The thing about the quote above is that, while true, it is completely and totally unhelpful. I've known the truth of that statement as long as I can remember. I understand and accept that hate hurts the hater and leaves the hated unharmed. I've understood that hate, anger and fear lead to the dark side ever since that white haired dude in the brown robe gave that cool guy named look the laser-sword-thingy.
Yet here I am in my mid-40s and I'm absolutely no closer to settling into a nice healthy indifference toward the Cardinals or various other abominations masquerading as baseball teams. This is something I've actually worked on, and failed spectacularly to deal with. And so, as the 2013 playoffs are just a day away, I find myself once again parsing the list of teams that are lucky enough to get to play October baseball to find those that are the least objectionable in the hopes of finding some reason to support them, to experience some positive emotion. And all the while my shrunken hater's heart is shouting at me to invest what time and emotion I can muster in to wishing calamity on those, to my mind, deserve exactly that. And once again I've given in.
I'm taking the negative over the positive. It's easier. It's more fun, and if unforeseen events occur that makes me feel some affiliation towards a team or two, then good for me. But I'm not holding my breath. And so the playoff teams are rated below measured in McCann units of hate and Gomez units of love. While I’d never suggest that Gomez was blameless in last week’s blowup, the reality is that Gomez is regularly a joy to watch play the game. As he himself acknowledged, he held a grudge and reacted poorly. McCann, like Carpenter last year, embodies hate in that it’s easy for me to dislike the guy fairly intensely, and the basis for that dislike is that McCann and Carpenter themselves are angry balls of hate who just won’t admit it.
McCann, unlike Gomez, (and not unlike an incident a few years ago involving Yadier Molina), brought an actual baseball game to a careening, cacophonous halt to assuage his ego and to "stick up for his team", which apparently required him to stand in the baseline, refuse to let a guy who just beat his pitcher touch the plate, and scream in the face of another human being who had the temerity to object to getting hit with a baseball. And McCann is the one who supposedly respects the game.
(I’ve included both the Rays and the Rangers since it looks like they’ll tie for the 2nd wildcard and face a playoff game to get into the WC playoff game, which essentially means they both made the playoffs.)
St. Louis Cardinals – 9.5 Brian McCanns
Chris Carpenter, who on the field at least is a despicable human being, is finished. LaRussa’s gone too. They’re managed by Mike Matheny, a former Brewer and a guy I respect (and if you don’t, watch this).
There’s always the latent division rivalry. I say latent because it’s really been 2 years since the Brewers posed a legitimate threat to the ongoing Cardinals competitive dynasty. I’d be lying if I tried to suggest that the dislike I feel for the Cardinals burns quite as hot as it did in 2011. And yet I can’t pretend that I feel the same way about them that I do, say, the Cubs. In 2008 I hated the Cubs and Cubs fans too. Since then,… "meh" is probably the best I can muster. I enjoy a good Cubs thrashing as much as anyone, but I spend little to no time thinking about them if they aren’t on the field against the Brewers on any particular day.
Not so the Cardinals. Beyond the divisional foe aspect is the presence of Yadier Molina. Yadier’s getting older. I thought for a while that he might be evolving into something approaching a mature remove from some of the nonsense he engaged in during his younger years. Like standing on home plate and jawing with a hitter because he touched Yadier’s knee guard. Or spitting on an ump because Yadier disagreed with a call. Then came his June 3rd ejection against the Giants. I actually buy the explanation that he slammed his helmet because he was upset that he was out, not to complain about the call. I don’t care. I care about what came after. Go ahead and argue the ejection. I’ve got no problem with that, but the people holding him back were pretty clearly concerned he was going to cause physical harm to the ump. And Molina’s history tells you why that is. Yes, the Cards are (in my opinion anyway) a little less overtly objectionable than they once were. But they’re still the Cardinals. And I still remember 1982. To quote someone who put it better than me: "We hates it. We hates it forever."
Atlanta Braves – 9.3 Brian McCanns
With all due respect, **** the Braves.
You know why. You probably watched it live, and if you didn’t, you caught it in various video forms since. And it’s not the first time that McCann has hosted this particular rodeo. He did nearly the same thing a few weeks earlier against the Marlins, and the benches cleared then too. While Gomez apologized in the aftermath, McCann said this: "If you want to sit there and watch it for a few seconds, I’m OK with that. But to round the bases and yell the whole way around the bases, I just I felt like I needed to say something. I don’t think that’s a part of the game of baseball. I thought he showed up our whole team. So I did what I felt any catcher would do in that situation. That’s sticking up for his teammate. He rounded third base and was still yelling, and I was furious. I don’t even know what happened after that."
