Toronto Baseball Guys
Friday, October 03, 2008
  2008 Playoffs - Who to Cheer and Why
Baseball's second season is upon us. While the Blue Jays aren't part of the festivities, there is no shortage of intrigue and good baseball stories. Refreshingly, there are no teams from New York in this year's post-season, while there is some new blood and the potential for some very interesting World Series match-ups.

So here, in descending order, are the teams that deserve your support this October.

1. Chicago Cubs

Why cheer them: The last time the Cubs won a World Series, Adolf Hitler was 17, Ghandi was still shy of 40, the airplane wasn't yet five years old, and while women could attend Cubs games, they couldn't yet vote. I think these people have suffered enough.

If that doesn't sway you, this is a likable, well-rounded team that led their division virtually wire-to-wire. They also happen to offer every cliche on the baseball menu:

There's something here for just about everyone.

Why Not to Cheer Them: I don't know, you're some kind of sadist?

Canadian Connection: Rich Harden and Ryan Dempster make up half of the formidable starting rotation. And how can you not like ex-Jay Reed Johnson getting a shot at playoff baseball.

2. Milwaukee Brewers

Why Cheer Them: Compared to the Cubs World Series drought, the Brewers 26 years between playoff appearances may seem like nothing, but it's always nice to have a fresh face in the playoffs, particularly a small market like Milwaukee. The Brewers are a fun young team, stocked with mashers and some of the best names in baseball: Hall, Hardy, Weeks, Fielder, Braun, Corey Hart - this sounds like a fictional lineup crafted for Nintendo Baseball. Fielder gets the nod for most ironic baseball name, along with Homer Bush and Grant Balfour. Then there's C.C. Sabathia, who's made the biggest rent-a-pitcher splash since Randy Johnson: The Astro Years - er, Year. Should the Brewers reach the World Series, they would be the only team to win both a National and American League pennant.

Why Not to Cheer Them: They always killed the Blue Jays. Plus, if they were to win the Series, it would make Bud Selig awfully happy.

Canadian Connection: Eric Gagne looks to recapture his old form out of the Brewers pen, while ex-Jay Dave Bush is a solid, if unspectacular soldier in the Brewers rotation.

3. Philadelphia Phillies

Why Cheer Them: For the second straight year, they've kept the Mets out of the playoffs, which would be reason enough. The Phillies front line talent is also among the best in baseball with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins. All of them, along with Pat Burrell were drafted by the Phillies, so there's no Buy a Championship mentality at work here. If you're looking for a good story, how about 45-year-old Jamie Moyer, who just rolled up a 16-7 record and has never been on a championship team?

Why Not to Cheer Them: You're a Mets fan. Plus from all accounts, Brett Myers, he of the domestic assault charge and profanity-laced "retard" tirade, seems like a bit of a douchebag.

Canadian Connection: You've got Pat Gillick in the front office, whose Blue Jays crushed Phillies hopes the last time they got close to a World Series title, ex-Jay Jayson Werth, who had a career year with a nice little 20-20 season. Finally, Matt Stairs, the Wonder Hamster himself, gets another shot at the playoffs at age 40.

4. Tampa Bay Rays

Why Cheer Them: They're the reason the New York Yankees are out of the playoffs for the first time this millenium. That said, hopefully they'll have a Rockies-like playoff hangover and head back to AL East basement in 2009.

Why Not to Cheer Them: The park is still ugly, and while it's a nice story that the perennial doormats finally make good, one would hope that 10 years of top draft picks would be enough to turn anyone around.

Canadian Connection: Ex-Jays Gabe Gross and Eric Hinske, who's looking for his second straight World Series ring.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers

Why Cheer Them: Joe Torre's return to the playoffs should irk the Yankees, and if he were able to win a championship, it could send the younger Steinbrenner into a self-destructive shame spiral of overspending that might cripple the Evil Empire for the next decade or so. Plus a Red Sox/Dodgers World Series, with Manny returning to Fenway, would make for sensational drama. An all L.A. World Series would also prove interesting.

Why Not to Cheer Them: They won a division that the Jays would have dominated, and you know we'll be inundated with

Canadian Connection: East York's Russell Martin is perhaps the game's top young catcher.

6. Los Angeles Angels

Why Cheer Them: Mike Scioscia is a likeable sort, and Vlady Guerrero - one of his generation's top players - doesn't yet have a World Series ring.

Why Not to Cheer Them: They did just win in 2002. Plus, enough with the Rally Monkey already.

Canadian Connection: Ex-Jay Kelvim Escobar will watch his mates from the sidelines as he's done for the year and possibly 2009 with shoulder surgery.

7. Chicago White Sox

Why Cheer Them: They feature almost 1200 HRs worth of Hall of Famers in Jim Thome and
Ken Griffey Jr. - neither of whom have ever won a World Series. An all-Chicago final would certainly be special.

Why Not to Cheer Them: They won in 2005. They knocked the Twins out of the playoffs, costing Justin Morneau a shot at another MVP. Their broadcast team is the most annoying set of sycophantic homers in the business. A.J. Pierzynski is still a jerk. And their chances of winning would be a whole lot better if not for Home-Run-Champ-turned-Idiot Carlos Quentin, who threw a hissy fit and broke his wrist, ending his season in early September. He finished second in homers, by one.

Canadian Connection: Dewayne Wise, former Blue Jay Rule 5 pick, seems to have found a home in the majors with the White Sox.

8. Boston Red Sox

Why Cheer Them: Either you live in Boston, or you're one of the legions of bandwagon jumping frat-boys who's added a faux faded Red Sox cap to their wardrobe. Yeah, we know, you've been a fan, like, forever.

Why Not to Cheer Them: Let's face it, Red Sox Nation has jumped the shark. We could all rally behind the team that hadn't won in 86 years, and it was great that they did it at the expense of the Yankees. Fast forward four years, and Red Sox fans have become almost as obnoxious and entitled as their counterparts in the Bronx. We don't need to see anymore dancing from Jonathan Papelbon.

Canadian Connection: Freed from exile in Pittsburgh, the baseball world is finally starting to see just how good Jason Bay is. He's the lone reason to cheer for these Sox.

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