So our team didn't make the playoffs, and that sucks. But if there is one thing I learned from 1998-2011, it's that the playoffs happen whether the Orioles are there or not. And, for me at least, it's fun to watch those games if you have a team to root for. I've broken down each American League playoffs team below so you can see the pros and cons of rooting for each. I'll be honest, I don't like much about most of these teams. I'll be rooting for the Astros in the A.L., hopefully they get to play more than one game in the postseason.
Wild Card Teams
The American League Wild Card game is tonight at 8 p.m. The New York Yankees will be hosting the Houston Astros in a winner-take-all battle that is as exciting as it is unfair. The winner will go on to face the Kansas City Royals in the ALDS.
New York Yankees
2015 Record: 87-75
Last Playoff Appearance: 2012 (Beat Orioles in ALDS, were swept in ALCS)
Last World Series Win: 2009
Former Orioles: Andrew Miller
Pro: You know how a fanbase seems likeable enough, and you might even root for their team in the playoffs because they deserve it? Like the 2004 Red Sox, for example. Then they win and their fans turn into a bunch of entitled blowhards? Well, the Yankees fans are already there! What's one more World Series win going to do to them? Also, if you say rude things about Yankees fans, they don't take it as a personal affront. At most they grab their junk and tell you to count the rings.
Con: I mean, do I even need to fill this in? The Yankees have won more World Series titles than any other team and their fans don't let you forget it. We have spent years having to deal with their fans in our Yard, and yet the last time they were in the playoffs their stadium was like a tomb. I could have bought tickets to game five of the ALDS for $20 if I had cared to travel to New York. Don't root for the Yankees.
2015 Record: 86-76
Last Playoff Appearance: 2005 (Swept in WS by the White Sox)
Last World Series Win: Never
Former Orioles: Scott Feldman (injured), L.J. Hoes (minors)
Pro: The Astros have a lot of things going for them in this department. First off, they're playing the Yankees in the Wild Card game, and who doesn't want to see the Yankees lose? But more than that, this Astros team came out of nowhere to get to the playoffs. People have been predicting that they'd be good soon enough, but that it happened this year caught some people by surprise. The Astros didn't have as long of a stretch of futility as teams like the Orioles and Pirates did, but they've been pretty bad for a while, including a brutal three-year stretch from 2010-2013 when they won 56, 55, and 51 games. Ouch. So far we've got: playing the Yankees, recent record of futility, and of course their underdog status. Add in the fact that they've never won a World Series in franchise history puts the icing on the cake.
Con: OK, this is going to sound selfish and kind of petty, but I'm guessing more than a few of you understand where I'm coming from. I'm all for having fresh blood in the playoffs. Nothing is more tired than seeing the Cardinals and Yankees in the playoffs over and over again. And I feel for these teams that have had long stretches of misery. As an Orioles fan, I feel for them more than some people. And I want them to have their day in the sun. I just don't want them to have it before the Orioles do. I'm all for formerly pathetic teams turning it around and winning the World Series. I just want them to do it after the Orioles do it.
Toronto Blue Jays
2015 Record: 93-69
Last Playoff Appearance: 1993 (Won WS)
Last World Series Win: 1993
Former Orioles: LaTroy Hawkins
Pro: Before making the playoffs this season, the Blue Jays had the longest playoff drought not just in baseball, but in all North American professional sports (that honor now belongs to the Buffalo Bills). When last we saw the Blue Jays in the postseason, Joe Carter was hitting an exciting walk-off home run in game six of the 1993 World Series. That kicked off a 22-year drought that, in many seasons saw them post a winning record but be relegated to third or fourth place due to the strength of the A.L. East. If you tend to root for the team that has been out of the playoffs the longest (as I generally do), this is your team.
Con: These are the Toronto Blue Jays we're talking about. They destroyed the Orioles in the regular season, and they employ one of the least likeable players in baseball in Jose Bautista. Bautista is a great player, but he also tends to act like a bully, which is tiresome. Just the fact that I said that probably ensures that a Blue Jays fan will show up here to refute it, and that's another reason to root against them. Their fans love to sniff how any possible disrespect and then tell the person who said it how awful and wrong they are, whether it's via SB Nation, Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere else Blue Jays fans might roam.
Additionally, if you are an Orioles fan in roughly your mid-thirties, the Blue Jays were a big part of molding you as the baseball fan you are today. In 1989, the Blue Jays eliminated the Why Not Orioles on the last day of the season, then went on to rub our faces in it by being in the playoffs four times in five years and winning two World Series. When the Orioles got to host the All-Star game in 1993, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston not only snubbed the phenomenal Gregg Olson in favor of stacking the pitching staff with Blue Jays, he also made a point not to pitch Mike Mussina in his home park just because he could. Yes, all of these things happened over 20 years ago. But those were my formative years!
Kansas City Royals
2015 Record: 95-67
Last Playoff Appearance: 2014 (Swept Orioles in ALCS, Lost WS to the Giants)
Last World Series Win: 1985
Former Orioles: Jeremy Guthrie
Pro: It wasn't that long ago that the Orioles and Royals were in similar boats. Two teams that had suffered long stretches of pathetic baseball and who had become laughingstocks of the major leagues. They've both reversed those fortunes, but are still news to the playoff game. Yes, they were in the World Series just last year, but they are still relative newcomers to the scene, which is refreshing after so many retreads.
Con: Like you need me to tell you? The Royals swept the Orioles in the ALCS last year in a series that started off in an amiable fashion but ended with bad blood all around. Then the Royals started the 2015 season with multiple fights against multiple teams, doing a pretty good job to establish themselves as a heel team. And that's cool, because baseball needs good guys and bad guys. Fans of the newly competitive team became more likely than any other team to take to the internet to defend their team instead of just embracing them for the exciting and easily dislikable team that they are. Generally speaking, Royals fans could stand to take a page from fanbases like Yankees where they recognize that being disliked is all part of the fun.
2015 Record: 88-74
Last Playoff Appearance: 2012 (Beaten by the Orioles in the WC game)
Last World Series Win: Never
Former Orioles: None
Pro: Like the Astros, the Rangers have never won a World Series, and that alone is generally not a reason to root against them. And if you have any empathy for Rangers fans, you might root for them just to get rid of the bad taste out of their mouths after they completely choked in the playoffs from 2010-2012. They lost back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011, both in brutal fashion. And then in 2012 they spent 175 straight days in first place before losing the division on the very last day of the season and falling into the WC spot. There is also the fact that they weren't even supposed to be here. Last year they finished 31 games back of first place and this year they were 43-49 on July 20th, nine games back of first place. They went on to go 45-25 and shocked everyone by winning the division.
Con: This team is, to me at least, super boring. Every other team in the postseason for the A.L. conjures up some kind of emotion for me, be it positive or negative. But the Rangers are just...there. How can I root for that?
So, who ya got?
Like I said, I'll be rooting for the Astros. If the Rangers make it to the World Series I may end up rooting for them by default depending on who represents the National League. But I'll be cold in my grave before I root for the Yankees, Royals, or Blue Jays.