Time for an opinion nobody asked for. I love the Wildcard Game. It sure is easier for me to say since the Red Sox have yet to participate in the one-game playoff, and I agree that some shifting should be done to have it be based on record rather than division finish. That being said, the idea of a one-game playoff to kick off the postseason is awesome. It’s absolutely, 100 percent unfair to the teams involved but, well, oh well? Ultimately, I’m watching this to be entertained, and these games are stupidly entertaining. Of course, you are free to ask me my opinion if/when the Red Sox are involved at some point in the future. Perhaps I’ll have changed my tune.
Anyway, all of that is because, well, the playoffs have started! The National League Wildcard Game was last night, and on Wednesday the American League start of the bracket kicks off with the Yankees taking on the Athletics in a one-game Wildcard playoff in Yankee Stadium. This is not like last year’s Wildcard Game between New York and Minnesota where, even though anything can happen in one game, the Yankees were still heavy favorites. New York is still the odds-on favorite, but Oakland is more than capable of winning this game and it is much closer to a coin flip than 2017. It also represents a new perspective for Red Sox fans this year, as our team is going to take on the winner of this game. Boston already holds an advantage just by virtue of their next opponent having to go all out for this one while Boston is at home relaxing, but it’s only natural to have a rooting interest in this game. So, who do we root for?
There are three schools of thought here, and I’ll start with the most obvious one. We root for the Athletics. Duh. At first glance, everything points in this direction. For one thing, the other side of it is rooting against the Yankees. I mean, duh. Additionally, and arguably more importantly, they are the worse team. As I said above, that is not close to the same as saying they are bad, because they aren’t. However, the Yankees have more talent on paper and were more successful this season. If we simulated a Red Sox/Yankees series 1000 times and then did the same with a Red Sox-A’s series, I suspect the outcomes would be better from our perspective in the latter scenario. This is the most logical way to lean, though it’s not the only way to lean.
You could also root for the Yankees. I know this sounds sacrilegious — and, really, it is — but hear me out. For one thing, isn’t there something more noble about wanting to beat the best teams enroute to a championship? There’s a line of thinking that says if the Red Sox are going to win the World Series, it’ll feel best if they go through the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers (or whoever you think is the best NL team. I suppose that’s up for debate). Personally, I think that argument is fooey — a championship is a championship regardless of who they play — but it’s something I’ve heard people say. The argument for rooting for New York that I can get behind is that it means the Red Sox don’t have to travel to the west coast. That’s better for their performance, but more importantly it means a lower chance of a 10pm game. I’m washed. I can’t do those anymore.
Then, there’s the final option, and it’s the one I’m going to tell myself I’m doing even though I know I won’t. That is, don’t worry about it! Just watch the baseball game and whatever happens happens. This is, objectively, the smartest way to watch this game tonight. When the Red Sox actually start playing every single one of us is going to be a big ball of stress for three-plus hours every day. Take care of yourself and don’t get stressed out about this game. Ultimately, every team in the postseason is good and every team the Red Sox can potentially play has a chance to knock them out. We can talk until we’re blue in the face about the differences between New York and Oakland, but at the end of the day there isn’t that much of a difference. Every playoff series, generally speaking, is a coin flip.
This is how I’m planning to watch the game, but I know it won’t last. It’s only natural that you end up forming a rooting interest in any sporting event you watch. It happens to me during every NCAA basketball tournament game even though I have no connection to any schools involved. Eventually, you root for someone whether you like it or not. I know I’m going to end up rooting for Oakland in this game, and you bet your ass I’m still going to whine when Games Three and Four of the ALDS get scheduled for 10pm ET.
What about you?