MLB Playoffs: A Guide Who To Root For

Published by David Freed on October 06, 2012 at 3:12AM

Outside dorms, leaves are turning from green to red and Harvard students are turning from partiers to Lamonsters, which can mean only two things. One, midterms are here and campus-wide coffee sales are booming. Two, and more importantly, it is time for October baseball and the Fall Classic. For those Harvard students who have the time to delay hitting the books and want to hit the couch instead, here’s a Harvard-centric viewing guide for the Major League Baseball playoffs:

St. Louis Cardinals

Reasons to root for them:

The head of the Cardinals’ amateur scouting department is Dan Kantrovitz, who studied with Harvard statistics mastermind Carl Morris to transition from an amateur player to a statistics guru. Although no players Kantrovitz supervises will be on the field Friday, players like Yadier Molina and Allen Craig, whom he helped move through the organization’s ranks, will be instrumental if the team has any hope of success.

Reasons to root against them:

Besides the fact that they won it all last year—if you’ve taken Ec10, you know monopolies are never good—and have won 11 times overall, rooting for the Cardinals feels like rooting for the Yankees; you’re more likely to be rewarded with a championship but that championship won’t mean nearly as much.

Cincinnati Reds

Reasons to root for them:

Last year, Cincinnati drafted an Ivy League pitcher in the eleventh round who had sixteen strikeouts in his final college game and waved a teary goodbye to the Ancient Eight. Though the Ivy Leaguer is not on the postseason roster, you should still root for those teams who value intelligence over mere brawn.

Reasons to root against them:

Nolan Becker, the pitcher mentioned above who was drafted, went to Yale.

San Francisco Giants

Reasons to root for them:

You simply can’t resist rooting for a team whose two best offensive players are nicknamed “Bust-A pose” and “Kung Fu Panda.”

Reasons to root against them:

One of their players, Melky Cabrera, was caught this year using illegal substances and cheating the system. As a Harvard student, you have no tolerance for this kind of dishonesty.

Texas Rangers

Reasons to root for them:

As an international relations concentrator, you love the heterogeneity of a team that features Neftali Feliz, Adrian Beltre, Elvin Andrus, Koji Uehara, and Yu Darvish.

Reasons to root against them:

Because of your political affiliation with the Harvard Democrats, you ban yourself from supporting any team that George W. Bush owns a part of.

New York Yankees

Reasons to root for them:

New York is the closest of these towns to Harvard, and for your money, this may be your best chance to go watch a playoff game if you put up the cash to travel and get a seat.

Reasons to root against them:

Wherever you may be from now, living in Boston and telling someone your favorite team in the Yankees is a recipe for disaster that could only be worse if you told that same Bostonian that Larry Bird was a poor man’s Magic Johnson.

Washington Nationals

Reasons to root for them:

You see a bit of your overachieving self in Bryce Harper—a nineteen-year-old with a good chance of playing in the World Series before he exits his teens, who also received his high school diploma at 16.

Reasons to root against them:

You see a bit of your kid brother in Bryce Harper—a petulant child who breaks bats across his knees often and who was called cocky and immature by a manager within his own division.

Atlanta Braves

Reasons to root for them:

It’s Chipper Jones’ swan song in his final postseason for retirement and, as a student of history, you are endeared to the idea of a lasting legacy.

Reasons to root against them:

In their history, the Braves have fielded players from Dartmouth (Kyle Hendricks, drafted this year), Mark DeRosa (Penn), and Gene Larkin (Columbia), but never one from Harvard. Let the bitterness begin.

Oakland Athletics

Reasons to root for them:

You see the big-picture fairy tale story and look a bit closer at a club that relies entirely on numbers and gaming the system to get by. As either a business or statistics concentrator, you fall in love with Billy Beane’s way of doing business and his gutsy tale.

Reasons to root against them:

Like the Giants, they had a player banned for steroid use, and your moral compass steers you towards the other teams in the American League.

Detroit Tigers

Reasons to root for them:

You’re a history concentrator and knowing that the Tigers have the first pair of pitching-hitting Triple Crown teammates (Miguel Cabrera this year, Justin Verlander last year) in history simply gets your blood going.

Reasons to root against them:

You’re a statistics concentrator who, after reading Keith Law and Jonah Keri, sees the Triple Crown as a washed-up, Neanderthal way of measuring hitting ability and refuse to acknowledge any baseball fan who speaks in OPS and not wOBA.

Baltimore Orioles

Reasons to root for them:

You like the idea of seeing two prospects barely your age—Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy—being the key points of a team trying to make the World Series after losing at least ninety games in ten of the last twelve seasons.

Reasons to root against them:

As a statistics concentrator, you look at this team with a +7 run differential and note that it is worse than six teams who didn’t make the playoffs—including the team that finished right behind them in the standings, the Tampa Bay Rays. You also chalk up their 29-9 record in one-run games and 16 straight extra innings run as an annoying disruption to regression to the mean.