Andrew Stetka: Even in postseason, the game comes first

With the Orioles officially eliminated from postseason contention, it comes as a surprise to some that the baseball playoffs will actually be watchable this October. Sure, it would have been great to see the O’s back in the hunt for a World Series like in 2012, but playing five meaningless games at the end of the season sure beats playing 55 of them.

I’ve always fancied myself a baseball fan that roots for the Orioles, not an O’s fan that watches baseball. The game comes first for me. That’s different with some other sports I watch where the team I root for goes ahead of the game being played. There are many storylines and things to focus on during this year’s postseason, but the question I ask myself is whether or not I pull for a specific team or just enjoy the games.

The Pittsburgh Pirates bring up quite a bit of chatter, especially with Orioles fans. It’s been great for baseball and their fans to see the Bucs end a string of 20 straight losing seasons. I think Baltimore baseball fans can relate when you look back at last season. Many O’s fans refuse to root for a team from Pittsburgh because they are also Ravens fans and that’s something that just won’t fly. Others are old enough (unlike myself) to remember the 1979 World Series and the heartbreak the Pirates put the O’s through. There are lots of factors at play here.

When you look elsewhere in the National League Central, the Cardinals and Reds are two teams that don’t jump off the page with anything all that exciting. St. Louis is a perennial winner and has been a mainstay in the postseason. They are an organization of class, but don’t present a great storyline. Cincinnati is much of the same. The Reds have now gone to the playoffs three of the last four years, but don’t jump out with an outstanding storyline.

Atlanta is a team that seems to tug on the heartstrings of many that watched them back in the day on TBS. The days of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz are gone, but many still remember the Braves as a team of their youth. The Dodgers present another interesting group in the playoff field. On one hand, they have started to act like the Yankees with the way they spend money. They do, however, present a number of exciting players to watch and root for. I believe I’m in the minority when it comes to an opinion on Yasiel Puig. I don’t like the way he plays the game and carries himself, so watching him is not an added bonus for me. I do have an affinity for manager Don Mattingly, though. I had a great experience with him at spring training in Arizona a few years ago and admire the way he handled the team’s struggles earlier this year when rumors about the stability of his job where flying around.

The American League seems a bit simpler for an Orioles fan to sort through when it comes to watching the postseason. The consensus feeling is “anyone but Boston.” I have no problem with rooting against the Red Sox, but I don’t think too many O’s fans mind cheering for a team like the Rays. They are a hard-working bunch and don’t have a ton of players that are unlikable. The Tigers are a treat to watch because of the stellar rotation and bats like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the lineup.

If the Indians are able to hold on to a wild card spot, you will see a lot of people pull for an underdog there, as well. I can’t root for Cleveland, mainly because of some of the players on the team. I can’t get behind a guy like Jason Giambi and I especially refuse to root for Nick Swisher. His days wearing pinstripes wore on me. Deep down though, I think the consensus team that people will pull for from the junior circuit is the Athletics. They are a group of players that not many people know about, yet they continue to win. Bob Melvin’s crew is just about as likeable as they come.

Through all of the deciding factors between teams, players and managers, I really don’t think I can pull for a specific team. If you can find it in your heart to cheer for a team, who will it be? I will watch each game of the postseason, realizing that it’s the last meaningful baseball I’ll get until next April. I’ll long for the start of the Orioles’ 2014 campaign while hoping for entertaining games, great storylines and a deserving World Series champion.

Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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