The races are heating up, and several teams are still vying for one of those coveted eight Playoff spots. It's about time for baseball fans to start thinking about who they're rooting for in the quest for October. If you're a big fan like me, you probably also have a few teams you're rooting against. I don't know who's going to win, but here's what I'm hoping for:
American League West:
I'm pulling for the Mariners. They've been a surprise team all year, and there seem to be a lot of loyal Mariner fans out there even though you don't hear much about them. While they seem to have been playing above their heads all season (their pitching and run production have been mediocre at best), they deserve credit for staying in it this long. They surprised me last season too, as I predicted that they'd lose 100 games and they ended up finishing close to .500. While conventional wisdom says the Angels are going to win it (if I had to give an official prediction I'd pick them), I'm hoping Seattle has enough left to battle it out and overtake them for the division title.
Since the Angels are the only team posing a real threat to the Mariners at this point, I'm rooting against them. I just have a hard time getting excited about the Angels. Besides, they won the World Series in 2002 and the Mariners never have. While it's hard for me to imagine the Mariners winning the World Series this year, they deserve that chance to play for it a little more in my mind.
American League Central:
I'm pulling for either the Indians or Tigers. Both teams have fanbases that I think deserve a winner, and I really don't hate either one even though they're both division rivals of my Sox. I hope one of them wins the division and the other wins the Wild Card. It doesn't really matter which, though I think the Tigers look more likely to win the division.
The team I'm rooting against is the Twins. While they seem to have a fairly loyal fanbase and the underdog factor that comes with playing in a small market, I just don't like them. They don't interest me. Also, some of that underdog appeal has been lost since they've won four division titles in the last five years. Last year it looked to be a two-team race between the White Sox and Tigers in the Central, but the Twins came from behind to win it, relegating the frontrunning Tigers to the Wild Card. I don't want to see it happen again.
American League East:
I've never made any secret about the fact that I hate the Red Sox. The way their "history" and "tradition" get shoved down our throats has gotten rather sickening. That said, I'm rooting for them to win the East this year. Why, you ask? It's all because of the team I'm rooting against.
I hate the Yankees. I want to see them win even less than I do the Red Sox. They're a thorn in the side of baseball fans everywhere. No matter what, they always find a way to make the Playoffs. Even when they were mired in a slump earlier this year I kept saying they were going to be playing in the postseason. Now they're only a few games out in the Wild Card race and within striking distance of the Red Sox. I still think they'll find their way into the Playoff picture, but (as I often find myself saying) I hope I'm wrong. If they do it's likely that either they or the Red Sox will be the Wild Card, and the Playoffs will be much more enjoyable if we don't have to hear about a potential Yankees-Red Sox ALCS.
National League West:
This is a division where I don't feel very strongly. The Giants are the only team at this point that has no real shot of winning it. If I had to choose the team I really wanted to see win it I'd say the Rockies, but of the four contenders they seem to be the one that's having the most trouble breaking through. I also kind of like the Padres, so I'd have no problem if they won it. Neither team has ever won the World Series, so there's not much to hate about them.
While I'm not actively rooting against the Diamondbacks, they don't particularly excite me. I haven't found myself rooting against the Dodgers either, but they seem to have the most to root against. Big market, six World Series titles, fans that leave the games early...yeah, I guess if I'm rooting against anyone in this division it's the Dodgers. Still, it's hard to hate them completely when you have a father who grew up rooting for them on the side.
National League Central:
I'm a Cubs fan. Is this finally "next year" for the Cubs? We can always hope, but the Cubs have to make the Playoffs first. It's a shame that the they're contending in a year where the team they're battling for first is the Brewers. After all, Brewers fans haven't had much to cheer about in recent times. It's not that I hate our friends up in Milwaukee, it's just that they're blocking my team's path to the Playoffs. If the Cubs can overtake them for first I hope the Brewers win the Wild Card. I could even live with it if they won the division and the Cubs won the Wild Card, but it's cooler to say your team is the division champion.
National League East:
There are two contenders in this division, and they're known as the Braves and Mets. I've hated the Braves ever since they won the 1995 World Series, and the Mets I hate just because they're from New York. While I don't hate either of these teams as much as say, the Yankees, I can't really root for either one in good conscience. The truth is though, that these two teams currently look like the ones to beat in the National League. If Philly's going to pull it off it'll be an uphill battle.
To sum up, my ideal Playoffs look like this:
Wild Card: Milwaukee
Wild Card: Cleveland
I know that they likely won't look this way (especially the NL), but what's a pennant race without something to hope for?
My Playoffs prediction look something like this:
West: Los Angeles
Central: St. Louis
East: New York
Wild Card: Atlanta
West: Los Angeles
East: New York
Wild Card: Boston
It's almost scary how much more realistic my nightmare scenario looks, but that's just life when you root for the underdog.
Anyway, that's what I'm hoping for.
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