It was a simple enough assignment I gave myself – rank the 30 MLB franchises based on who I’d root for, if I were forced to surrender my allegiance to the Chicago Cubs and pick a new team. Simple, but hard to accurately and honestly answer without knowing the parameters in which the question was framed. So then I had to come up with some parameters. But first I needed to expound on the hypothetical. Here’s what I settled on:
Hypothetical: Pretend the Baseball Gods have granted you a second chance to choose which MLB team to root for. You can forget geographical obligations and familial blood-lines, and there will be no guilt attached to whatever decision you make. You’ll just automatically be assimilated into that fan base, and all former allegiances will be erased from your memory.
As for the criteria that I decided to base my arbitrary, biased decisions on, they’re as follows (in no particular order, and randomly weighted):
Winning – Rooting for a team that wins is a way more fun than rooting for one that doesn’t. Fun is good. Good is awesome. Awesome is winning. Winning is divine. Or, more clearly — what are the chances the team has of playing in multiple playoffs and winning a World Series over the next decade?
Current Fan Base –It’s important to remember that you’ll be associated with these people. When you throw on the team colors, you become one of them, and other fans will automatically assume certain things about your intelligence, disposition, and grooming habits. These will also be the people you’ll be celebrating with when your team wins, and commiserating with when they lose (probably on the internet, but still).
Competency and Stability of Current Owner, General Manager, and Coach – Pretty self-explanatory.
Team History – How many pennants can you point to when talking you-know-what to other team’s fans? Whose unlicensed retro jersey can be illegally ordered from China? Will old drunks at the bar point and laugh when you request the team’s game be put on the television? Why do you care what old drunks at the bar think of you?
The Ballpark – Is it a living museum, a temple of America’s Pastime, or is it Tropicana Field? Since season tickets aren’t included in our hypothetical, I took into account not just what it would be like to attend a game at the park, but also what it looks like when sitting on your couch, watching from home.
The City – At first I thought “the city the team is located in should be taken out of the equation completely.” But then I thought, “if I’m taking into account the home ballpark, a team’s home city should also be factored in, at least a little.” Then I added, “Plus, if I were a fan of this team, I could definitely convince my wife to let me take one weekend trip a season to watch them play.” Then I stopped because I realized I was drunk, and talking out loud. But that’s what I went with. I’ll admit, in some instances, I let location and a weekend vacation play a bigger factor than it should’ve.
Coolness or Color of Jersey – Listen, it’s okay to wear baseball jerseys, even if you’re three decades removed from Little League. They’re an ageless staple, and although they’re designed to look ridiculous on everyone but those meant to wear them, you totally look cool in yours. What’s not okay is to give undying support to a team based on what their uniform looks like. This isn’t the NCAA Tournament pool, and we’re not the company secretary, so let’s not be girls, guys. I should probably mention that on one occasion I broke this rule on purpose, and with complete disregard – as I’m sure my unconceived teenage daughter will someday do to every rule I make (Goddammit Jenny, how many times did I tell you to never, ever, under any circumstance, get a full-ride scholarship to college! … I’m already one step ahead her).
But enough about criteria and stipulations, let’s do the damn thing:
30. Oakland Athletics
I respect that Billy Beane is a true outside-the-box thinker, but his management style is the least fan-friendly in the league. Every good player who emerges in Oakland is quickly shipped out of town (Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren) or not re-signed (Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon), and every hyped hitter prospect has either busted out (Chris Carter, Daric Barton) or been dealt before they became stars (Carlos Gonzalez, Andre Ethier). Even when they’ve added established players via trade or free agency, it’s been a short-lived experiment (Milton Bradley, Matt Holliday … Yoenis Cespedes?).
So that’s been fun for the fans.
Also fun for the fans: the ongoing and increasingly contentious territorial feud with the Giants over the A’s planned move to San Jose. If a resolution can’t be worked out, which is a very real possibility, there’s a chance the team could move out of the area/state/country completely. I feel the same way about becoming an Oakland Athletics fan as I do of seeing Glenn Close naked – barf.
29. Miami Marlins
The rebranded Marlins’ new ballpark looks like it was designed by Barnum & Bailey, only if they were a gay Latin couple (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And for some reason, the team refuses to open the retractable roof, making every game appear as if it were being played at 1:00 am. I get that they’re going for a South Beach club atmosphere, but there’s a fine line between being hip and trendy, and replacing the seventh-inning stretch with a topless foam party. Let’s hope Jeffrey Loria, who by all accounts is a pretentious, greedy, art-dealing a-hole, never crosses it. From a baseball standpoint, I certainly wouldn’t mind watching the Marlins every night in the hopes of seeing Giancarlo Stanton bomb a home run, or Ozzie Guillen F-bomb an ump, but who would I be cheering with? The same spray-tanned, ripped-jean bandwagon jumpers that root for the Heat? No thank you.
