Without the home team in running for an 11th World Series title, I've been pouring over the rosters of the eight teams still standing in search of a righteous reason to root for somebody. Here's what I have come up with:
Rangers vs. Rays: I'm siding with Tampa Bay. There aren't a wealth of St. Louis ties on either team's roster. But Rays manager Joe Madden is a self-proclaimed Cardinals fan. Tampa Plays a pretty exciting brand of National League style baseball with good pitching and defense and a healthy balance of speed and power. Another good reason to root for the Rays is the fact that they are a small market team amongst small market teams. Their ownership has already said it plans to cut the payroll significantly in 2011, so this is probably their only chance to win it all. Fan favorite Carl Crawford is all but certain to end up with the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels or another team willing to shell out a huge contract.
The Rangers are led by Josh Hamiliton, baseball's biggest comeback story from a couple of years ago. Hamilton was a very highly touted power hitting outfielder in the Rays minor league system before washing out of baseball with substance abuse problems. He bounced to Cincinnati and then Texas where he finally reached his potential and planted roots. But the Rangers don't otherwise excite me. They play in an indifferent market and if the home fans can't get excited about them, why should I?
I'm rooting for Tampa.
Yankees vs. Twins: Most people outside of New York will probably be rooting for the Twinkees to win it all as the David in this matchup with Goliath. But, while there is a lot to like about Minnesota's club, I still have a bad taste in my mouth over how the 1987 World Series went down. Am I still bitter after a quarter century? Not really. But, in my opinion, getting to play the Cardinals without Jack Clark and Terry Pendleton was Minnesota's World Series gift.
Big spending and unappealing ownership aside, I have always loved the Yankees sense of tradition and their presence in the post season. I would love to see the Rays battle New York in the ALCS. Tampa fought the Yankees down in a 162-game season. Can they do it again when the heat is on in a short series? I would love to find out.
I'm rooting for the Yankees.
Reds vs. Phillies: Cincinnati has the former general manager, third baseman, centerfielder, utilityman and a couple of pitchers from the mid aughts Redbirds. But it also has that little jerk Brandon Phillips on the roster. And that fact, alone, is enough for me to root for Philadelphia to destroy them and make their first playoff appearance in 15 years a waste of everybody's time.
But there are a lot of reasons to root for the Phillies, too. St. Louisan Ryan Howard mans first base for the Phihtin' Phils. And former Cardinals fan favorite Placido Polanco is back in the City of Brotherly Love after a stay in Motown. The Phillies have the best pitching in baseball, so they are the team to beat in this post season.
I'm rooting for the Phillies.
Braves vs. Giants: This one is a tossup in my book. The Braves have former Cardinals third sacker Troy Glaus. But he isn't exactly the most beloved former Redbird after his 2009 off-season surgery that left the Cardinals holding a $12-million bag that season. I like Atlanta because they play St. Louis style baseball. But the Giants are the from out of nowhere team in the 2010 playoffs. They ran down a very good Padres team to make the dance and, for that, I respect them.
I think I am going to side with Atlanta on this as a tip of the cap to manager Bobby Cox in his last season. Also, I think the Braves deserve a little bit of good karma for helping the Redbirds back into the playoffs in 2006. If not for their victory over the Astros on the last day of the season, the Cardinals wouldn't have that 10th title.
I'm rooting for the Braves.