This week, Hannah Keyser gives you a reason, or two, to root for every team in the postseason … except the Astros. Then she explains just how messed up MLB’s economic hypocrisy really is.
HANNAH KEYSER: Who's dog?
- No dog. It was just dishes.
HANNAH KEYSER: Everybody's eating and I want to be eating. I'm Hannah Keyser, and this is "The Bandwagon."
HANNAH KEYSER: Last week I tried to convince myself that the Mariners had a real shot to pull off a crazy upset, snapping their 18-season playoff drought and pushing the Astros out of October altogether. That would've been really exciting right? It didn't happen. What kind of world do you think we're living in?
The Mariners' season is over, along with 13 other teams who are free to go home, embrace the encroaching darkness, and think about how this year more than ever is a celestial sign that it's a good time to just hibernate. No such luck for these 16 teams that are about to embark on the craziest, least fair-- if you care about that kind of thing-- postseason in baseball history.
It's a huge field. Some might say, too big, considering you don't even have to be that good to get in. And we have not had a long enough regular season so far to talk about most of those things. So we're gonna do that now. Here it is, "the one reason to root for all the postseason teams we haven't talked about yet" episode. And if your team didn't make the postseason, and we haven't "bandwagoned" them yet--
- Be better!
HANNAH KEYSER: --see you in season 3.
- Season 3! The Rays!
HANNAH KEYSER: After 735 MLB plate appearances as a left-handed batter, the dancing delight that his Ji-Man Choi decided to switch-hitter it up. How'd that go? Pretty well.
- Well, here is Ji-Man Choi batting right-handed and getting into this one. And that baby is out of here!
HANNAH KEYSER: Ji-Man is on the IL right now. So root for the Rays to stick around long enough to see if he tries the switch-handed approach in the postseason. And before I go, can I talk about one more notable Rays homer? OK, fine, actually two.
A 26-year-old with fewer than 80 games at the Big League level, Mike Brosseau found himself at the center of the suddenly spicy Rays-Yankees rivalry when Aroldis Chapman threw 100 miles an hour at his head in what was only maybe an accident. There was a lot of hand-wringing on both sides. But I don't think anyone made quite as compelling a statement as Brosseau himself.
- Now the 2-2. That's lifted high and deep into left. And that baby's gone! He lifts this one back into right-centerfield. And that ball's gonna get out of here. Mike Brosseau hits his second homerun of the night.
HANNAH KEYSER: Mike, buddy, that's the kind of moment bat flips were invented for.
- Flip your bat! Yankees!
HANNAH KEYSER: Provided both teams keep the manifestations of there antipathy on the safer side of sport behavior, getting to experience the October version of AL East rivalry is also a reason to root for the Yankees to stay hot for at least a round or two. Aroldis Chapman's appeal of the 3-game suspension he got for the missile that narrowly missed Brosseau's head somehow got postponed until next season because the witnesses weren't available.
And I've only seen half a season of the "Sopranos." So I'm not gonna speculate. But congrats to the Yankees. I didn't even know that was an aspect of this that could be gamed for an edge.
HANNAH KEYSER: Having a halfway decent bullpen is so unsexy that none of the other teams in baseball even bothered to do it this season. Which is why the A's and their sub-2.50 ERA for relievers were the first team to clinch a division title this year. They will be without their bandwagon all-star Matt Chapman. But fortunately the whole team is made out of web gems just waiting to happen for a whole lot of hot reliable run prevention.
- The Cleveland baseball team!
HANNAH KEYSER: The Indians as a team are doing their part to educate reckless idiots "one pitcher who broke protocol" at a time via demotion in public reckoning. Oliver Perez deserves a special credit for having the kind of self-confidence in his ability to sway the discourse that I aspire to. In a baseball sense-- this teachable moment, plus trading away the best arm dealt at the deadline, didn't cost them a ton in terms of standing because they manufacturer aces in-house in Cleveland.
Shane Bieber, the peak iteration of that process, is setting so many strikeout records that in addition to already locking down the Cy Young, he's also in the running for AL MVP. And unfortunately for Bieber's chances, Indians third baseman and other AL MVP candidate, Jose Ramirez, hit a spectacular walk-off 3-run homerun to send the team to the postseason last week.
