I never played fantasy baseball before this year. It felt too artificial to me, like mechanical cow milking pumps or an impassioned John McCain speech. I didn't want to root against my own team. What's the fun in that?
Now, it's all I've got.
The Padres have been done since tax day. I haven't checked a box score in weeks. Fucking weeks, man. For a guy with a baseball tattooed on his arm, that hurts. And now that the playoffs are upon us, I've got to take a rooting interest. I've got to pick a side. Because October is October, no matter whether you're drunkenly cheering for a conglomerate of millionaires or merely drunkenly watching a conglomerate of millionaires.
But whom to choose? Here's a league-by-league (starting with the National League, natch) breakdown of who might get my deep, hoarse, sexy rooting voice come the leaves changing.
Pro: My father's family is from western Illinois, a few hours straight west of Chicago. We used to visit my grandfather and we'd play cribbage (he'd always win because he had a crippled right hand and would always count more points than he won, but I couldn't say shit because he was my grandpa, you know?) and he'd sit in his weathered brown chair with his aforementioned hook hand around a Miller Lite and we'd watch the Cubs and he'd curse them and shout shit and we'd marvel at the eventual great throw by Shawon Dunston in the hole but then he'd go back to yelling obscenities at them and then we'd sing with Harry Caray and damn, it was good. It's been a hundred fucking years, for Chrissakes. If both Soxes can get their fix, the Cubs should, too.
Con: Inevitable disappointment and crushing despair. Thanks, Bartman.
Pro: Named after beer. I don't know about you, but that's a huge plus. I've got a gut like a 46-year-old pedophile. And I've got a good buddy who's a Cleveland guy, and seeing CC get a ring would crush his soul worse than if John Elway got his sister pregnant. Which might happen.
Con: If Eric Gagne gets a meaningful out in a World Series and subsequently wins a ring, the world should turn into a giant bowl of tapioca pudding.
New York Mets
Pro: I live in Queens. I've been to Shea, and I've survived without multiple tetanus shots. I have a slight man-crush on David Wright. They're not the Yankees. These (except the latent homosexuality) are all fairly good things.
Con: Have you seen that bullpen in crunchtime? It's like A-Rod forgot to remove his tampon.
Pro: I'm hoping to go down to Philly with my girlfriend and some friends on the last weekend of the year to see them finish the season against the Nationals. It would be nice to see a game that means something in a fun stadium. Also, I like the Phillies. I don't know why, I just do. I like the cut of their jib.
Con: Ryan Howard has struck out one time this year for every time a fan in the stands throws an aborted fetus at Pat Burrell because he popped up with two outs and the tying run on second.
St. Louis Cardinals
Pro: Umm ... let's see ... Albert Pujols does something good with those less fortunate, right? And Rick Ankiel did something special?
Con: The Cardinals are the bane of the Padres' existence. They could die in a bus fire and I'd still sleep well at night.
Pro: [Scene missing]
Con: [Scene missing]
Tampa Bay Rays
Pro: They're the story of baseball this year, bar none. When they got out hot in May and June, everyone said they'd fold. When they lost seven in a row before the break, people nodded in unison. Then they lost half their team, exhumed Rocco Baldelli's shrunken corpse, and ripped off a monster August to assert themselves in not only the AL East, but the AL in general. They pitch, they hit, they field - and they do it all in a stadium that looks like something out of BaseWars.
Con: They're young, and probably don't have the experience to go all the way. But what good is experience? It did me no good when I tried to run for Vice President. Fuck you, Joe Biden. You're not the only one who can plagiarize speech material.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Southern California and Near-Mexico
Pro: They've got Vlad and John Lackey, who looks like a lovable retard. K-Rod will probably break Bobby Thigpen's single-season saves record, thereby permanently and justifiably removing Bobby Thigpen from the public consciousness.
Con: My buddy is an Angels fan. He's also a Sharks fan. He's from outside Toronto. That's just wrong, and punishable by circumcision with plastic second-grade safe scissors.
Boston Red Sox
Pro: I have a number of friends who are Red Sox fans; don't worry, they're not douchetrucks (I've checked, thoroughly). I have a Red Sox hat AND a t-shirt - bandwagon, ho!
Con: Again? Really? Christ, Boston. Let someone else have some fun.
Chicago White Sox
Pro: Ozzie Guillen. If you don't like Ozzie, you either A) don't have a sense of humor, B) are tepidly white and enjoy sex with wine racks, C) are Jay Mariotti, or D) all the above.
Con: A.J. Pierzynski. It's amazing Michael Barrett landed a punch on his chin, seeing as he doesn't have one.
Pro: Great gobs of geeseshit, how do they keep doing it? Can we model our entire government around the Twins' way of doing things? Would that work?
Con: A friend of mine is a Twins fan. That would be nice for him, except for the fact that they've won two championships in his lifetime. Eat a dick, Ben.
New York Yankees
Verdict: In the AL, it's gotta be the Rays. They're young, they're talented, Joe Maddon is a quality dude and most importantly, they did it the right way: through the draft, with shrewd trades (Kazmir, anyone?) and via insightful free-agent signings.
In the NL, I gotta go with the Cubs. Sure, history is nice and all, but I want to see the faces of their fans if they win. It'll be like the Star Wars geek getting his first taste of poon. And that's just good entertainment.