One might be so bold as to suggest, that this post is a week or so late, since the divisional round just completed. But that is nonsense.
No one needed my suggestion or influence to latch on to the noble, hopeless causes of the Oakland A's or the Baltimore Orioles. That's just second nature for people who pridefully embrace an unpopular team parked on the Dan Ryan expressway.
But now the field has been trimmed to four teams--St. Louis, San Francisco, New York, and Detroit. Four unlikeable, old guard teams. No underdog stories, no low-budget miracles. Nothing. This is where help (or liquor) is needed.
Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
The personal villain of the regular season vs. Everyone's constant villain. I could make an impassioned, desperate plea for all of you to realize that the Yankees must be rooted against at all times, that a Tigers victory only offers further legitimacy for the AL Central and all the teams in it, that you should naturally hope that the team that defeats yours goes all the way in order to justify lazy "We're #2!" arguments.*
*The Sox are #2, baby! Woooo!
But I cannot. For some of you, a lot of you, perhaps even most of you, it is too difficult to spend a whole season building up animosity against a rival, then turn on a dime and become their fans. Not without getting creative, at least.
In terms of the age-old former White Sox factor, the Tigers have Octavio Dotel and Gene Lamont. Dotel, a reliever for just two years with the team, but also a member of the last Sox squad to make the playoffs, was essentially Adam Dunn as a pitcher (11.6 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 1.3 HR/9). However, it's hard to feel much attachment to a pitcher who has called 12 other major league teams home. Lamont was the White Sox skipper for the glory years of the early 90's, is now egg-shaped, and would provide much comic relief if he were to fumble his way around, beer-soaked, trying to hug Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in a celebrative Detroit locker room.
Of course, the Yankees have the Tigers easily beaten in terms of sheer number of ex-White Sox. But it'd be hard to find anyone with fond memories of Boone Logan, non-murderous feelings toward Nick Swisher (even if his trouble getting along with the managing styles of one Osvaldo Guillen belongs in a different context these days), or who even remembers Chris Stewart at all.
But then there's Jayson Nix--The Shetland Pony. The miniature utility infielder who once dueled Chris Getz and Brent Lillibridge for the 2009 Opening Day 2nd base slot and hit that one grand slam that one time, has stuck on as the Yankees utility infielder since the start of May. This comes in spite of his short stature, his relatively forgettable fielding skills, and his prominent role in accidentally blowing out Mariano Rivera's ACL. The quaintness of his presence--which could be prominent if Derek Jeter's injury woes continue--the ALCS is the closest thing either team has to a sympathetic quality.
So root for the Yankees, if for no other reason than their fans still won't be satisfied by making it to the World Series anyway.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants
When's the last time the White Sox interacted with the San Francisco Giants?
They are no former Sox players on the Giants roster, and they last time they played was in 2008. That series went smoothly and without incident, as the White Sox swept the Giants on the road, and Alexei Ramirez hit the first home run of his career. Ah, much better times.
Since then, there's been the generalized fatigue of the the Giants being in the playoffs all the time, the excellent work of Grant Brisbee humorizing the events of the team at McCovey Chronicles, and inane statements from Tim Lincecum. Other than that, there's a lot of numbness here. Just some baseball team thousands of miles away. Numbness is a lot better than what most of these teams inspire.
The Cardinals have been all over the television even more than the Giants have over the past decade, were helmed by former White Sox skipper and micromanaging connoisseur Tony La Russa until this year, and involved in that 2006 kerfuffle where Sidney Ponson and David Riske exchanged plunkings.
St. Louis too, lacks a single former White Sox on their roster or staff, which is only appropriate, because their main interaction is with Chicago is with the Cubs. The Cardinals are the hulking, looming arch- rival of the Cubs. They are like their Twins, if we all felt a lot more intensely about the Twins. If you're the sort of White Sox fan--and I have it on good authority that these people exist--that despises the Cubs, then a St. Louis triumph s clearly the most torturous thing you could hope for.
Malice is plenty to go on if you have it. When @ChardSwissnym was lamenting the possibility of these four teams reaching the league championship series, I offered "we get to see three of them lose" as consolation.
For me, I choose the nothingness of the San Francisco Giants, the empty cream spaces of their uniform, the lack of prominent facial features on Buster Posey--they don't even delude themselves about their PED users anymore. The absence of any strong emotions allows me to slip into uninvolved and detached appreciation of quality baseball that I look to the playoffs for. But I understand if you opt for another path. This is a brutal, dull, and nihilistic final four. It's only natural that we all wander the wasteland alone, looking for some scrap of sustenance.