Frankly, I'm a little exhausted.
Back in my day, the dread and despair of a full baseball season being brutally snuffed out as quickly as possible built up over the course of at least a work week. My dinner prep Wednesday night consisted of reheating taco meat in the microwave and dropping it in tortillas and the Pirates whole season was still screwed before I started eating.
The Rangers and Blue Jays start their series Thursday with brazen contempt for the working man at 3:37pm ET, and the Royals debut later in the evening against the intentionally ashy-to-classy Astros. A minimum of three games will at least give teams the chance to define the postseason existence by something other than immediate and unrelenting despair. Let's take that time to develop petty grudges.
Toronto Blue Jays
The first Blue Jays' playoff team in decades, the feel-good second half phenomenon and the most electrifying offense in baseball. Oh sure, it seems like a fun bandwagon to hop on; a squad that embraces big-time talent, big-time personalities and shoots for the moon. They've been demolishing the league since acquiring David Price and Troy Tulowitzki and supporting them could be getting on the right side of history.
But we're White Sox fans, we're not on the right side of history. Jose Bautista has been an enemy to the Sox since they were accusing him of stealing signs in 2010, he notoriously feuded with John Danks in 2011, and who could forget this magical play in 2012. In that last video, where Bautista hysterically argues the call after getting thrown out doing something unfathomably stupid, he reveals his true form. He's a brilliant player, but a truly fantastic villain. He bursts with natural talent and matches it with swagger, arrogance and ruthless trash-talking. It's a honor to root against Jose Bautista and we should all share it.
And another thing, Toronto is not your friend. Those Canucks mean you harm. Trades with the Blue Jays in recent years have returned Future No. 2 Starter Nestor Molina and Future Closer Daniel Webb. When the Sox were trying to fence Edwin Jackson in 2011, the most valuable starter on the deadline market at the time, the Jays gave them the return of curly-haired batting practice machine Zach Stewart and agreed to eat the contract of Mark Teahen, who was born in Alberta, and probably was just a Canadian plant all along. Like maple syrup, Canada's evil oozes over White Sox history. How long will we remain silent to the screams?
Ok, you caught me. I'm just quoting Canadian Bacon at this point. Busted.
Well, it's Texas, the state where the school textbooks have more references to the Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura fight than acknowledgement of slave labor's role in building the US into an economic power. This is also the organization that makes a regular habit of employing Chris Sale's mortal enemy, utility infielder Adam Rosales, who owns a .412/.421/.941 line against the Sox ace and has hit 11% of his career home runs against Sale, and this is also an organization that employs an Elkhart, IN native on their 40-man roster; a truly unforgivable act.
Between Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus' infield antics, a rejuvenated Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo and the exciting breakout of Rougned Odor, the Rangers have a fun group who are enjoying the kind of easy rebound to competence that just kind of casually matches the White Sox highest season win total since 2006. For the avatar of my frustration with the Rangers' ability to stumble into MLB-quality play without trying, I choose Colby Lewis, the 36-year-old right-handed hurler with a career 92 ERA+ that the Rangers keep employed just because they never know when they'll need someone to eat innings.
Since returning from Japan in 2010, and despite dealing with Tommy John and "hip resurfacing surgery" is always good for an opportunity to remind everyone that the Sox offense is constant clownshoes. In eight starts over the last six seasons, Lewis has thrown 57.2 innings (more than seven per start), tossed two complete game shutouts, compiled a 2.03 ERA and a spiffy 48-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Again, this is Colby Lewis.
It's good to see the guy healthy again, and walking around with that healthy, resurfaced hip, but he's also walking around as a constant reminder that when the White Sox confront mediocrity, they wither.
So yeah, if he could go away, please.
Hmm, well, beyond being AL Central rivals, this is the same group that sent the last watchable Sox team into a tailspin and out of the 2012 playoff race, was originally forged from inescapable Best Farm System Ever trumpeting, only to become a plucky speed & defense clinic that serves as the perfect foil to the perpetually clunky White Sox, perhaps best represented by last September's the most humiliating shit I have ever seen finish at Kauffman Stadium. In their improbable run to the World Series last season, during which they perfected evoking the constant sinking feeling that your team's screaming line drive to the gap is about to be caught, they redeemed the professional profiles for former Yuniesky Betancourt-enthusiast Dayton Moore, and manager Ned Yost, who now gets to be lionized in anti-intellectual New York Times Magazine profiles and act like his reflexively batting Alcides Escobar leadoff during his worst season is part of his secret brilliance, and not just lazy rigidity. Meanwhile, while most still chase the narrative of the 2014 team's playoff run, the 2015 club has been far more traditionally brilliant.
There is all that, but most of all, what irks me about the Royals is that Hawk Harrelson, surely a controversial figure but a fixture of the league for over 50 years, will by sometime in 2017, be no longer to utter any words besides "Kansas City Special," and great volumes of baseball stories, witticisms and lurid Yaz anecdotes will be lost forever.