It’s always strange to me when people I know outside of the relationships I’ve built with Mariners fans talk to me about baseball. You know, people you see every day but never catch wearing a team cap or t-shirt or anything like that. Baseball is boring, or so popular culture will lead you to believe. It’s too slow, there’s not enough excitement, the NFL is superior, whatever the argument is, baseball is just sort of there, existing. This World Series, though, certainly turned everyone into a Cubs fan, and I had a number of people ask me what I thought about the Series as I walked past them in the hallway or got on the elevator or was in the middle of something else. Of course the thing for me, though, is there’s not enough time in one of those interactions to really get into it. I have nuanced thoughts that cannot be contained in a conversation as short as a tweet.
At the start of the playoffs, I didn’t have much care about who made it this year. I didn’t have favorites so much as I felt like I had teams to root against. I wanted the Rangers’ one-run luck to become apparent. I wanted the Blue Jays out to spite the fans of Western Canada that fill the seats at Safeco. I couldn’t root Cleveland because the Mariners should have an intense rivalry with them after 1995 and 2001, but somehow don’t. Not that the Indians were really desirable anyway due to the Corey Kluber Cy Young and Chief Wahoo’s continued existence. Baltimore? I didn’t really have a strong feeling about them but I could probably work myself into some annoyance if I think long enough about the Erik Bedard trade. Lastly on the A.L. side, while I didn’t want the Red Sox to win the World Series, I didn’t think that Red Sox fans would become appreciably worse if they did win it, so that made them maybe the “best of five evils.”
On the National League side, I wanted the Nationals to lose so it didn’t leave the Mariners as the only team to never make the World Series. The Giants have had an embarrassment of World Series riches over the last several years and may be getting too big for their britches, though I like their radio broadcast team. The Dodgers’ payroll surpassed the Yankees this year, and that’s never a thing I feel good about rooting for. I can’t say I have strong feelings about the Mets, so I suppose they would have been fine except they lost the opener to the Giants. The Cubs, well, I have a family affinity for the Cubs and I always liked Ryne Sandberg as a kid, but I’ve long predicted that the moment the Cubs take the Series, fans will come pouring out of the woodwork like Red Sox fans did in 2005, and I don’t care to be associated with that. Even aside from that, there are serious Aroldis Chapman problems there that just haven’t been addressed to my liking.
Was I rooting for the Cubs in the World Series? Yeah, I was, and probably the best part of that story for me is the retirees who are just getting to enjoy a Cubs championship for the first time. But did I feel 100% good about it? Not with Chapman on the mound, and not with Cubs fans showing up in Cleveland for Game 7 like they were Blue Jays fans coming down out of Canada for their series with the Mariners. I like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and especially Ben Zobrist, who drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th, but I don’t think I can quite get over supporting a team that features a known domestic abuser.
I should take that back because I’m in deep enough with the Mariners that I would do it anyway, but I hope that the Mariners never test me (again) on that, and I hope that the players on the M’s current roster treat people with the respect they deserve.
Could I have rooted for Cleveland? I suppose. Their team was fun. Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp are entertaining players. Francisco Lindor is great, Kluber is not a pitcher who is undeserving of awards (even if I want Felix Hernandez to win all of the awards for all of time), and Terry Francona was willing to push the envelope on bullpen usage, using Andrew Miller in ways that may advance the play of baseball for the future. Aside from that, not winning the World Series since the ‘40s is still compelling and I have a few friends who are Cleveland fans and I could root in their interests. Ultimately, though, the biggest strike I had with them is the continued use of Chief Wahoo as a logo and some of their fans’ use of that logo as an excuse to paint their faces red like the caricature. They really need to clean that up.
In a way, it seemed to me that the Cubs were the team of choice for most everyone who pays only passing attention to baseball, and that Cleveland was the team of choice for people who are contrarian by nature. Given that, I guess I fit better into the “Go Cubs” camp, if only because contrarians tend to be smart but maybe want to show it off too much for my liking.
In any event, we got to witness one hell of a Game 7 in Cleveland last night. It was a beautiful season finale, and maybe baseball will be better for it; maybe the Mariners can pick up a few more fans for 2017.