Picking a post-season team

Tom Pennington

The Diamondbacks are not involved in the 2013 playoffs, but that doesn't mean we'll be ignoring them completely. Now the field of ten has been set, here's a quick rundown on the candidates. Each team is assigned a "likeability index", where 10 is the Diamondbacks, and 0 is...

National League

Atlanta Braves
Regular season: 96-66. ARI vs.: 2-4. World Series odds: 7/1
Ex-Diamondbacks used this season: Chris Johnson, Dan Uggla, Justin Upton
Reason to hate them: Justin Upton
Reason to love them: Justin Upton

How you feel about the Braves probably reflects your opinion of the Upton trade. If you hated it, you probably want Atlanta to do well, to prove your point. If you didn't liked it, the reverse is true. Of course, as with most things, the truth is in the middle: the trade likely neither propelled the Braves to the post-season, or stopped the Diamondbacks from making the playoffs. I think it's kinda cool to see Atlanta back there, having not won the NL East since the end of their 11-year reign as champions in 2005: definitely rather see them in October than the Washington Nationals. Likeability index: 6.

Cincinnatti Reds
Regular season: 90-72. ARI vs.: 3-4. World Series odds: 16/1
Ex-Diamondbacks used this season: Zach Duke
Reason to hate them: wild-card rivals for much of 2013
Reason to love them: Aroldis Chapman

It seems that, after we lost the lead in the National League West, the most frequently-asked question was, "How are the Reds doing?" They occupied the second wild-card spot for most of the season after the All-Star break, holding on despite a brief flurry of resurgence from Washington. It was losing three out of four against them in mid-August that, even for the more optimistic fans, basically ended our campaign as a meaningful entity. Still, there's nothing like watching a closer who throws 102 mph. Especially when it's not your team's batters who are trying to get hits off him. Likeability index: 5

Los Angeles Dodgers
Regular season: 92-70. ARI vs.: 10-9. World Series odds: 17/4
Ex-Diamondbacks used this season: Chris Capuano
Reason to hate them: shortly to be available in paperback
Reason to love them: er...

I think a lot of Diamondback fans this year will be cheering for "anyone but the Dodgers", and I'm certainly in that line. This isn't necessarily a bad thing: every interesting story needs a good villain - what would Die Hard be without Alan Rickman? - and in the happy absence of the Yankees (thanks to their lowest W% since 1992), the Dodgers fill the role admirably. With the exception of Matt Kemp, they're arrogant SOBs, or at least, play the part well, but were able to back it up over two months of the most inspired play in my lifetime. Which is scary: if they get that hot again, they'll be unstoppable. Deargodpleasenoanythingbutthat. Likeability index: 1 [they are in the NL West]

Pittsburgh Pirates
Regular season: 94-68. ARI vs.: 3-3. World Series odds: 16/1
Ex-Diamondbacks used this season: John McDonald, Mike Zagurski
Reason to hate them: Andrew McCutchen will probably be the MVP, not Goldie.
Reason to love them: ending that long streak of futility

As a D-back fan, I wear having survived the hell which was 2004 like a badge of honor, but we've never had more than three losing years in a row. You've got to respect a fanbase which can remain loyal - or frankly, give a damn - after twenty consecutive losing seasons. Particularly after having lost 105 games a mere three seasons back, this has got to feel like all your birthdays and Christmases rolled into one for Pittsburgh supporters. Even if it ends tonight after a single game. Me, I'm rooting for a Pirates-Rays World Series. Fox network executives, probably not so much. Likeability index: 8

St. Louis Cardinals
Regular season: 97-65. ARI vs.: 4-3. World Series odds: 11/2
Ex-Diamondbacks used this season: Randy Choate
Reason to hate them: boringly good. Sixth consecutive year with 86+ wins
Reason to love them: proof you don't have to hit HR to be successful

Yeah, the Cardinals actually had fewer homers than the D-backs this year, 125-130. Admittedly, their pitchers also allowed a couple less. Like 112-176. But I refuse to let these so-called "facts" get in the way of my narrative. As noted, they're probably the most reliable team in the National League: only Atlanta (five) have more than three consecutive winning seasons. New manager Mike Matheny is kinda the anti-Gibson: eight players appeared in 134 or more games for St. Louis this year, twice as many as Arizona. They're kinda the baseball equivalent of Outback Steakhouse: consistently good, rather than spectacular or memorable. Likeability index: 4.

