Playoff Rooting Interests: The Rivalries

Monday, October 04 2004 @ 01:35 AM EDT

Contributed by: Mick Doherty

Yes, you should root for the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. And a host of other suggestions that might seem incomprehensible at first ...

... but you don't want to root for, can't conceive of rooting for the Yankees? Tough, because as distasteful as that idea may be to you, this next one is to me: you also need to suck it up and root for the Red Sox.

In fact, in an ideal world, the Cubs would have held off the Astros in the NL Central and the Giants would have nabbed the NL Wild Card. Can you imagine one week in which at least two of the three greatest historic rivalries in baseball -- and arguably in all of North American sports -- played out in a playoff atmosphere? A second round of playoffs featuring Red Sox/Yankees and Cubs/Cardinals or Giants/Dodgers for a trip to the Series?

Sure, Vladimir Guerrero facing Johan Santana in the ALCS might pit the league's MVP against its Cy Young winner, but it lacks the drama of Nomar Garciaparra in a Cubs uniform striding to the plate at Fenway, wondering now that he's on the other side if Pedro Martinez really is crazy ...

Sure, it's nice to think about Biggio and Bagwell riding a Rocket to their first ring, but does it have the poetry of Enter Sandman facing CorkBoy in Wrigley? Of the Cardinal trinity of Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols seeing if they can combine to be greater than The One Barry?

Yankees/Red Sox ... can you even think it without picturing Bucky F'ing Dent and Aaron F'ing Boone? Without the terminal heartbreak of the Sawx fan, without wondering if this is the series that will finally kill Bill Simmons' father or the one where the Curse of the Bambino falls quietly into the shadows along with Anaheim's Curse of the Cowboy?

Do you really want Twins/Angels? Some of you will surely say "Yeah! Anyone but the MFY and MFRS!" But honestly, why do the Angels get a free pass for spending $800 billion on Vlad, on Colon, to retain Percival and even the Mondesian overpaid Darin Erstad. but the Yanks and Sox are vilified for same?

Baseball requires villains; the A.L. gives us two. Baseball thrives on history and rivalries and on great storylines. There is none better than the one that featured Williams/Dimaggio, Fisk/Munson and Varitek v. A-Rod. You want this series to happen. Admit it. You want to see Kevin Brown throwing behind Manny, David Ortiz bowling over Derek Jeter, Derek Lowe's face just as he's realizing with certainty that he's about to throw a historic home run ball to Miguel Cairo.

Alas, ye Cubs and Giants. You could have doubled our fun this month.