He’s been feted by the Atlanta press for defending the game and he’s been compared to Carlton Fisk by insisting that others show the "respect for the game" that he does. I wonder if Fisk ever started a brawl while apparently so angry he’d blacked out? It’s funny, because while McCann said he "did what any catcher would do", the reality is that they’ve been playing this game for over a century, and the almost universal response is that no one’s ever seen any catch do anything like that, ever. The only comparable circumstance I can think of was the start of the Cardinals-Reds brawl a few years ago, which started with Molina standing on homeplate and refusing to let the Reds bat until a brutal fight started. But even Molina didn’t interrupt live action the way McCann did.
Oh, and remember Reed Johnson. Carlos Gomez did, albeit barely. Johnson, unlike Gomez, appealed his suspension saying that he didn’t do anything wrong when he ran across the field and sucker punched Gomez. Instead, he said he was trying to get "a guy out of control, under control. I don’t think that warrants a suspension." Hey Reed, turns out you’re not just bad at baseball, you’re not so bright either.
Yeah, I don’t care for teams that anoint themselves the arbiter of all things respectful when in reality they’re a bunch of overly-sensitive whiners. Doesn’t matter if they hail from St. Louis, Arizona or Atlanta. And if that weren’t enough, there’s the chop. As Rubie Q put it last year "See Atlanta, this is why you can’t have nice things."
Los Angeles Dodgers – 8.8 Brian McCanns
I’m fighting an old fight here, and I know I’m likely to lose my audience on this one. Look, I love Zach Greinke as much as anyone. Heck, like some of you, I’ve even sought out some of his post game interviews this year just to get a dose of his honesty, humor and occasionally, wisdom. I really, very much appreciated what I thought was a completely honest and heart-felt reaction to Braun’s suspension, as damning as it was. I don’t wish anything bad for the guy at all. But he plays for the Dodgers, and that’s too much for me to ignore.
It hasn’t gotten a ton of press lately (at least not from what I’ve seen), but the Dodgers scare the hell out of me. And I mean, they frighten me in a way that might one day damn all of Brewer fandom to a repeat of the 1990’s.
Most of you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, go to COTs and look at the Dodgers contracts for 2013. In 2012 the Dodgers opening day payroll was $105 million. In 2013 it was $216 million. This past offseason they signed Greinke for $147 million, Ethier for $84 million, after previously signing Gonzalez, Crawford and Kemp for $154, $142 and $164 million respectively. They’re currently talking to Kershaw about a deal worth over 200 million.
Last offseason, the Dodgers signed a local TV deal worth 6 billion. You don’t even need me to tell you how much the Brewers make off their TV deals, because it doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter whether all of those deals were smart or will hold up over the life of the contract. It honestly doesn’t matter, because if one or several of those guys implodes 2 years into their deal, the Dodgers have a ridiculous amount of resources to sign replacements.
I know this is an old argument, but I’m not sitting through another decade in which the MLB team I root for has no chance to compete. I’m not. Bud Selig may have presided over the quadrupling of league revenues during his tenure as commissioner, but he failed at what once was his primary objective: creating a level playing field. I know he’d spout platitudes in response about how many different teams make the playoffs these days and how many different teams have won a title over the past 10 year. I’ll admit that things got better, and are better now, than they were during the complete and total economic disparity of the 1990’s. But the Dodgers, and other teams in similar situations who either have or will soon ridiculously outsized media contracts, are etching the handwriting into the wall.
This problem has not been solved. It’s been managed. And right now the tools to manage the problem are completely inadequate to deal with the scope of the problem that the Dodgers are the best example of. And MLB is doing nothing to deal with the issue. I can’t get them to pay attention to that problem or solve it. I’m not convinced that a Dodgers dynasty would do any more to illustrate and eventually solve the problem than the Yankee’s dynasty did.
So **** the Dodgers. Sorry Zach. I don’t blame him for taking the $. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to act like it was just as difficult for the Dodgers to win their division this year than it would have been for the Brewers. It wasn’t. The playing field is tilted in their favor and people aren’t pointing that out nearly enough.
Cincinatti Reds – 8.6 Brian McCanns
I’ll admit this is hard to quantify. Last year I said I’ve always had a hard time getting worked up about the Reds. Like the Red Sox (see below), they get positive marks for annoying a team I truly loathe, but as some of the truly insufferable Cardinals have left St. Louis, the rivalry between the Cards and the Reds has cooled somewhat.
They rate this high on the list for me (and I know they wouldn’t for others) because as a general rule I’d prefer no one from the NL Central win anything in October if the Brewers don’t. And, while it’s petty (but really, so is this whole exercise), I found myself getting irritated with Joey Votto as 2013 wore on. Not by the sort of over the top, confrontational douche-baggery we’ve seen from Molina or McCann, but of a subtler sort. Comments after games where the Brewers won that cited luck as a reason for that victory, and demanding that Gomez show him the ball after he made a game saving catch over the wall earlier this year.