- Astros Boo!
- Boo! Bang-bang!
- Bang, bang.
HANNAH KEYSER: Why would someone want to root for the Houston Astros in the postseason this year? I don't know. I assume because they love chaos and just want to see the world burn. Let's talk about the National league
HANNAH KEYSER: Rooting for the Dodgers is often a study in disappointment. But it is not, however, a lesson in futility or frustration. The team behaves in the way that we wish all sports owners would.
Rather than just settle for making it to their eighth straight postseason, when that appearance was all but guaranteed before the season even started, the Dodgers did the last good thing that happened this year when they got Mookie Betts and made him the very rich cornerstone of their future. Mookie has been, in a word, amazing-- which means he fits in perfectly in LA.
Of course, the ill-timed introduction of an especially upset-prone format this year, that does nothing to favor dominant super-teams, seems to be setting us up for a continuation of the sadistic, Sisyphean feedback loop between baseball and its best team. Oh, why would I be rooting for the Dodgers? So I can make more Dustin May GIFs.
- Ginger hard!
HANNAH KEYSER: Of all the baseball quarantine haircuts, or lack there of, none is as glorious or as underrated as the curly COVID locks of Cy Young contender Yu Darvish, who at 33 has finally put it all together and is having his best year yet-- which hopefully means he'll keep the hair.
HANNAH KEYSER: The Cardinals closed out the season with 23 games in 18 days. And if they want to keep playing baseball in the grind that is this October after all of that, more power to them. But maybe have Jack Flaherty keep that wheelchair on-hand for old man Adam Wainwright if they're gonna go another month at this rate.
- Cincy Reds!
HANNAH KEYSER: All baseball teams have grounds crews. But not all grounds crews love their baseball teams as loudly as the Cincinnati grounds crew loves the Reds.
- There is one cheering section here at Great American Ballpark. It is the grounds crew. As you can see, they are socially distanced now. The players have picked up on this so much and have been so impressed with the cheering that the grounds has done.
HANNAH KEYSER: They won't get to go with the team to the postseason bubble. But if your ancillary staff members aren't banging on each other's heads and buckets to commemorate your success, is your team even all that likeable?
HANNAH KEYSER: I couldn't hit Big League batting practice. So instead of taking my word for how untouchable Devin Williams' changeup is, here are some professional baseball players looking silly against the rookie. Otherwise the Brewers are kind of boring. And I couldn't tell you a single thing about Milwaukee. Good logo though.
- They make beer there.
HANNAH KEYSER: OK. You want to do a humble proposal? We're heading into the most exciting stretch of the baseball calendar, making it easier than ever to breeze past stories about the sport's economic hypocrisy-- the boring "Inside Baseball" business updates that tend to blur together in their obviousness and big numbers on the best of days.
OK, so the owners are rich and they want to stay that way. To do so, they often have to screw over the little guy-- minor leaguers without a college degree, middle-aged scouts who don't know any other way of life, and anonymous front office staff with fancy MBAs and little sympathy coming their way just because their teams have stalled.
It's the same [BLEEP] that afflicts the country at large and creates and perpetuates truly dangerous entrenched inequities. But we bail the powerful people out by expecting nothing better, by preempting outrage with cynicism or by becoming numb to the un-special strife of someone far away from ourselves.
When MLB announces a multi-billion dollar television rights deal that represents a 65% increase over what they were paid before, while teams simultaneously cite the pandemic to justify large scale layoffs or downsize the entire industry in the name of efficiency, calling it good business acumen allays the fact that that's also greedy and contemptible. The entertainment industry serves us, the fans. They should have to care if we think that kind of behavior is [BLEEP]. At the very least, we should bother to notice it.
HANNAH KEYSER: So now you have at least one reason to root for all the teams that are in the postseason. All of these teams get at least two chances to keep their postseason hopes alive. Right now everybody hates this structure. It's way too dense. It's way too many teams. They don't even deserve to be here. But it'll probably be fun. And we will check back and talk about it at some point this month.
- Let's go.