The easy thing to do -- the expected thing to do, even -- is for Red Sox fans to root for the Cubs to not just win against the Cardinals, but to win the World Series. They haven't done so since 1908, giving them 106 years without a championship. Red Sox fans, more than anyone except maybe fellow Chicagoans who happen to be White Sox fans, should be able to empathize with this given their own 86-year run of futility and heartbreak.
That's not how I feel, though: I understand why I should be empathetic, but I can't force it, and I don't feel bad about that. There is too much here that bothers me about the Cubs, to the point that even though they are facing the Cardinals -- likely the greatest National League rivals of the Red Sox given how tied together their World Series' histories are -- that I'm leaning St. Louis in their current National League Division Series match-up.
I've made peace with this in the last 24 hours or so when forced to make a decision, so believe me, I understand if you're hissing and booing in your seats at this. It wasn't an easy call, you know: the Cardinals are the Cardinals, dammit. The whole "best fans in baseball" thing and the way they always produce players out of nowhere and the whole Cardinals' Way mantra and the existence of Tony La Russa... it's a lot to dismiss and wave away in order to root for them. However, that should give you an indication of how bitter I am about certain Cubs-related items, at the moment, that I would forget all of this, ignore the back-and-forth in the Red Sox vs. Cardinals World Series of the past, and root St. Louis over the North Side.
Theo Epstein bailed on the Red Sox. He bailed on them for a promotion, sure, but he bailed on them while still under contract, and after saddling the franchise with Carl Crawford's seven-year, $142 million deal. He did it after trading away the last of the youth in the upper levels of the system for Adrian Gonzalez, who was and is great, but ended up just being part of what turned out to be Theo's last push for a championship before throwing up his hands and asking those who stayed behind to clean up the mess he left.
This by itself is not a reason to hope the Cubs lose -- that would be ridiculously bitter and over-the-top as far as grudges go, especially since the post-Theo score is Red Sox 1, Theo 0 at present -- that "1" a product of the process of cleaning up said mess, even. No, it's that, plus something that doesn't apply to most of y'all reading this, but does apply to me: Theo also gutted the Padres' front office by reuniting his former Boston buddies in Chicago.
Epstein took over in the Cubs' front office as their President of Baseball Operations, and then invited his former assistant GM and scouting director from Boston -- Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod -- to Chicago to join him as his GM and assistant GM. Those were the same roles they had in San Diego, a franchise they had just started to rebuild and had already had one successful, competitive season in in 2010. Hoyer and McLeod left, though, thanks to Theo's invitation, and without even getting a promotion.
It's hard to blame them for the switch, given how intolerable the Padres' owner, Jeff Moorad, was supposed to be, and he was so eager to install another former Sox AGM, Josh Byrnes, into the GM role that he didn't even require compensation for the move. At the same time, though, this is sports, where it's okay to be irrationally upset about things from time to time: I remain bitter about this, as the Cubs have not answered for their pilfering, and it's not my fault the first opportunity has come now when there is so much promise for them in this particular season. There is also the matter of Hoyer leaving the Padres even more in Moorad's grasp, which I am only now getting over under new ownership with a new GM worth having.
To get back to the language that all Red Sox fans can understand, though, there is also the matter of who is leading this Cubs' team: Joe Maddon, former nemesis of the Red Sox, the primary reason the Rays became such a great rival of Boston's over much of the past decade. I can't just forget all of that because he changed his uniform and grew a beard: he's still the obnoxious, hypocritical Cool Dad Joe who blasts players on other teams for things he'll praise his own guys for. His protective father-figure act has a purpose, as it shields his players from certain criticisms and allows him to take the heat -- hell, Larry Lucchino would do this shit with some front office decisions because he knew you already hated him -- but that doesn't mean I need to like it.
Reviewing some preseason Red Sox predictions
I made some predictions before the season. Let's see how dumb I am.
Maddon refers to Malcom Gladwell positively. He doesn't want his players flipping their bats after homers. He sets his lineup in a damn RV. Any pitcher who throws at his players is a disgrace to the game, but his pitchers still somehow manage to hit batters all the time without any retribution from him. You can easily picture him getting on Twitter, glass of wine in hand, to stir shit up between teams, because he's done that very thing before. Ah, yes, this bouquet is perfect for calling out David Ortiz's home run strut on the Twitter.
If he's going to play a character, I'm allowed to appreciate the point of it -- he is a fine manager, you know, one whose teams do adore him -- while at the same time booing the hell out of him for it. And he's too close to his time with the Rays, too close to the moments that helped set Boston and St. Pete against each other, to change that. Like with Theo and Co., time will likely heal this rift. (Just, uh, a lot more time.) For now, though, I've got Go Cardinals on the brain, at least for this one series.
This is petty, I know. But you're allowed to be petty in sports -- that's part of the joy of it. I have no real team in this postseason -- I'm rooting for the Rangers because players I enjoy such as Mike Napoli, Will Venable, and Adrian Beltre play for them. On Thursday, I started hoping the Royals win simply because they put Chris Young in the game. Rooting interests in a team-less postseason are a tenuous thing to begin with: you have to make your decisions one way or another, and as far as Cubs vs. Cardinals goes, I've made mine.