Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Who's an Indians fan to root for now?

Well the 2011 baseball season had huge ups and stomach punch downs for the Tribe this year, for sure. A blistering start left little statistical doubt that the Indians would once again be playing in October. But then, a series of offensive lapses and debilitating injuries brought the Indians down to Earth like Superman wearing a Kryptonite vest.

It doesn't matter who plays for the Yankees.
I can't root for them
Just last week, the Indians were virtually in control of their own destiny. Despite being swept on the road by the Detroit Tigers, they could have pulled within 3.5 games with a home sweep of said Michiganers. But it was not meant to be. Detroit ran roughshod over the Indians, with former Tribesman Victor Martinez putting a final nail in their coffin with his grand slam last Wednesday. Detroit, 6 games over .500 on August 10, now stands 23 games over .500 on September 13. What can you do? I know what the Indians could do. Nothing.

So what's a Tribe fan to do in October, with dreams of the upstart Indians squashed so painfully? Boycott the playoffs? Sure, some will undoubtedly do that. But for those of us who can't ignore half of what I consider an amazing month in sports (football being the other, and if the Browns don't make substantial improvements this week vs. the Colts, October won't even matter for them either), it'd still be nice to figure out whom it's "okay" to root for.

First of all, let's just scratch off the Yankees and Red Sox. Rooting for them is like rooting for the bully. Plus it's too painful for me to root for CC Sabathia again. I pulled for him on the Brewers, and that's the end of it. Red Sox fans like Bill Simmons are already freaking out, as now they are only three games ahead of the Devil Rays in the Wild Card Race. The Devil Rays..now that's a team to consider. Like Gonzaga or Boise State, they are no longer the surprise upstarts...but they're still scrappy and low budget, and have perhaps the best manager in the league. By best, I mean he wears glasses almost as good as Manny Acta.

How exactly are they different than the Yankees?
The Phillies? Huh. I mean, I can't really root against Cliff Lee. The man is amazing, obviously. And was for the Indians as well. But with him, Halladay, Hamels, Howard, just the embarrassment of riches that Philadelphia has acquired...nope, impossible to root for. Glad to see Philadelphia is getting into that Amtrak corridor level of hatred from the rest of the country; between the Eagles and Phillies it's just too easy to hate Philly teams. I don't know when the Redskins and Nationals are going to get into the game, but they are a quick train ride from Boston-NY-Philly on the bandwagon express, aren't they?

AL West? NL West? Who really cares about them? Nobody. Texas obviously has a good team, I guess. Arizona, same thing. Boring. The defending champion Giants at least have a seal as a mascot and a fat panda playing third base, not to mention a closer who dyes his beard with a Sharpie marker. That's a team you can root for. But they've fallen by the wayside.

We miss you Victor. No matter how you
did us this year.
Normally, I would start rooting for my second favorite team in baseball, the Milwaukee Brewers. Great city, great ballpark, great history with the Indians between Major League and the blizzard rescheduling of a few years ago. And they are absolutely on fire. Prince Fielder is a joy to watch play, Ryan Braun is a stud, and the budget conscious Brewers are a team that Clevelanders can certainly get behind. Open a Schlitz and give them a cheer. And hope they hang on to their division lead.

But no. I have to say, as painful as it is...I think the team that I root for will be the Detroit Tigers. The same Tigers that pushed the Indians down, sat on our chest, and rubbed snow in our face over the last month. The storylines from a couple years ago about the Tigers picking up the spirit of Detroit are no less true now. The team is led by the best pitcher in baseball, Justin Verlander, who is going for his 23rd win tonight. I'll always have a soft spot for Jhonny Peralta. And of course, there's our old friend Victor Martinez. He who was the heart and soul (and only All-Star in 2009) of the Cleveland Indians, and he cried when he was traded away from the team he said he wanted to play his whole career for. Cleveland may say "We're Not Detroit" in a mocking way, but it would make Clevelanders feel pretty good to see Tigers fans get a bit of happiness.

Certainly it's easy to pull for the Tigers should they play the Yankees or Red Sox. But even beyond that, I'm rooting for Detroit and Milwaukee to go as far as they can. Should they both make the Series, let's just sit back and toast that it wasn't the Yankees and Phillies.