Thursday, October 09, 2014

Your American League Championship Series Rooting Guide

Baltimore Orioles
Reasons to Root For Them:
Haven't been to a World Series since 1983, when I would sneak out of bar mitzvah receptions to try to find a TV so I could watch them pummel the Phillies. Buck Showalter is the best manager left in the playoffs, and is actually interesting to watch. The team survived season-ending injuries to its best player (Manny Machado) and second best player (Matt Wieters), plus last year's MVP candidate went kerblooey before getting popped for ADD meds and their expensive free agent pitcher did his best Shawn Boskie impersonation all season long. Camden Yards is still a gorgeous ballpark, and Boog's BBQ is actually edible. Plus, karma - at this point the kid who stole that home run ball from Tony Tarasco in the playoffs against the Yankees is a Weleyan grad, but c'mon - the universe owes them one.

Reasons to Root Against Them:
Owner Peter Angelos is a terrifying troll-beast currently engaged in litigation over his refusal to share any MASN loot with the Nationals. Depending on your tolerance for former PED users, the sight of Nelson Cruz and his 40 home runs at the plate may be rage-inducing. All the Cal Ripken Jr. nostalgia may cause side effects including, but not limited to, nausea, boredom, enlarged prostate, male pattern baldness, trouble urinating, and the sudden urge to garrote the entire MLB.TV broadcast crew.
Player to Root For:
Adam Jones. The defensive metrics are all over the place on him, but man, is he fun to watch. Oh, and he can hit a little, too.
Secret Weapon:
Andrew Miller. The relief pitcher they nabbed from the Red Sox was the missing piece in what is now a fully operational and weaponized bullpen. Also, he's a UNC grad, and if the football team isn't hacking it, someone else has to.
Fan Base:
Loyal, passionate, knowledgeable, but largely there for the BBQ.

Kansas City Royals
Reasons to Root For Them:
Haven't been to the playoffs in 29 years. Kansas City is a lovely town with a fine baseball tradition, much of it traded to the Yankees or moved to Oakland. Kaufman Stadium is a great place to watch a ballgame. Those powder blue uniforms. An amazing shutdown bullpen featuring a guy (Tim Collins) whom I'm reasonably certain escaped from The Shire. They actually have a ballplayer nicknamed "Moose". Billy Butler stole a base against the Angels, which is basically the baseball equivalent of a Bigfoot sighting. They do run, and run, and run, so they're never boring.
Reasons to Root Against Them:
Have absolutely no business being in the playoffs, as manager Ned Yost is still trying to vindicate a strategy he used in a Strat-o-Matic game in 1987 and they neither hit for power nor get on base. Owner David Glass is by all accounts a real prize of a human being, and has spent years running the team like it's a Wal-Mart. Every time one of Yost's moves works, the anti-sabermetric braying is loud enough to be heard in Topeka. Their mascot, Slugger, has a head that is downright Lovecraftian if you look at it closely. Kansas City is not actually in Kansas, and that's false advertising.
Player to Root For:
Alex Gordon. At one point, they all thought he was going to be the next George Brett. That...did not happen. But he's quietly turned into a heckuva all around player with a great glove.
Secret Weapon:
Sadly, Raul Ibanez has wisely been left home, which leaves us with Wade Davis. A failed starter with Tampa Bay - and a regular visitor to Durham when he got knocked around in the bigs - Davis was a throw-in on the James Shields trade. After finally proving to his new bosses that he wasn't a starter west of the Mississippi, either, he's become the sort of terrifying shutdown reliever whom sabermetric types wet themselves over because he's too good for traditional usage patterns.
Fan Base:
Loyal, passionate, but really kind of unsure about this whole new "playoffs" thing. Are damn sure that Arthur Bryant's is better than Boog's. And Oklahoma Joe's is better than either.


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