Almost every fan has a primary team, of course. But we also all end up playing favorites when we flip through the channels, or end up watching a lot of another team when our own is on a down year. (There probably weren’t a lot of baseball fans who didn’t pick sides during the epic Yankees-Sox battles of the early aughts, for example.) Below, an evaluation of each contending American League team’s potential for spontaneous, secondary fandom.
2. The Boston Red Sox
• There’s no demonstrable sabermetric evidence of “clutch hitting.” True. But of course there are no atheists in a foxhole. David Ortiz batting in the ninth inning at Fenway IS THE FOXHOLE.
• After their America’s Team days of the mid-aughts descended into tragedy, the Sox hit the likability reset button; they’ve now got a mildly less monstrous payroll and a team that’s top-to-bottom solid with high-quality veteran pros like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Johnny Gomes, and Ryan Dempster. (Did you know Ryan Dempster is mad funny? Like legitimately funny, not just for-a-baseball-player funny. Look it up. Raise your Ryan Dempster knowledge game.)
• There is a LOT of very obsessive and smart Red Sox discussion online. Big-time rabbit hole. I speak from experience.
• Boston Championship Fatigue is real and it can strike anywhere.
3. The Detroit Tigers
• The old Justin Verlander is BACK! Two straight starts of one-run ball, 13 strikeouts between them. It’s VERLANDER TIME IN THE HEARTLAND.
• They dumped the player who attacked a panhandler and called him a “fucking Jew.”
• Instead, they have Torii Hunter — and Torii Hunter has a winning smile.
Pictured above: Torii Hunter’s winning smile.
• Detroit Tigers Being In The Playoffs Without Winning The World Series Fatigue Syndrome is also a growing issue in many communities.
6. The Tampa Bay Rays
• Perennially overachieving franchise whose manager, Joe Maddon, likes to try out and discuss new baseball ideas and seems like a good person outside of the game as well.
• They have a player who went to Stanford AND a player whose last name is “Bourgeois.” The Rays are the team of America’s proud graduate students.
• Have Joe Maddon’s glasses gotten too big for their own good? In a “leave your egos at the door” kind of organization, could the level of fame that Joe Maddon’s glasses have achieved cause problems in the clubhouse?
• Everyone on this team besides Longoria is, like, medium-good but not good-good. And don’t come telling me in the comments about their relief pitchers. Listen to yourself. Relief pitchers?
• Tropicana Field looks and feels like a Tommy Bahama outlet store.
7. The Baltimore Orioles
• Camden Yards is an ideal place to find yourself at dusk.
• Chris “Crush” Davis continues to crash Camden crusher-balls.
• Brian Roberts has been giving it all he’s got for years and years — 13, to be exact, all in Baltimore — and now he’s finally got talent around him in the form of Davis, Adam Jones, and Trout/Harper-level superphenom Manny Machado.
• There isn’t a lot of downside to rooting for the Orioles. Maybe that their pitching might not actually be good enough for them to make a long run?
8. The Texas Rangers
• Texas is one of America’s premier baseball states and the Rangers have never won a World Series.
• The ongoing Elvis Andrus-Adrian Beltre shenanigans are MLB’s premier ongoing shenanigans.
• They were so close against the Cardinals. You feel for them. You feel for those Rangers fans, out on the range…talking quietly to a horse, thinking of what could have been. Range on, lonely Rangers.
• Yu Darvish.
• The flip side of the fans having suffered enough and deserving a reward: bordering on “OK, let’s give someone else a shot” territory with three straight years of playoff losses.
9. The Cleveland Indians
• Their manager is nicknamed “Tito.” Get ‘em, Tito.
• For a team that famously hasn’t won a World Series since Revolutionary War times, they have a very solid history, especially in the last few decades. Thome, Manny, Lofton, the Victor Martinez/Grady Sizemore/Travis Hafner/CC Sabathia/Cliff Lee teams…
• Did you know that a 35-year-old Kevin Mitchell and a 22-year-old Richie Sexson were both on the 1997 Indians? How about that?
• It’s a feisty squad. What was all that noise you heard at about two in the morning yesterday? Perhaps it was Drew Stubbs, Jason Kipnis, Michael Bourn, and Michael Brantley out making trouble and stealing bases.
• Great comeback story in Scott Kazmir.
• Just dropped a big series to the Tigers; on the precipice of fading out of the race.
• Various other reasons numerated articulately here.
10. The Oakland Athletics
• If you believe that the story of humankind is one of walking from darkness to light, that reason and curiosity can redeem and triumph over the cruelest demons of our nature, and that the arc of history bends slowly toward justice, you have to hope that Billy Beane and the Moneyball Oakland A’s eventually win a championship.
• It kind of seems like none of that stuff is true and the A’s will never win a World Series and civilization will end in violence and fire.