These are little things, I’ll admit. But the Reds let the Cardinals win the division. And they play in the Brewers division. And they got in the Pirates way, and failed to help create a situation where the Cardinals stay in the 2013 post-season lasted exactly 1 day. And while it’s going back a ways, I still get annoyed when I think of the Reds players ripping Milwaukee and Miller Park back in in the mid-2000’s. I can make fun of Milwaukee. I’m a Wisconsinite, and I’m not overly fond of Milwaukee myself, although I enjoy going there on occasion. But I chafe a little when someone from Ohio dings MKE.
Mostly it’s the division thing, and I’ll gladly back them if/ they face any of the teams noted above.
Boston Red Sox – 5.8 Brian McCanns
There was a time that the Red Sox were basically my second favorite team, mostly because they seemed to annoy Steinbrenner and they never won anything in October. There’s a new set of Steinbrenner spawn in New York, but the Yankees are already out of it so annoying them while they’re holed up in Mirkwood (Tampa) and waiting to be strong enough to re-enter Mordor while Bud Selig/Saruman pretends not to be in their pocket…. Uh… ahem, this literary metaphor appears to have gone ‘round the twist, so let’s try this again.
With no Yankees left to annoy (for now), my interest in the large market Bo-Sox winning anything is relatively low. And they sent Theo Epstein to the Cubs, which I’ll admit is sort of a low level concern of mine ever since he landed there. I’m not sure he’ll pull off in Chicago what he managed in Boston, but he’s smart enough to have made some adjustments to how he’s done business in his career, and frankly I prefer my Cubs GMs to be dumber than that.
I’ll back them over the Dodgers/Cardinals/Braves and probably the Reds if it comes to that, but other than that they aren’t high on my list of teams.
Detroit Tigers - 5.7 Brian McCanns
Now that the Dodgers have scared the hell out of this small market baseball fan, I find I have less patience for the Tigers than I did a year ago. I still love Jim Leyland, and I still like seeing Prince happy, but honestly, look how this team is built: traded for Miguel Cabrera and signed him to $152 million deal; signed Fielder as a FA for $214 million; Victor Martinez as an FA for $50 million.
Yes there’s some homegrown talent, but like the Dodgers (on a much smaller scale to date) they’re buying their way into the postseason, and also like the Dodgers, they took a significant part of a successful Brewers team to do it. I know if it hadn’t been the Tigers it would have been someone else. Yeah, don’t care. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Prince is another year in the Brewers rear view mirror. As I said last year I’m not mad at him for leaving because I never thought he’d stay, but some of the good feeling I still harbored for him last fall has faded, and that’s enough to kick the Tigers onto the negative side of the scale when coupled with the big market/small market phenomena, at least for me.
Texas Rangers – 5.6 Brian McCanns
Oh. It’s you. What are you doing here? Seriously guys, you had your chance(s), and you blew it. You let the Cardinals off the mat and gave them another ring a couple of years back, and I don’t take kindly to that.
Last year, you (and the Nationals) received a hard lesson about selling out to win a ring. A team that’s taken as many brutal losses in the post-season as the Rangers really shouldn’t have needed another dose of humility before it acknowledged that organizational depth on the left side of the infield is not the ultimate goal of any franchise. It appears you might have picked up on that since you were suddenly willing to deal the formerly untouchable Michael Olt this year. (Here’s a tip, Texas, Zach Greinke > Matt Garza.)
Texas isn’t a huge market, but it’s not small either, and frankly, while the irritation I had with Texas last year is more or less gone, this is still a fairly arrogant organization for one that got beat in the Series twice in the past 3 years and with a career postseason record south of .450. Overall, I don’t think I’d enjoy a Rangers victory party unless it came at the expense of just a handful of teams.
Cleveland Indians – 1.0 Brian McCanns
What the hell are these guys doing here? Don’t ask Indian fans, who apparently haven’t noticed they’ve got a playoff team in town. Cleveland actually drew fewer fans this year than they did in 2012, even though they won 92 games. I’m not sure what the final figure will be, but it’ll be less than 1.7 million for the year. I don’t expect every team to pull like the Brewers do based on a percentage of their market population, but come on, Cleveland.
I’ve got a soft spot for the Indians. Anyone who enjoyed Major League probably does, and of course there are glimpses of County Stadium still to be found in that film, a place I both loved and hated and will long remember.
