The 2014 National League Division Series kick off today. The Washington National host the San Francisco Giants in the first series, while the Los Angeles Dodgers host the St. Louis Cardinals in the other. Here's a look at each of the those team, 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, where you can of course find more detailed coverage:
Washington Nationals (Federal Baseball)
Key players: Stephen Strasburg (well known as one of the best pitchers in baseball), Jordan Zimmermann (less well known than his teammate, but an even better pitcher this year), Anthony Rendon (one of the least known great players in baseball this season)
Going for them: The franchise hasn't won a playoff series since 1981, and the Washington version has only even been to the playoffs once before in its ten years of existence. Asdrubal Cabrera is there. They're the only one of these four teams that isn't "old money." The other three are the most successful franchises in the NL; these guys are the upstarts.
Working against them: Having been to their stadium, I feel qualified to call it boring. They have a sneakily high payroll, #4 in the National League. They killed the Expos.
San Francisco Giants (McCovey Chronicles)
Key Players: Buster Posey (another MVP-candidate kind of season from the youngest Bluth), Madison Bumgarner (his shutout in the Wild Card Game got them here), Hunter Pence (seems kind of crazy, but in a good way... plays well too)
Going for them: They have a beautiful stadium, making it very pleasant to watch games there, even on TV. They've maintained a pretty steady core in recent years, without much in the way of mercenary-style additions.
Working against them: They won two of the last four World Series, so they've had enough success for this decade. They beat the Indians in the '54 World Series. While their core has been together for a while, they aren't some mom and pop operation; they have the third highest payroll in the NL.
Los Angeles Dodgers (True Blue LA)
Key players: Clayton Kershaw (he's the best pitcher on the planet, with few comps who aren't among the best ever), Yasiel Puig (there's nothing he can't do, both for better and for worse), Zack Greinke (maybe the best #2 starter in baseball)
Going for them: The longer they play, the more times we get to see Clayton Kershaw pitch, which is a thing of beauty. Vin Scully is somewhere nearby. Dodger Stadium is an underrated gem.
Working against them: They have the highest payroll in baseball this year by a margin of $30 million. Certain types find Yasiul Puig to be the worst thing about baseball, so if you're one of those types, you'd probably rather not root for his team.
St. Louis Cardinals (Viva El Birdos)
Key players: Adam Wainwright (the NL's best pitcher not named Clayton), Yadier Molina (injuries have slowed him, but he's still a big plus behind the plate, and a more than capable hitter), Jhonny Peralta (how does he keep doing this???)
Going for them: They're from the Midwest, but not the AL Central. They have the lowest payroll of the any of the remaining NL teams. They have beautiful uniforms. Jon Hamm is one of the most famous legit baseball fans, and he'd be happy to see St. Louis win.
Working against them: They've had a ton of success in recent years (and throughout most of baseball history), which makes them sort of the Yankees of the NL. The whole shtick about their fans being the best is kind of annoying.
Me personally, I'm cheering for the Dodgers and the... I'm not exactly sure.
If and when the Dodgers win a championship, I may turn on them, but for now I'm not letting their massive payroll bother me. I love watching Kershaw, just as I loved watching Maddux and Pedro, I love listening to Scully, I lived in LA for a while and enjoyed working with a bunch of blue collar Dodger die-hards. My sister and her boyfriend (him especially) are big fans, and I'd be happy for their happiness. Meanwhile, I'm sort of tired of the Cardinals, damn their well-run organization!
In the other series, I'll have to wait and see what I want when the series begins. I think I want the Giants, because the Nationals feel sort of like carpetbaggers to me. (Vive Les Expos!) A Dodgers/Giants NLCS would also be really cool, because that's like Yankees/Red Sox without all the awfulness. On the other hand though, I don't want to see the Giants in the World Series again, and cheering for a team to advance one round but not two is a dangerous game. Cards/Giants would be my last choice of NLCS, so maybe I should just pull for the Nationals now.
How about you?