American League

Boston Red Sox
Regular season: 97-65. ARI vs.: 1-2. World Series odds: 4/1
Ex-Diamondbacks used this season: Stephen Drew, Pedro Ciriaco, John McDonald, Craig Breslow
Reason to hate them: Yankees Lite
Reason to love them: getting to yell DROOOOOOOOO! one more time

The bookmaker's favorites coming in to the post-season, having gone from worst to first in the AL East, improving by 28 games over their 2012 record under new manager John Farrell. It's their first division win since 2006, and they won it all that year, so if history is any guide... As part of the East-coast media circus, it's difficult to feel anything but knee-jerk dislike, and I suspect this year's success will lead to their fanbase being bloated by bandwagon jumpers, and thus exponentially more obnoxious. Exhibit A: Dane Cook. God forbid they actually win it all again, and they'll become insufferable. Likeability index: 3

Cleveland Indians
Regular season: 92-70. ARI vs.: DNP. World Series odds: 14/1
Ex-Diamondbacks used this season: Mark Reynolds, Jason Kubel, John McDonald, Trevor Bauer, Matt Langwell, Bryan Shaw, Matt Albers
Reason to hate them: refusal to change name to Cleveland Native Americans
Reason to love them: took Kubel off our hands. Thanks, Cleveland!

Despite the plethora of ex-Diamondbacks, most of them won't be seen in the post-season for one reason or another. Some e.g. Reynolds are no longer with the team, others weren't effective - Kubel hit .167 after his trade to the Indians. We will probably see Shaw and Albers out of the Indians bullpen, and it's worth remembering the trade wasn't just Didi Gregorius for Bauer: the two relievers have been worth 1.3 bWAR this year as well. Certainly the hottest team coming into the playoffs, having won ten in a row, but will that carry forward? Nice to see them in the post-season for the first time in six years. Likeability index: 5

Detroit Tigers
Regular season: 93-69. ARI vs.: DNP. World Series odds: 5/1
Ex-Diamondbacks used this season: Max Scherzer, Jose Valverde
Reason to hate them: Prince Fielder
Reason to love them: Max Scherzer

There aren't many players I care about after they leave the D-backs - I support the team on the front, not the name on the back. But I was glad to see Scherzer become an almost unstoppable force this year, going 21-3. Looking back, that December 2009 trade looked great for us after 2011, after Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson (traded for Edwin Jackson) went 37-16. But Scherzer has improved every year since; our two... Well, not so much. Does Max and his cool, heterochromatic eyes balance out my dislike of Fielder? Probably not, though the Tigers still remain my pick to win the AL pennant. Likeability index: 4

Oakland A's
Regular season: 96-66. ARI vs.: DNP. World Series odds: 15/2
Ex-Diamondbacks used this season: Chris Young, Alberto Callaspo, Jarrod Parker, Brett Anderson, Ryan Cook, Evan Scribner
Reason to hate them: Seems they win almost every trade with us. Except for Chris Young.
Reason to love them: Moneyball

Billy Beane continues to spin straw into gold, winning the AL West despite an Opening Day payroll ranked 28th in the majors, and the lowest of the post-season teams (they, the Indians and Rays, all spent less than the D-backs - just more wisely). Not one of ESPN's 43 experts picked them for the West, yet here we are. But how will the play in October? The last time they won even one game past the Division Series was 1992. Hard to think of a team that won back-to-back division titles as an underdog; however, they still feel that way. Maybe they can win it all, and Brad Pitt will return for Moneyball 2. Likeability index: 7

Tampa Rays
Regular season: 92-71. ARI vs.: 3-1. World Series odds: 14/1
Ex-Diamondbacks used this season: Kelly Johnson, Ryan Roberts
Reason to hate them: Responsible for the death of Steve Irwin
Reason to love them: Expansion siblings

Got to feel for the Rays, stuck in an untenable situation in Florida. Their last home game, as they fought for a wild-card spot, drew a crowd of 17,830, and Jeffrey Loria's shenanigans have likely destroyed any chance of help with a new stadium. Still, they keep on playing and much like the A's, can be regarded as a model for success on a small budget - like the Cardinals, they've had six winning season in a row. I was particularly pleased to see them take out the Rangers yesterday, even if their prize was another win-or-die contest against the Indians today. I'd like them to win the World Series, but it's probably not going to happen. Likeability index: 7

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