When important and beloved members of your family get married three states away, and you’re too cheap too buy last second plane tickets, driving is the last refuge of the scoundrel. If it’s in a city as nice as Cincinnati, you make a weekend out of it.
However, Cincy, although beautiful, isn’t exactly an amusement park when the circus isn’t in town. Thankfully for me -- though less so for my sports agnostic fiancée, to whom I’ve pledged the rest of my life -- the circus was in town, in the form of the Chicago Cubs.
While I don’t know the Cubs' or Reds' schedules by heart, I became acutely aware of the circumstances within the first five minutes of driving through downtown, where essentially every baseball fan from the north side of Chicago appeared to have drunkenly stumbled from Wrigleyville to the Queen City to take over the Great American Ballpark.
And, that’s exactly what they did.
Because, while the fine people of Cincinnati love their Reds, their Reds aren’t very good. That, combined with the Cubs being a "public" team (in betting parlance), the Cubs being a biblical plague on pitchers, and the relative proximity of Chicago, made Sunday’s game a shockingly even mix of blue and red, with the Cubs' fans (and players) dominating most of the conversation both on and off the field.
It was odd to see, especially with the popular conception of them as the devoted followers of a band of Lovable Losers, the manner in which Cubs fans bullied their hosts. And it got me thinking about the power dynamics, not between the two rosters, but their fanbases. While the Reds are a historically important team in a well-regarded city, the Cubs are the Cubs of Chicago. Which, of course, led me to my hatred of the Angels.
With all the fury of Madeline Kahn in Clue, I became enraged thinking about the pure disdain that I -- and apparently Cubs fans -- have for what are essentially our second least favorite teams. And, from that -- and with the prospect of having to write a column this week while taking care of two newborn kittens (I love you Hank and Dean!) we picked up while in town -- I began thinking about how I feel (and based on the power of my platform, every other Red Sox fan feels) about every team in the league.
Which brings me here, to this definitive, exhaustive, and inarguable – you folks think I’m kidding, but any dissension or complaints about this list in the comments will be punishable by flogging – list of the Red Sox’s biggest rivals, from the least hated to the Yankees.
29. San Francisco Giants
Now, I may be biased as Boston and San Fran are my two favorite cities, but there seems to a general kinship -- or at least a parallel thought process -- between America’s two finest mid-sized port cities. And while "not winning a title since ripping the team away from the Polo Grounds" isn’t exactly the same as "not winning a title since selling away the second best player of all time (#IStandWithBarry) to finance ‘No, No, Nanette’," it’s such a similar karma-based excuse for not winning the title that it’s hard to get or stay mad at them, even as they win the World Series every other year.
28. Pittsburgh Pirates
Stuck in a division with one of the least-likable teams (but the Best Fans) in baseball, and with a roster that features one of the most likable and best players in either league, their beautiful stadium and similarly charming fans make them at the very least a neutral party in totality.
27. San Diego Padres
You’re welcome, Marc.
26. Milwaukee Brewers
They have a slide that their mascot slides down every time there’s a home run and a sausage race. If you need to ask for more, well then God, Jed, I don’t even wanna know you.
25. Houston Astros
A young, exciting team of home grown talent in one of the more interesting and fun stadiums in the league, I find myself gravitating to almost all of their games on MLB.tv. And if there’s a single player in the league more wonderfully Pedroia than Jose Altuve, I’ve not seen him.
24. Cincinnati Reds
I may be biased as I have just visited their absolutely gorgeous ballpark, but the Reds are the right color uniform and the right quality of team -- meaning completely ineffectual, but with punctuated moments of brilliance -- that it almost kind of sort of makes up for 1975. And, also, we don’t get this scene without them:
23. Colorado Rockies
The easiest sweep of my life time, the 2007 Sox ran through the Rockies like a hot knife through butter. That, along with the humidor, the quality school system, and Todd Helton’s entire career have them in the black in terms of likability. Which is to say, it’s almost as hard to root against them as it is to root for them.
22. Washington Nationals
Bryce Harper is exactly what the league needs. Not just as a counter balance to Mike Trout’s effervescent charm, but as a masher sent from Mars to let slip the dogs of war/home runs. Dude rakes, and rakes, and rakes. There’s no pleasure, no rapture, no exquisite sin greater than a Bryce Harper home run and (at least for the next few years) the only place to see that is in Washington, D.C.
21. Minnesota Twins
The little engine that could has sputtered up the hill the past couple of years, but there are very few fan bases better, even after the passing of Minnesota icon and (presumably) diehard Twins fan Prince. May Twins rookies continue to ride in that Little Red Corvette until the sky rains purple.
20. Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia is a HUGELY underrated city (you’re welcome, Mark.) And the good people of the City of Brotherly Love hate New York City as a concept almost as much as Red Sox fans do. And it’s hard to imagine being afraid of the Phillies, even if they have 18 legs and live in the basement.
19. Seattle Mariners
Another wonderful American city, the Mariners fans are some of the most loyal and knowledgeable in the sport. They are also one of the few teams to ever outspend the Yankees for a player, they brought us Ichiro and King Felix, and if nothing else, WrestleMania XIX was one hell of a show at Safeco field.
18. Atlanta Braves
Not to go off on a rant here, but I find names of teams based off of our indigenous people -- unless, like Florida State and the Seminole tribe, they have explicit permission to represent their namesakes -- particularly loathsome. Which I say as someone who went to a high school with Redmen as our mascot, complete with a Blackhawksesque logo on the side of the building the size of a Hummer. I don’t know if I believe in karma, per se, but I like to think that it isn’t a coincidence that the Indians and Braves are two of the more unlucky and underperforming teams in playoffs history, and that the Braves even lost Boston to the already historically terrible Red Sox.
