A hateful guide to the AL Wild Card Game

The MLB playoffs are the best time of the year, because every story of dominance and triumph, every celebrating fanbase, is humbled. Emphatically and publicly in emotionally traumatizing fashion, their dreams are crushed, and they must once again revert to the cautious cynicism and doubt that guides the day-to-day existence of fandom, and we can all watch as their return from their deluded perch.

And in that moment, we are spiritually united; it is as if they have become White Sox fans, except without the comforting cloak of anonymity.

The only downside is that at the ends, someone wins, and actually has all their silly hope validated. But up until then, it's a carnival.

Why it would be fun if the Astros lose:

Tanking and scorched-Earth rebuilds are sound strategy. It's a savvy response to the limits of ownership budgets, a good way to hoard top young talent while their wages are suppressed by the CBA, and a new hallmark of organizations that are willing to suffer through a few years of doldrums to allow their GMs to rebuild the talent pool from the ground up and berth long-term contender. There were some awfully harrowing times in Houston, but GM Jeff Luhnow and his highly-esteemed staff saw his plan through and is seeing the first of what should be several trips to the postseason.

But do I actually want to see him rewarded for this process?


There's a wide gulf between smart, and good. It's smart that teams tank for high draft picks and bottom out their MLB payroll while they scout, draft and build a contender from scratch, but is sure as hell isn't a positive development for the game, and the potential for the Astros to get plaudits for having the foresight to put out a farce of a product for years while the ownership saved money doesn't excite me, the viewer, for the future of the league. The Astros aren't even innovators in this sense, they just took enacted method to a more extreme degree and with less shame than anyone else previous dared to exhibit, and if they're held up as the example for teams to model, who knows what fan-murdering strategy the next brilliant braintrust will come up with next.

--And while the Astros hiring so many BPro alumni should generate warm feelings toward them, selfishly I'm bitter. Nothing's replaced the Up & In podcast, and nothing will. What other providers of my favorite internet content of mine are they going to co-opt and make proprietary? What's next? Harvest Jonak Keri's jinxing powers for their personal use? Special Assistants to the GM Desus & Mero? All Astros press releases written by Clickhole? I don't have much left!

--Chris Carter plays for the Astros. He's now two organizations removed from the Diamondbacks, who the Sox traded him to for Carlos Quentin, and I haven't questioned the ever-important assessment that the Sox WON THE TRADE much since Quentin bashed 36 homers in five months of 2008 and produced pleasing blips and burps of offensive production for three seasons...even if he got traded for friggin' Simon Castro.

But if Carter hits a bunch of crucial playoff moonshots while the Sox are the midst of an extended postseason drought and just trotted out the assorted bones of Adam LaRoche to play DH this past year...I will feel things I don't want to feel. If he goes 0-4 with three strikeouts, I probably will not.

--This is a fanbase of which a sizable portion still harbors resentment that they didn't get to close their stadium roof during the 2005 World Series to artificially turn their park into an echo chamber. It was over 60 degrees both nights! It's a dry heat!

Why it would be fun if the Yankees lose:

It's the friggin' Yankees! New York hasn't gotten any less obnoxious while you stopped paying attention to them for a few years. Half the fanbase is barely even excited about a Wild Card berth. Humanizing the villain has become a familiar trope in our search to have fresh takes, or just being contrarian for the sake of feeling special, but the villain is still the villain for a reason. Remember when they just decided last year to just sign the entire damn J2 crop and eat the penalties because they have the money and they can? Of course not, you're a White Sox fan and you've long since given up on following international signing news, but they did it, because they're the Yankees.

--On that note, the Summer of Al has a shelf life. Oh sure it's been fun to revel in this winking counter-culture narrative knowing how much it pissed off mainstream columnists to see A-Rod dominate and drag the Yankees to the playoffs, and his support of CC Sabathia has been truly touching. But now he's a winner again, and now the same media engine that tried to paint this loopy narcissist as a truly sinister monster will be trying to paint this loopy narcissist as humbled and redeemed, a new man, a leader and inspiration, mostly because he is no longer barred from bashing dingers anymore.

Tongue-in-cheek Al worship is fun, sincere TRUE YANKEE worship will get old. Maybe not today, maybe not while he's cackling and circling the bases while Royals fans huck trash at him, maybe not until his disastrous tenure in the US Senate, but eventually.

--This team is an injury or two away from trotting out the 2012 Mariners double play combination. You can't stick around if you do that, you gotta go. It ain't right.

--Brian McCann is on this team. It's been awhile since he manned his post as the avatar for baseball's canonization of the sore loser as a morally righteous figure, but if you want to slap that label on him for the sake of taking lurid pleasure in his team's demise this week, know that I am here for you.

Indeed, I am always here for you and with you in your heart, whenever you open it up to hatred (BASEBALL hatred. Please stop sending your flash mob violence book pitches to info@thecatbirdseatblog.com)