28. Toronto Blue Jays
I’m an American, dammit.
27. Houston Astros
The Astros are rebuilding, but there’s some frisky talent there (sup, Jose Altuve), and they have a couple of useful trade pieces (Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Carlos Lee). New G.M. Jeff Luhnow already has one notch on his Trade Rape Belt – Mark Melancon for Jed Lowrie – and I’m sure he’s thirsting for more. Minute Maid Park is quirky without being obnoxious, and I love the fact that they’re moving out of the NL and into the AL – it’s like getting a fresh start at a new school after crapping your pants on the first day of ninth grade at the old one. Of course, the Rangers are bullies and are sure to tease Houston and beat them up every chance they get, but even that’s better than being known as a pants-pooping loser.
26. San Diego Padres
I’ve met one Padres fan in my life, at the Indianapolis airport, coming back from Spring Training this past March. He wasn’t even really a fan – his grandmother had been though. Apparently she had raised him in San Diego, and began listening to Padres games on the radio when she turned 85 (or as I interrupted it: when she became too old to do anything else). For the last 10 years of her life, this guy’s grandma was as diehard a Padres supporter as you could find, and he’d had the Padres’ old logo of a friar swinging a bat tattooed on his forearm in memory of her. Seeing me with a baseball magazine under my arm had prompted him to share his story, and when he was finished, he rolled down his sleeve and asked, with a wistful grin, “So, how are the Padres looking this year?” To which I responded: “They freaking suck, man. They always freaking suck.”
25. Seattle Mariners
Safeco Field is a place right-handed power hitters go to be castrated, so the Mariners have done the smart thing and loaded up on young lefty hitters like Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Michael Saunders, and Justin Smoak. Jesus Montero bats right-handed, but he has easy opposite field power, so he counts too. On the mound, the Mariners rotation could one day feature Felix Hernandez, Tyjuan Walker, Danny Hultzen, and James Paxson, which, potentially, potentially, could be the best staff in the AL within three years. It also could potentially never happen. Probably won’t happen, actually. Still, the point is there’s a lot of talent, and there seems to be a plan. If just typing the word “Seattle” didn’t make me so depressed, the Mariners would be a lot higher.
24. Tampa Bay Rays
I love Joe Maddon, and the step-ahead management team is feared around the league. The core of the team is young and enthusiastic, and they genuinely seem to have fun playing the game. If this were based on what team I’d like to root for over the next five years, the Rays would be in the Top 10 for sure. It’s not though. This about hitching your cart to a team for the long-haul, something I’m not willing to do with Tampa. The problem comes when projecting out, and planning for the inevitable downswing in fortune. That’s when things get ugly, because when you take away the winning, all you have left is the aesthetic vulgarity of Tropicana Field, a non-existent fan base, Dick Vitale, the AL East, and not much cash. Sorry, I’ll pass.
23. Minnesota Twins
There’s nothing offensive about the thought of being a Minnesota Twins fans. There’s nothing appealing, either. I suppose if I were a born-and-raised in the Twin Cities I’d feel especially proud to root for Joe Mauer, but I’m not, so he’s just another guy with great hair to me. The best thing I can say about the Twins is they don’t play in the Metrodome anymore.
22. Chicago White Sox
Have you ever wanted to be a red-headed stepchild? Do you enjoy inept management? Would you like to attend games in the ghetto? Are you okay with being attached to the ugliest scandal in the history of baseball? If so, the Chicago White Sox are the team for you.
The only saving grace, and I think a lot of people will disagree with me here, is Hawk Harrelson. To non-Sox fans, Harrelson is the most grating, annoyingly biased cheerleading broadcaster in the league. His catchphrases are repeated loud enough, and often enough, to cause retinal bleeding, and if he feels the Pale Hose have been slighted even a little, his first reaction is to have what I believe the kids call an “epic freakout”. To White Sox fans, however, it makes him an endearing figure – like the broadcasting version of A.J. Pierzynski. And I’ll admit, it has to be comforting to know that even when they’re not winning, your team is still pissing the opposition off (and yes, I refuse to acknowledge that the Chi-Sox are in first place in the AL Central. It won’t last).
21. Cleveland Indians
The Indians are a half-game behind the White Sox in the Central, yet rank dead last in attendance … by a lot. I can’t imagine there’s much else to do in Cleveland this time of year, so what gives Indians fans? What do you smell that I don’t? Is it Chris Perez‘s beard? Shin-Soo Choo‘s noxious fish farts? Oh wait, it’s coming from Larry Dolan’s office isn’t it? Thought so. Hey, at least you can get stoned, watch Major League, and pretend it all really happened.
