The 2014 American League Division Series kick off today. First up is Baltimore vs. Detroit, followed by "Los Angeles" vs. Kansas City. Now, there are sure to be some Tribe fans who simply decline to watch any of the games between these four teams, but if you're one of those fans, I have to wonder why you clicked on this article. No, most likely you're one of those who prefers Indians baseball to other baseball, but also prefers other baseball to no baseball. No baseball will be about the only option we have soon enough, so it's time to adopt some short-term rooting interests and enjoy the next four weeks.
Here's a look at each of the four remaining AL contenders, with reasons a Tribe fan might choose to root for or root against them. I've also included a link to LGT's cousin site for each team:
Baltimore Orioles (Camden Chat)
Key players: Adam Jones (a well rounded outfielder who does everything pretty well) Nelson Cruz (he led MLB with 40 home runs after having to settle for a 1-year deal), Steve Pearce (a 31-year-old journeyman who suddenly his 21 home runs and posted a .930 OPS)
Going for them: They're the team that beat out the Yankees and kept New York from making the postseason. They haven't won a playoff series since 1997. The wear orange. "The Wire" happened there. They don't really have any big stars (especially after injuries and suspensions took Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and Chris Davis out), so if you like "lunchpail" type teams, here's one. Camden Yards is a great-looking park.
Working against them: If you prefer to see big stars on baseball's biggest stage, the Orioles probably aren't doing much for you. They beat the Indians in the 1996 ALDS (though the Tribe got revenge in the 1997 ALCS).
Detroit Tigers (Bless You Boys)
Key Players: Victor Martinez (he just posted the best numbers of his career), Miguel Cabrera (even in what counts as a down year for him, he was one of the ten best hitters in baseball), Max Scherzer (not quite the same heights as his Cy Young-winning 2013 season, but he was again one of the ten best pitchers in baseball)
Going for them: An Indians fan might want to see Victor get a ring. They haven't won the World Series since 1984. Their home whites are among the prettiest jerseys in baseball. Kate Upton might be at their games, if that's something that you're into.
Working against them: Do I really need to explain this?
Los Angeles Angels (Halos Heaven)
Key players: Mike Trout (baseball's very best player, three years running), Albert Pujols (baseball's best player of the 2000s isn't what he used to be, but still managed 28 home runs this season), Howie Kendrick (one of those guys you heard a lot about a few years back, but didn't seem to really pan out, and is now much better than you probably think)
Going for them: If you want to watch baseball's best player, here he is. The Indians and Angels have never been in the same division, nor have they ever faced one another in a playoff series, so there's not much reason for a Tribe fan to have much animosity toward the Angels.
Working against them: They play in Anaheim, while trying to convince everyone that they're from Los Angeles. I mean, I get not wanting to admit you're from Disneyland, but you're not fooling anyone who's ever been to both Anaheim and LA. They've got a large payroll, third behind only the Dodgers and Tigers among playoff teams.
Kansas City Royals (Royals Review)
Key players: Alex Gordon (a great fielder who can also hit), James Shields (the staff ace, though not quite quite an Ace™), Wade Davis (probably the best reliever in baseball this season, he posted a 1.00 ERA and didn't allow a single home run in 72 innings)
Going for them: As you may have heard, the Royals hadn't made the playoffs since 1985. A championship drought is one thing, a playoff-appearance drought is quite another, so you might feel some sympathy for Royals fans. They play great defense and run the bases like crazy, which is fun. They are a small market team, so if you prefer David to Goliath, here's your team.
Working against them: While they don't inspire the same amount of loathing as the Tigers, they are still a division rival for the Indians. The Royals also seem horribly mismanaged, at least in terms of in-game tactics; this may be due to a lack of big hitters, but some find it frustrating to watch a team willingly give up so many outs, and don't want to see it rewarded with success.
Me personally, I'm cheering for the Orioles and Angels.
I have stronger feelings about AL teams than about NL ones, for the most part, but Baltimore is one of the few junior circuit teams I don't really hold anything against. That they're playing the Tigers just makes the decision easier, even though Detroit is still behind both New York and Boston on my dislike list. Meanwhile, I'm not really rooting for the Angels, so much as I'm rooting against the Royals. I'm among those who thinks they're managed incompetently, and I would find it frustrating to see them reach the World Series. It wasn't until the Wild Card Game that I fully realized that I dislike them, but lo and behold.
What say you?