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Who Do You Root For (And Against) and Why?

Update: In what is the least-surprising news of all time, Jane Lee just tweeted: "Duchscherer to DL, Ramirez called up."

It is an age-old argument not unique to sports, but in any situation where high-profile personnel is involved: Is our enjoyment of a person's talents lessened by their undesirable (to us) actions? Or to make it baseball-specific: Should a player's off-field life affect how we feel about them on the field?

In theory, this discussion revolves around two sides: The fan who will root for a player as long as he is on the favored team, regardless of off-field activities; it is all about game performance. This fan may dislike other good players simply because they play for a different team, and may dislike players on his/her own team if they are underperforming. This fan roots for players simply for what they bring to the game, and nothing else matters as long as they are playing baseball well.

The other side is much more affected by how the players seem in person, or in their personal lives. This fan likes players more for non-baseball reasons: charity involvement, similar values, good reputations, etc. This fan likes when his/her own team is winning, but has a hard time supporting players who don't line up with his/her own values and beliefs.

I would venture to say that most of us show characteristics of both types of fans; it's nearly impossible to leave all biases out of the equation, but what makes you personally root for one player over another? Is it simply baseball ability and performance?

When "morality in baseball' is mentioned, the very first thing I always think about is the Hall of Fame. It has long been my opinion that off-field activities should have no bearing on a player's eligibility for the Hall, as evidenced by many inducted players (ahemTyCobbahem), who couldn't win citizen of the year if they were the only person left on Earth. I think phrases like "good guy" and "great teammate" and "super person" are superfluous when it comes to the vote; if a player has the numbers, they should be in the Hall.

In theory, I should feel the same way about my baseball team, and for the most part, I do. I have my own personal biases, but I'll be the first to admit that it's hard not to root for a player who is hitting 30-40 homeruns a year for your team (and if you can find me one of those, I would probably look the other way should he have a sketchy off-field life). I still look back fondly on the McGwire/Canseco years, even though new evidence has changed my opinion of the players as people. But had I known it then; would I have not rooted for them? I'd like to say no, but let's be honest; it would have taken about one important Canseco homerun to convince me that everyone was wrong about him and that he was a swell guy.

But why are those characteristics mutually exclusive? Why can't a player be a "bad guy" off the field and still be a great baseball player who I love watching on my team? And more importantly, how bad is too bad? Where is the line between "he made a mistake" and "I don't want him to play for my team"?

This conversation was sparked in the comments of jeffro's awesome post yesterday when someone suggested picking up Elijah Dukes. I don't want him on my team because I don't think he's a very good baseball player and he has reportedly caused issues in the clubhouse. Others don't like him because of his own reality show Kate +1, Kate +1, Kate +1, Kate + 1, Kate +1, Kate +1, Kate +1, Kate +1, or maybe because he has threatened his girlfriends with texted pictures of handguns. It makes my complaining about a great player like Holliday just because I felt like he didn't give a damn seem moot, although many don't like Holliday because of a clash with his religious beliefs.

Others have very strong feelings about players who get tagged with a D.U.I., something that has happened to the A's in the past. Personally, I feel very strongly that if I can manage to obey the law with my (comparative) limited resources, driving drunk should never even be an issue for people with the money and resources of baseball players. Yet it happens. Does it affect how you see the player in the future?

How do you feel about the "party boy" persona, a la Jason Giambi? Does it matter if they're married? If they're single? Even if you don't like A-Rod, would you still root for him on your team? (And say what you want, but I'd take A-Rod on my team, in exchange for quite a number of our awesome, community-friendly Athletics, no offense, guys! Get it, no offense...?)

I never said you had to be rational. I just want to know why. (And it should go without saying that I don't want a flame war. If you don't like a type of player because of his religious or political involvement, just say that; there's no need to elaborate; we'll assume you believe/think/support in a different way.)

Chat all you want now, because it's going to be a brutal weekend, as the white-hot Rays storm into town, looking to take apart our fragile, light-hitting, YET IN FIRST PLACE A's.

Current Series

3 game series vs Rays @ Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

Tampa Bay Rays
@ Oakland Athletics

Friday, May 7, 2010, 7:05 PM PDT
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

David Price vs Gio Gonzalez

Mostly clear. Winds blowing out to right field at 5-15 m.p.h. Game time temperature around 65.

Complete Coverage >

Sat 05/08 1:05 PM PDT
Sun 05/09 1:05 PM PDT