20. Colorado Rockies
Speaking of getting stoned … I wouldn’t mind taking a yearly summer trip out to Colorado. You know, to go hiking and stuff. The Rockies may never figure out what type of pitcher plays well at Coors Field (if there is even a type), but their games will always be entertaining and high scoring, and that’s better than the opposite. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are established superstars and signed through 2017, and touted prospect Nolan Arenado could add a third high-average power hitter to the middle of their order by next year. Getting bombed and watching bombs – sounds like a great way to spend the summer.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates
It’s hard to imagine that being a Pirates fan is very fun. They haven’t had a winning season since 1992, and ownership has proven that it is content to under-spend on payroll, pocket revenue-sharing income, and finish below .500. I guess that explains why people in Pittsburgh are fanatics about the Steelers and Penguins, but apathetic towards the Pirates – the summer gives them a break from being crazed sports fans, and an opportunity to just be plain old drunks. Just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, I turned to my buddy Hoff, an actual resident of the Steel City, to give me his Top 5 Best Things About Being a Pirates Fan:
5. The “I’m 67% positive she is homeless” lady that sells damn good knockoff Andrew McCutcheon shirts for $5 at the south corner of Roberto Clemente Bridge. Best bang for your buck on game day. Still want to know how a homeless lady gets that many t-shirts.
4. Primanti Brothers’ monster sandwiches after a ball game. If the Buccos lose, at least you always have a giant egg infused sandwich to take out your frustration on. Pepto Bismol shot recommended.
3. Cheap tickets. Other than the two days every year that the Pirates are in first place, I can usually sit 3 rows behind the dugout for around $50, or scalp game day cheap seats for under $10.
2. Game day drinking/tailgating. What else can I say? Even if you don’t go to the game, you’ll still get plenty of enjoyment out of watching two drunk shirtless dudes beer-belly wrestling in the street.
1. PNC Park. Hands down one of the hidden gems on the MLB circuit. Don’t believe me? Get a seat along the third base line for a night game and take in the views of the bridges, river, and downtown skyline as dusk turns into night. Then look down at your crotch and note the boner. You can thank me later.
18. Arizona Diamondbacks
I get why there are retractable roof stadiums in certain places, and Arizona is definitely one of them. Nobody wants to attend and sit through an entire game under a baking, 115 degree sun. On the flip-side, nobody sitting at home wants to watch baseball being played indoors when there’s a baking, 115 degree sun outside. Not much about the Diamondbacks team excites me, but I am a big fan of Kirk Gibson’s “stoic leader of men” thing, and I enjoy listening to Mark Grace on the broadcasts. And, of course, there’s the pool out in right-center, which I would rent out on my yearly trip to Chase Field, and invite a local group of whores to join me.
17. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles should be higher. They’re a feisty, well-managed team built around a young core in Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis. Camden Yards is a homer-friendly environment with a retro feel – both check pulses – and once upon a time, the Orioles were among the most successful and beloved franchises in baseball. Not so anymore, almost entirely thanks to owner Peter Angelos. Since taking control of the team in 1993, Angelos, known affectionately around Baltimore as “the asbestos lawyer who mismanaged the Orioles”, has overseen three winning teams, none since 1997. He’s alternately been accused of being a meddler and a no-show owner, and he’s been through eight general managers in his 19 years at the helm. The newest of the bunch, Dan Duquette, has a proven track record (see Montreal in the late 90’s and Boston around the turn of the century), but there’s no guarantee he’ll be given the time or the freedom to produce any fruit. There’s a reason the Orioles rank 21st in attendance despite having the third best record in the AL, and it’s not because The Wire made everyone in Baltimore afraid to leave their homes. Or at least I don’t think so.
16. Milwaukee Brewers
My three biggest fears in life are as follows:
3. Driving on the highway.
2. Dying while masturbating.
1. Being convicted of a horrific crime I did not commit.
In baseball, testing positive for performance-enhancers is the equivalent of being an animal-raping serial killer, and if we’re going assign that label to a guy, I want there to be no doubt that he did it. So count me among the Ryan Braun supporters. There were enough red flags in his case – the elapsed time between piss and test, the highly-skewed testosterone levels, the lack of physical or statistical change in Braun – that I’m willing to accept the ruling handed down by the arbitrator, who, I might add, was agreed upon by both sides. I do worry that Braun is the only star on an otherwise mediocre team, but that’s offset by Bernie Brewer’s home run slide, and the fact that hanging out with Brewer’s fans always makes me feel good (you know, because they’re all so friendly, down-to-earth, and fatter than me).
Look for rankings 15-to-1 later this week . . .