Friday, October 7, 2011

MLB Without Heels

And so, here we are... in an MLB season where there are no teams to root against. No, seriously. Who are you supposed to hate here?

1) St. Louis

Well, OK, Tony LaRussa has done horrible things to the game's length through a billion pitching changes and over-managing, and he's insufferable... but the team? Chris Carpenter can be a jerk, and Rafael Furcal is a serial DUI candidate. Everyone else on the team? More or less a grinder. Lance Berkman's got the body of a bowler and he's good. Ryan Theriot is a gnat that every team wants on their own club. Benji Molina is as good as a player has ever been while being slower than dirt. And Albert Pujols is, well, the best player of his generation. I'm too busy being in awe to hate.

2) Milwaukee

Small market teams never hang around long to wear out their welcome, and watching Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder go back to back is worth it nearly every night. The top of the rotation is fun with Yovani Gallardo and Zach Greinke, and John Axford at the end of the game is mustachioed goodness. There isn't even Bud Selig around any more to ruin things. And if you don't like them, just wait... they are going away as soon as Fielder does.

3) Texas

OK, I'm not a fan of the state or the ties to the Bush Administration, and America's love affair with Nolan Ryan borders on the disturbing. I get it, he's old and a badass, but he was also a pretty extreme waste of talent during his playing career, and he'd throw at anyone; this is a mixed bag, not a panacea. But Josh Hamilton is a really nice story, and everyone else is too young to be that annoying. The biggest reason to root against these guys might just so you can oppose Adrian Beltre's eventually successful Cooperstown campaign into the Hall of Persistence. But irritation is not hatred, people.

4) Detroit

How am I supposed to hate a team that prevented weeks of Yankee hagiography? I just can't bring the juice. With the exception of Miguel Cabrera, there's no one here who seems like a bad guy or a billionaire to be, and Justin Verlander is just plain spectacular. Jose Valverde's a bit of a douche, true, but he also just ended Yankee Fan's year in the most awful way imaginable. So I've got some kindness in my heart there, too. And finally, I have to be down for a year in which the Tigers and Lions are serious contenders. Living at the End of Days is exciting!

5) Arizona

If we give this team time, America would hate them hard. Justin Upton is all kinds of great, but he knows it. Kirk Gibson is pretty damned full of himself, and why not, really. Geraldo Parra has a lot of the Eckstein/Victorino mosquito vibe to him. The starting pitching is relatively anonymous and pissy about it. And the state is still the place where the cops can more or less do anything they want to brown people, and they still won't go along with Daylight Savings Time. There' also, of course, what Public Enemy rapped about...

But for now? They're young, adorable, hard working and have no idea how great this year has been for them. If the team hadn't won in the recent past, there'd be all kinds of love, rather than indifference.

6) Philadelphia

Well, folks and friends, there's no other way to say this: you root for the team that the rest of the nation is now rooting against. In the immortal words of Wilt Chamberlain, nobody loves Goliath, and when you have four aces where three of them didn't come from your farm system... that's basically the New Yankees. The everyday players have also been on everyone's TV for years now, and your love for Shane Victorino is not shared by the rest of the nation.

Oh, and the rest of the nation hates your town, and the people who live there, because they've been told for their whole damn lives about how awful we are. (And, well, they are probably right. It's a good town to be from, not so much in.) Also, you've won recently, and America would rather see that stuff spread around. In

That doesn't mean your team is hateful; far from it. It just means that in a relative lack of teams to hate, you're going to get the brunt. And the thing I love about you, Philly... you could care less. The way a town should be, dammit.

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