I am always confused about my rooting interests in the playoffs for teams that aren’t the Cardinals. There’s a part of me that wants fairness. Fairness means the best teams win. This manifests itself when I find myself rooting against teams that I don’t have an actual problem with, but I don’t feel are good. Though I benefited from it as a Cardinal fan, I don’t want an 83 win team to win the World Series.
On the other hand, I don’t really root for the big payroll teams. They’re easy to not like. It’s been ingrained in me to not root for a team with better resources. Another way to look at it: a team who actually uses its resources instead of wanting a bigger profit. And yet, it’s too deep into me to not root for high payroll teams to start rooting for them now.
I don’t like cheap teams either though. I don’t want $50 million payroll teams to be rewarded with a championship. Except for the fact that the Marlins were facing a team I wanted to win less, I didn’t and don’t actually want them to win the World Series. Same with the Rays. I don’t root for them.
I also don’t root for the winners. If a team has won recently, I don’t actually want them to win again. Dodgers have one championship to show for their long run of winning, and yet that’s enough for me to not root for them even though they probably deserve more. I even like Clayton Kershaw and don’t like the playoff discourse about him. Doesn’t matter, still don’t want the Dodgers to win.
Blake put out a great article about who to root for in the postseason, and he based it on the former Cards on the team. Except I value my personal enjoyment of spending time online talking about baseball and a former Cardinal pulling a David Freese for another team would make, for at least a few months, talking about baseball with Cards fans unbearable. I can’t even root for former Cards because I know that’s all I’m going to hear about and there’s another strike against the Cards. This theoretically should be less of an issue with the two month rental guys at least.
So what’s left? Usually, nobody. The lesser of two evils. There are rare occasions where I actually root for a team, and not actually root for the other team to not win. If you know what I mean. But given my impossible standards, who’s left? I’m thankfully not obligated to actually want opposing teams to win.
Why do I bring this up?
I find myself rooting against the Orioles.
Didn’t really expect it. Sometimes there’s a matchup I assume I’m apathetic about, and then when I’m following the game, my heart tells me my true feelings. And I don’t want to the Orioles to win apparently. It helps that they’re facing the Rangers.
You see, the Rangers and Orioles are kind of opposites. The Rangers primarily improved their team through money, both in signing Corey Seager, Jacob deGrom, Marcus Semien, and taking on part of the contract for Max Scherzer. They also swung big at the deadline, acquiring Scherzer, Jordan Montgomery, and Aroldis Chapman. The Orioles relied heavily on their farm system and didn’t really do much at the deadline. They needed rotation help and only got Jack Flaherty, who has worked out worse than expected, but still wasn’t enough.
The 2023 Orioles also got inconceivably, enormously lucky. They outplayed their pythag by 6 wins. And they outplayed their BaseRuns record by an unbelievable 12 wins. They are nowhere near as good as their record. They received a randomly great performance from Aaron Hicks (129 wRC+) and a good one from Ryan O’Hearn (118 wRC+, which I’m pretty sure is a fluke). Adam Frazier is batting 150 wRC+ with men on and 157 wRC+ with runners in scoring position, and you can see why that would annoy me as a Cardinal fan.
The Rangers probably deserve a better record though. Their pythag is 98 wins, eight wins better than their actual record. Their BaseRuns is 97 wins which would have made for a better parallel if it was higher, but that’s still a noticeable difference. The Rangers did everything right, received the performances necessary to win near 100 wins, and just barely snuck into the playoffs.
So that annoying fairness part of me thinks it’s only right that the Rangers beat the Orioles. I guess I’ll find out who I’m rooting for when if the Twins face the Rangers. The winner of that game I’ll root for in the World Series. Actually good team, haven’t won in while, the only former Cardinals are going to be free agents anyway in a lost year, they went for it the way a fan of the team would want them to, and it feels like they’d be a deserving winner in my eyes.
(I know it’s insane to say a 101 win team is not a deserving winner, but I have a feeling they are going to mega disappoint next year. Though they might get away with it if Jackson Holliday is immediately great or they make some moves in the offseason).
Anyway, that’s enough rambling, I didn’t have enough time to do the research necessary for the post I was going to write, so I just had to share why I was rooting against the Orioles, for some reason. Enjoy your Monday, if you can.