Who Ya Got?
On a day that was in the high seventies before the sun rose, and is poised to raise up and over 100 degrees by first pitch, the Fall Classic is undoubtedly upon us. While any World Series that isn’t blessed by the Oakland A’s is more than likely going to be a dud, some folks enjoy watching men in non-white cleats play ball as well. In an affair between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, as an A’s fan it can be hard to determine who to root for.
There will be a poll below to officially etch your opinion into the history books. But there is a correct answer.
The Houston Astros
The Astros are the first team in baseball history to win a pennant in both major leagues, thanks to divisional realignment in baseball that forced the Astros to switch leagues after the 2012 season. While in the National League, the Astros managed to reach just one World Series in their fifty-or-so years of existence, back in 2005, when they were swept by the White Sox. In 2014, following consecutive 100-loss seasons, Sports Illustrated published an article proclaiming the 2017 Astros as World Champions, and the Astros are now just four wins away from making that prediction ring true.
Pros: The Astros spent years as the red-headed stepchild of the American League West, getting pushed around by the other four teams in the division, but did so with a plan and purpose in mind. Utilizing a strategy of tanking and fully embracing a sabermetric world view, the Astros bided their time and cultivated high draft picks and made smart, win-later trades.
As a result, the Astros’ roster is now filled with incredibly talented, incredibly fun players. Jose Altuve is one of the most well-rounded players in the sport and makes everything he does look enthralling and easy, despite being the size of a hobbit. Youngsters Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and more provide tons of pop to the lineup and play with boundless energy. A former fan-favorite in Oakland in Josh Reddick has taken on a leadership role in the clubhouse to guide the youngsters and keep the team motivated and focused.
Plus, after all the destruction that Hurricane Harvey caused, and the stress that the city of Houston has gone through in the aftermath, the Astros playing well and marching to the World Series is something that can both tangibly and intangibly help the city of Houston heal. Baseball can bring folks together in even the most dire of times, and few places are more deserving of the joy and excitement that the Astros bring with them in every game that they play.
Cons: The Astros winning it all would vindicate tanking as a viable, useful baseball strategy and tanking is awful for the sport as a whole. When the Astros were intentionally losing a hundred games a season, their attendance plummeted, as did their TV viewership, as the team was torture to watch. Sure, the Astros are fun to watch now, but anything other than a flawless execution of their plans could have caused the Astros to go the way of the Pirates or Royals, floundering for decades with nothing to show for it and losing an entire generation of budding fans.
Baseball, like all other major professional sports, is a copycat league. If the Astros can use tanking to win a World Series, the number of teams that embrace that strategy and start to tank will increase. The National League was already half-filled with teams that were just marginally better than your basic Triple-A team, and if tanking becomes more widespread the entire game can become infected with bad baseball. Bad baseball is no fun to watch, and the sport could suffer as a result.
Irrationally, it is also rather annoying to witness a divisional rival win the World Series. Combined, all the AL West teams have ten world series wins. The A’s have nine of them, the Angels (gross) have one. Lots of this is due to the longevity of the A’s relative to the other teams in the division, but ultimately the Astros winning the Fall Classic ever-so-slightly tarnishes the A’s historic dominance of the division as well as the bragging rights over it.
It is about damn time that the Dodgers, with their bloated payroll, reached the World Series. The, perhaps, most storied and important franchise in baseball history, one that ushered baseball into the modern age with its employment of Jackie Robinson, hasn’t been to the Fall Classic since their World Series win in 1988, over our very own A’s. A month long skid prevented the Dodgers from setting a record for the most wins ever during the regular season, but one would be hard-pressed to find a team more dominant and deep and overwhelming to its opposition than these guys.
Pros: As I have stated several times before, the Dodgers and the A’s are baseball’s most natural allies.
The A’s two biggest rivals are the Giants and the Angels. While there is plenty of vitriol between A’s fans and Angels’ fans, the distaste of the Giants is, frankly, very one sided, as most fans of the Giants either support the A’s or are mostly indifferent towards the A’s. But (generally speaking) fans of the Giants truly despise the Dodgers, and nothing would make a Giants’ fan more upset (in re: baseball) than a Dodgers’ World Series victory. There isn’t any existing niceties between the Dodgers and Angels, either.
The Dodgers and A’s have similar historical paths, as well. Both teams originated on the East Coast at the turn of the 20th century, and moved westward in the 1950’s. Both teams share a history of infamous postseason heartbreaks and underachievement, but still have racked up a respectable amount of championship trophies. Until recently, both teams had their hands tied regarding spending due to greedy, money-grabbing owners who didn’t have the team’s best interests in mind.
Fahren Zaidi is the Dodgers’ General Manager, taking on a role that Paul DePodesta had a little more than a decade previously. The A’s and Dodgers have made several mutually beneficial trades over the years, most recently the trade that netted the A’s Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas, and Grant Holmes, that has resulted in the Dodgers having several highly likeable former-A’s, in Rich Hill and Brandon McCarthy.
Plus, the Dodgers employ two of the most extraordinary pitchers on the planet in Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen, both of whom figure to be used in spades throughout this series, and the rest of the pitching staff is equally as enjoyable to watch. On the position player side of things, the Dodgers have just as many, if not more, young and energetic rookies and sophomores looking to make a lasting impact on the game. The Dodgers are one of the most uniquely built teams in baseball’s long and storied history, and are awe-inspiring to watch play.
Cons: Boy, have you looked at how much money this team is spending? Is that even legal?
The Dodgers can easily, and rightfully, be seen as a team that is buying its way to a championship. After an initial spending spree shook the baseball markets to their core when new ownership took over in the early 2010’s, the Dodgers actually have been acting like fiscally responsible businessmen and women. However, it can still be maddening to know that a team can take on the highest-risk, highest-reward players without any real consequences and sign its budding superstars to lucrative extensions without breaking a sweat.
It is in this instance that the Dodgers are truly an antithesis to the A’s, and one that is large enough to offset all of the many other parallels and similarities that the teams otherwise share.
Four easily defensible choices, one correct answer:
Who are you rooting for in the World Series?
This poll is closed
Neutral, but with lots of dramatics