Cleveland also briefly ran some interference against the large market clubs in the 90’s, and they are the source of a truly "only in the MLB" style story from 1994. For you youngins, Albert Belle’s allegedly corked bat was seized by umps mid-game and put into a locker room for inspection by the league after the game. Knowing the bat was corked, Cleveland sent diminutive reliever Jason Grimsley through the duct work and into the umpires locker room so he could switch the bats and Belle wouldn’t get caught. Grimsley wasn’t caught during what technically was a burglary, but the league cottoned on to the caper, and ordered the Indians to produce the original bat. When they did weeks later, the bat was x-rayed and then cut in half in front of Belle. Cork came shooting out, and Belle was suspended 10 games. Five years later Grimsley admitted crawling through the duct work and switching the bats. I have an unreasonable love for that story.
Unfortunately, Cleveland continues to sport one of the most racist insignias in sports. You all know what I mean. While Cleveland does appear to trying to marginalize the image, the name remains, and to my knowledge there’s been no public acknowledgment of the impropriety of their blatantly racist logo. If I’m going to rip the Braves for it, then Cleveland certainly deserve the same treatment.
The improbability of their presence in the playoffs (at least in my opinion) nudges them towards the positive side of the scale, but not enough to get me to pull for them unless they end up facing a team I truly hate.
Tampa Bay Rays – 4.0 MotorBoatin’ CarGos
I should really like these guys. They’ve been making the Red Sox and the Yankees nuts for a few years now. They had an opening day payroll of $61 million. They certainly are a well run organization. They’ve had their chances in the playoffs the past 5 years, but haven’t been able to win the whole thing.
So what is it that’s holding me back from full-throated, small market brethren adoration? I dunno precisely. I have gotten annoyed periodically when people constantly shove the Rays down the throats of any other mid to small market team (and yes, that has been done by more than just one person). But that’s a small complaint at most.
Part of it I suspect is their relative success in spite of the very short franchise history. Part of it is the fact that the while the Rays do play in a small market, they do enjoy media market advantages due to the fact that they play so many games against huge markets in New York and Boston and thus make more $ than their small market brethren. Part of it is the lack of support, in attendance, by the fans in Tampa (and let’s face it, a significant percentage of the 1.5 million who came out to see the Rays this year were displaced/retired Yankee and Red Sox fans). Heck, part of it was the decision to dump "Devil Rays" which in my opinion was a pretty cool nickname, for the terribly safe, terribly focus grouped "Rays" "connoting sunshine and light." Well, aren’t you precious.
So yeah, the negatives here are particularly petty and to some degree the product of jealousy. Overall, they’re on the positive side.
Pittsburgh Pirates – 6.0 MotorBoatin’ CarGos
Yeah, they’re in the division, and that’s what keeps them from topping the list for me, but how can I root against the Pirates this year? They’re above .500 and the playoffs for the first time since my early 20’s. I like McCutcheon, who’s fun to watch and whom I’d fervently wish was a Brewer if it wasn’t for Carlos playing the same position. They’ve got a beautiful stadium. They’re (until recently at least) still trying to get the attention of their own city. These guys can’t catch a break off the field, and yet here they are, with an opening day salary of just $66 million.
Honestly, I’m not sure how long the Pirates are going to be competitive. I don’t have a ton of faith in their pitching staff moving forward, but what the hell, let’s have some fun and watch the Pirates win the WC game and a playoff series or two.
Oakland Athletics – 7.0 MotorBoatin’ CarGos
Much like the Pirates, the A’s are here on the smarts of their front office, having spent just $61 million on payroll as of opening day. They play in a multi-sport stadium like it’s 1978, for cripes sake. And sewage… SEWAGE(!) periodically bubbles up into the clubhouse. That’s not even a metaphor; The world is literally shitting on the A’s. And these guys won 95 games.
They annoy the Giants, which is a plus in my book. They’re the red-headed stepchild in their own home market. For the better part of a decade, they desperately tried to jam their thumbs in the eye of the Yankees dynasty. Josh Donaldson isn’t a Cub, even though they drafted him in 1st round! (Haha.) Grant Balfour (ok, that one’s less funny) is a foul mouthed lunatic like Carpenter, except for his expletives are generally directed at himself and he doesn’t act like he knows better than everyone else how to "respect" the game. The A’s are run by a guy who turned out to suck at what he was supposed to be a star at, and who then found another way to live a wildly successful baseball life.
Romanticized nonsense that was the movie Moneyball aside, what’s not to like? The A’s are doing something that they shouldn’t be able to do. How hard is it? Tell ‘em Ron: "It’s incredibly hard." I’m sorry, but I want to live in a world where the A’s win a World Series with less than 1/3 the payroll of the Dodgers. I know it provides fodder to Bud’s excuse making and his big market masters. I. Don’t. Care. GO A’S!