17. Miami Marlins
There’s nothing I hate more than publicly financed baseball stadiums. When it’s for a team as bad as the Marlins, for an owner whose idea of player development is "trade them to another team so we don’t have to pay them or pay to help them reach their potential" it’s the kind of thing politicians should lose elections over.
16. Los Angeles Dodgers
Two words, three syllables: Beat LA.
15. Chicago Cubs
"Lovable" losers for the last century plus, the Cubs are the last of a dying breed; teams that absolutely can’t win championships no matter how hard they try. And, there’s a charm in that to be sure. But, between the new owners going out of their way to make life more difficult for fans and the people in their immediate community, they are also deeply symbolic of a troubling power dynamic in the city of Chicago that has pervaded the city outside of the Friendly Confines since time immemorial. Also, they have Theo, which just feels weird.
14. Kansas City Royals
By almost any definition one of the absolute best teams in baseball, which cuts both ways: they are fun to watch, but a constant threat to win any game, series, pennant, or trophy. But, for all the fear they strike in the hearts of opponents and their fans on the basepaths, it’s hard to say no to a team that steals that many bases and plays that good of defense. And they have what may be the best uniforms in the sport. [Editor's note: the A's green and gold is unquestionably the best uniform in baseball.]
13. Arizona Diamondbacks
They, like Curt Schilling before them, project a very unsettling vibe as it relates to what they seem to think is and isn’t appropriate. In their case, it’s limited to the game of baseball, but in general, the "THEY DISRESPECT THE GAME BY HAVING FUN" contingent of the baseball community has always seemed to have a strong hold in Arizona.
12. Detroit Tigers
This was perhaps the most difficult team to place, as they have an all-time great in Miggy, a potential Hall of Famer in Verlander, and a fanbase that has been through so much. But also, there are kind of just, I don’t know. I don’t like their faces. I do like Austin Jackson, though. Even if I am not entirely sure why.
11. Texas Rangers
There’s nothing particularly good about the Rangers, but they aren’t higher on this list for two reasons: All of the teams ahead of us feel like bigger jerks. And Adrian Beltre, every Sox’s fan’s favorite non-Sox player.
10. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox, with their stolen gimmick and their trying to steal our thunder by wining a year after we did, they are also just a team where I don’t like their face. They are also seemingly too good this season. And the whole LaRoche thing. If you want your kid to see your kid when you are at work, buy a phone and download Skype.
9. Cleveland Indians
Between the nickname, them having Tito instead of us, and 2007’s annoying ALCS, I have them as high on the list as I am comfortable considering what’s in front of them.
8. Oakland A’s
The A’s are an odd case, as they are lovable underdogs in their own way. But they are also an annoying and heartbreaking team to watch, and there’s something significantly less charming about them in year 20 of their "revolution". Billy Beane probably has a job for life, but after sitting through Moneyball, I’m not sure if that’s as fun or interesting as we all thought it would be originally.
7. Tampa Bay Rays
Although the luster has left the Rays after their amazing run at the end of the last decade, they have settled into being an interesting team that has trouble building a sustained winner but seems to always do things the "right" -- meaning likely to lead to at least some wins -- way. They also feel so hapless in that awful stadium that picking on them feels very much like punching down. And nobody likes a bully.
Plus, of all the teams left in the division, they are definitely the least hateable.
6. St. Louis Cardinals
The Best Fans in Baseball are maybe the most annoying single group of people in the game of baseball. Also, they are our World Series punching bag, and once ended a very serious fight between my fiancee and I (long before the engagement) when Kolten Wong got caught stealing.
They are also, essentially, the Yankees of the National League, with their dozen-and-a half championships, smugness, and insistence on renaming their new stadiums the same thing it’s been called the entire time as though it’s a noble thing and not just a strong adherence to branding.
And, of course, that "Jason Heyward didn’t want to be a winner" baloney after he decided to leave an old and creaky sinking ship held together with chewing tobacco and grit is just the worst kind of sour grapes.
5. Toronto Blue Jays, 4. Baltimore Orioles
As the two best, or at the very least, most talented teams in the division besides the Sox, they pose an existential threat that needs to be taken seriously. While I’ve made it very clear how I feel about various members of the Jays organization, the O’s have a double whammy of being too good and too well managed to make them something you can like when they are sitting in your division.
Sox will learn fate of Sandoval's shoulder Monday
Pablo Sandoval might need surgery. He might just need to spend some time on the DL. We won't know for another few days either way.
And it’s also hard to put Jose Bautista ahead of Chris Davis on a scale of hateability.
3. New York Mets
They probably are nice guys, and I didn’t live through it myself, but the fact that the Mets are the reason I had (and sometimes still have to) watch that ball go through Buckner’s legs almost exclusively because of the 1986 Mets has me feeling very comfortable putting them here.
That they also have what might be the most emo fanbase in baseball history -- there’s not even the joie de vivre of Cubs fans -- has me placing them higher than all but the very worst teams in the history of sports/baseball.
HAVING SAID THAT, I love Noah Syndergaard in a very real way.
2. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
There’s so much to hate about the Angels. Their fans. Mike Scoscia. The fact that my fiancee’s awful ex-boyfriend used to wear those awful hats all the time.
But it’s what they are doing with this part of Mike Trout’s career, leaving him to flounder on some going nowhere team with bad pitching and aging hitting. Trout, like Harper, is a once in a lifetime talent, and to watch it be squandered in one of the worst stadiums in sports for one of the least likable teams in the league makes it so so so so so so much worst.
At least he doesn’t have to wear a jersey that says The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, I guess.
1. New York Yankees
I can’t need to explain this. I just can’t.