A playoff putdown
I thought I wouldn't care, and I said I wouldn't watch. However, I've found myself drawn to this year's baseball playoffs despite concerted efforts to steer clear.
I didn't plan on boycotting the post-season, but a pair of cruddy match-ups in the American League and National League Championship Series turned me off when they were finalized after last week's divisional series ended. It seems my apathy was fueled by a lack of diversity among the remaining four teams. There isn't an obvious underdog on either side, and it makes picking a team to root for rather difficult.
This year's post-season seemed destined for some rather dramatic outcomes. The Pittsburgh Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, the Tampa Bay Rays grabbed a wild card spot despite having one of baseball’s smallest payrolls, and the Oakland A's won their division with a relatively young and unknown roster. I thought for sure this was going to be the year for some of MLB's smaller market teams.
Fast forward to this week and it's quite obvious that scenario didn't work out in my favor. The A's, Pirates and Rays all got beat in five-game series, and their defeats left me with a rather undesirable final four teams. The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angles Dodgers were left to duke it out for the National League pennant, while the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers filled out the American League ticket. Neither of these match-ups particularly caught my eye, but I found myself drawn to the games this past weekend nonetheless.
Be it extra-inning fireworks or late-game heroics, these two league championship series have already delivered their fair share of drama. However, I'm still not sure whom I'm rooting for. There really isn't an underdog on either side – three out of the four teams rank in the Top 10 of Major League Baseball's highest payrolls, and the other one sits at No. 11. Additionally, these teams have enjoyed great success this year and in seasons past, which also makes picking one rather hard. I'm a sucker for a good "worst to first" story.
Though I may be finding it hard to choose a favorite, I'm quite used to pulling for random teams this time of the year. My two favorite clubs – the Chicago Cubs and Seattle Mariners – are usually out of the playoff picture by mid-June. It definitely stinks, but I suppose there are always some positives to take away from this perpetual mediocre reality.
For starters, I don't have to stay up glued to games that run late into the night. I'm perfectly fine with tuning out around the fifth inning if my eyelids start feeling a little heavy. Not having any stake in who wins has given me quite a bit of leeway during the post-season this fall. I'll watch if I want to, and if I have better things to do, I do them instead of plopping down and killing three hours in front of the TV.
Additionally, there's no need for me to get worked up during this year's championship series. Certain games might get exciting, but in the end I sort of just shrug my shoulders. There's no reason for me to rile myself up over something I really don't care about, which has made for a much more mellow October than year's past.
I think I'm sort of grasping for a silver lining here. One of my teams hasn't been to the playoffs since 2008, and the last time one landed a post-season victory was in 2003. It's fair to say I've forgotten what it even feels like, and it seems like decades since the Cubs and Mariners actually played games that mattered after the All-Star break. I guess I'll have to stick with the "maybe next year" mantra and hope it pans out one of these seasons.
As it stands, I think I'm pulling for a Dodgers/Tigers World Series. I was watching a game with my dad this past weekend, and he said he hoped Detroit would keep winning. I asked why, and he responded, "Just for the city. With everything going on there, I just hope they can pull it out."
I suppose that's as good of reason as any. Go Tigers, I guess.
Nick Pedley is the regional news editor of the Hampton Chronicle, The Sheffield Press and Pioneer Enterprise.