All they do is win ballgames. They had the stones not to overload their playoff roster with starting pitchers they'll never use.
And of course, they're not the Yankees.
The Detroit Tigers
Miggy and Prince shouting "Si, motherfucker!" as they jack bombs in batting practice. The Koufaxian transcendence that is Justin Verlander - and the fact that he's damn funny in commercials, too. Closer Jose Valverde's untucked shirt and obvious love of pie. All other arguments aside, Miggy won the Triple Crown, and that's awesome. They finally divested themselves of Brandon Inge. Doug Fister, and the agony a simple typo caused Craig Calcaterra. Jim Leyland looks more like Solid Snake every year - or is it that Solid Snake looks more like Jim Leyland?
And they ain't the Yankees.
The Baltimore Orioles
A streak of 14 straight losing seasons snapped unexpectedly and astonishingly. An army of scrap-heap pickups like Nate McLouth and Joe Saunders rising to the occasion. Manny Machado, stealth third baseman, who in a year of no Trout would be the big rookie fish - he's that good. Adam Jones, putting it all together. A closer out of nowhere, with more saves than strikeouts. An astonishing job of shuffling personnel between Baltimore and AAA by former punchline GM Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter. The damn bird logo, which should beat the Cardinals bird up and take its beer money. And they're not the Yankees.
The Oakland A's
Because they have no goddamn business being there. Because Brandon McCarthy won Twitter when he got out of the hospital after taking a line drive off the face. Because wearing green and gold on national television when you're not a leprechaun takes balls. Because Yoenis Cespedes is in fact Batman. Because Chris Carter finally got a real shot. Because of the terrible, terrible thing that happened to Pat Neshek and his wife. Because of a rotation full of rookies and because there needs to be a giant "Screw you!" to all the troglodytes who routinely use Moneyball as a blunt weapon because reading it is too damn hard.
And as you might have guessed, they're not the Yankees.
The San Francisco Giants
Because every night, somebody's getting Poseyed. Because The Freak had a bad year, but he's still The Freak, and you can't not root for the guy. Because of the ongoing train wreck that is the Barry Zito contract. Because nobody's going to be talking about that goddamned beard. Because Matt Cain is a walking, talking statistical outlier, and because his perfect game was a masterpiece. Because the universe still owes Willie McCovey one.
And because they're so not the Yankees, they left New York half a century ago.
The Washington Nationals:
They've got a $126M caveman in right field. They're a year ahead of schedule. Their oh-so-brash underaged superstar spent the pennant-clinching celebration drinking apple juice with one of his teammate's kids. And most of all, if the Nationals don't win it all, we will never, ever hear the end of the armchair pitching coaches chewing on Nats GM Mike Rizzo for his decision to sit down Stephen Strasburg.
Also, they're not the Yankees.