As much fun as it was to see the Nats cough up a 6-0 lead to the Cardinals for the largest comeback in a winner-take-all post-season game in MLB history (previous record was 4 run comeback), it does leave us with a rather contemptible final four. Between the Giants, the Cardinals, the Yankees, and the Tigers, it is difficult to single out any team to root for because I hate them all.
But because it is the playoffs and picking one team is probably funner than not picking any, I am creating this rooting guide in hopes of finding a team myself and helping you find a team as well if you are struggling. Let's start with the NL.
St. Louis Cardinals
Why you should root for them: After beating unquestionably the NL's most despicable team and quite frankly one of the most despicable franchise in all of sports, the Atlanta Braves*, the Cardinals knocked off the Nationals in hilarious fashion. Some things in sports will never not be funny. What happened last night to the Nationals is one of them. In the words of Davey Johnson, it was "fun for me to watch."
*At least the Cleveland Indians have the good sense not to incorporate the tomahawk chop every time a person gets on base, although I guess one could argue that Chief Wahoo is worse.
Why you should root against them: Quick. What team has won the second most World Series rings in MLB history? If you answered the St. Louis Cardinals, you are correct. If it took you more than two seconds to come up with this answer, you have never met a Cardinal fan in your life. As a collective, it is hard to top the arrogance of the New York Yankees fanbase, and yet, the Cardinals somehow find a way to give them a run for their money in that department. Do we really want to see this fanbase win two in a row?
San Francisco Giants
Why you should root for them: The insane BABIP luck the Giants received in the 2010 NLCS will forever haunt me, but I must extol the virtues of the Giants. They have a phenomenal pitching staff, including someone who is now the best middle reliever in baseball*. Matt Cain is a walking, talking statistical anomaly, although his 8.4% HR/FB rate, while still below average for baseball, is an increase from his insane 6.8% HR/FB career average. Also, the two worst offenders from the 2010 Giants team are not either a part of the trainwreck in Boston (Cody Effing Ross) or recovering from Tommy John surgery (Brian Wilson). But at the end of the day, the Giants can be a likable group of underdogs.
*Seriously. What did happen to Tim Lincecum?
Why you should root against them: The insane BABIP luck the Giants received in the 2010 NLCS will forever haunt me. Also, the Giants acquired Hunter Pence. And while the Phillies made out well in trading him to San Francisco, his acquisition from the Astros is one of the worst moves as a general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. ever made and would arguably be the worst if not for signing Ryan Howard, a player who managed -1.0 wins above replacement in 71 games in 2012, to a 5-year, $125M extension when all signs were pointing to an inevitable decline like this one. But yeah. Hunter Pence. Boo.
New York Yankees
Why you should root for them: Believe it or not, the answer to this is not none. While I was never a fan of Amaro paying Raul Ibanez as much as he did for as long as he did, Ibanez is a genuinely awesome guy who has never won a World Series ring. I could easily find myself rooting for the Yankees just so Ibanez gets a ring. The Yankees have won 27 World Series rings in their history. What is a 28th going to change?
Why you should root against them: 2009 taught me one thing, and that is that the New York Mets are the good guys in New York. The obnoxious and arrogance is almost unparalleled (ohai, St. Louis!) and seeing the Yankees fall just short would be pretty funny with the ensuing A-Rod shitstorm that would follow.
Why you should root for them: The New York Yankees won the World Series in 2009. The San Francisco Giants won a World Series in 2010. The St. Louis Cardinals won a World Series in 2011. The Detroit Tigers last won a World Series in 1984. They have a bunch of extremely likable players (excluding Delmon Young and Miguel Cabrera for off the field issues), including a pitcher in Justin Verlander who is makes me grow a few inches whenever I watch him.
Why you should root against them: The ensuing ignorant sports media circle jerk that would ensue if Miguel Cabrera won a World Series on top of his triple crown. Let's get one thing perfectly clear. Miguel Cabrera had a great 2012 season and it is nice to see him get recognition after a 2011 season that was even better than his 2012. Let's get another thing perfectly clear: As good as Miguel Cabrera was this year, Mike Trout was better in every facet of the game. Let's run through them.
Who makes the least amount of outs? Cabrera got on base at a rate of .393, Trout got on base at a rate of .399.
Who has a better OPS? Cabrera's OPS is .999, Trout's OPS is .564.
Who has a better weighted on base average? Cabrera's wOBA is .417. Trout's wOBA is .409.
Who creates more runs? Cabrera's weighted runs created plus (wRC+) is 166. Trout's wRC+ is .166.
Who is better on the base paths? Fangraphs scores Cabrera as a -2.8. Fangraphs scores Trout as a 12.0.
Who is better at defense? UZR/150 scores Cabrera as a -11.2. UZR/150 scores Trout as an 11.0.
Who is more valuable to their team? Cabrera's wins above replacement (WAR), per FanGraphs, is 7.1. Trout's WAR, per FanGraphs, is 10.0. Using baseball-reference only increases the disparity between the two. Cabrera's rWAR is 6.9. Trout's rWAR is 10.7.
The Triple Crown is neat, but seeing as batting average and RBIs are meaningless stats that tell you next to nothing about a player, they are ultimately meaningless. Batting average is dependent on BABIP luck, whereas RBIs are nothing more than a product of the number of people who got on base in front of you. A 450 foot home run with the bases empty is worth one RBI, whereas if three people completely independent of each other got on base before the very same 450 home run, that home run is suddenly worth four RBIs for a player whose contributions to three of those people getting on base were diddly squat.
So what does this have to do with the Tigers in the playoffs? Because if the Tigers win the World Series and Trout wins the AL MVP (and I think he will), the phony media outrage will be unbearable. I re-iterate, Miguel Cabrera is a fantastic baseball player, however, he still does not hold a candle to Mike Trout when it comes to overall value in 2012. When we did the wild card day live blog, I said I thought Miguel Cabrera had a case. Afterwards, I tried to build that case for him, thinking I could, and as it turned out, I could not. There is no rational argument for Miguel Cabrera to be MVP over Mike Trout. Worse yet, those in the baseball media who are staunchly against the analysis done above care not to at least learn the statistics behind the Trout argument. The inability to even challenge their beliefs about what stats are useful in baseball and which aren't and the arrogance these sports writers have to dismiss them without even giving them at least a half-hearted thought is what is most bothersome here. If Cabrera wins, it would not be the worst travesty ever in MVP voting*, but it certainly would be a minor travesty.
*Any MVP vote ever cast for Michael Young takes the prize there.
I came into this thinking I was going to conclude that I was rooting for the Detroit Tigers, but writing this post only dissuaded me from the Tigers. I still don't know who I am rooting for, but three out of these four teams whose misfortunes would be hilarious are going to come upon misfortune. For me, that might just be reason enough to watch.