When their favorite team is eliminated from contention some fans adopt a different team to root for in the playoffs. A lot of people like to pick the underdog, or the Cinderella story. Not me.
Maybe I'm just grumpy, but when the Mets no longer have postseason aspirations in a given season, I don't want to then root for another team that's probably unlikely to make it far. The only Cinderella story I'm interested in is the Mets, and if they don't surprise, I have no interest in rooting for the Baltimore Orioles to defy the odds and win it all or for the Pittsburgh Pirates to have their first winning season in decades.
When It looked like the Pirates might finally have a winning season, I was happy for them, but I certainly wasn't rooting for them. It felt like my universe was turned upside down. The Pirates are supposed to be bad. They are always bad. The last time they had a winning season I was 10 years old, and using them as my archetypal bad team for comparisons over the years has become a habit I'm in no hurry to break. As Mets fans, we've been able to say, "at least we're not the Pirates" for a long time. When they stumbled and plummeted in the second half, it felt inevitable, like water finding it's level.
So once the playoffs started I wasn't drawn to the Baltimore Orioles. They seemed like an extremely flawed team that took advantage of a hurt Blue Jays team and the soap opera in Boston to fight for the division title. When the Oakland Athletics defied expectations and beat a floundering Texas Rangers team down the stretch, it was fun to watch, as was Yoenis Cespedes, but it didn't make me pull for them over the Detroit Tigers.
Justin Verlander is probably the best pitcher in the world and has been for some time. Watching him dazzle and dominate is a lot of fun, particularly because I don't watch Tigers games much during the regular season. Miguel Cabrera is one of the best hitters in the game, and Prince Fielder smashing baseballs would be fun even in Spring Training. Buster Posey, despite his struggles, may be the league MVP. Tim Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young award winning having an off year but still fascinating. Carlos Beltran continued to add to an impressive resume that will hopefully help get him inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Met.I had no problems with rooting for any of these players or the teams they play for.
There are clear and obvious exceptions to rooting for the best players and teams in the playoffs. The elimination of the Yankees as quickly and painfully as possible is always goal number one. Watching the media and the fans turn on them this year as they struggled to score runs, take leads, or pack stadiums filled me with sadistic glee. I cannot bring myself to root for any of the Mets' NL East rivals, even if this is only the Nationals' second time making the playoffs and first since 1981. Listening to the second-guessing involving shutting down Steven Strasburg was fun, and brought back fond memories of Ron Darling's "there is no book!" rant earlier this season.
I don't have any interest watching inferior teams upset favorites when they're not the Mets. I want the World Series to represent the very best baseball has to offer and I think the Detroit Tigers and the San Francisco Giants are a good example of that. I'll be pulling for the Tigers for no other reason than I think they're a talented team with very good players, and they're fun to watch.