erik lundegaard

Sunday October 17, 2021

2021 MLB Postseason: I Should Be Rooting for the Braves But I'm Not

We've got four teams remaining in the 2021 Major League Baseball season and I'm trying to figure out who to root for. 

Normally I'd root for the team with the longest drought. Here's what it looks like when you figure out each team's last pennant/last World Series title:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 2020/2020
  • Houston Astros: 2019/2017
  • Boston Red Sox: 2018/2018
  • Atlanta Braves: 1999/1995

No brainer. I should be rooting for the Braves.

How about historically? Total number of pennants/titles:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: 21/7
  • Boston Red Sox: 13/9
  • Atlanta Braves: 9/3
  • Houston Astros (est. 1962): 3/1

This one's trickier—but, as an aside, it is fascinating that the Red Sox have done so well in the World Series. Every time they went in the first 20 years of a century they won: 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, and then 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018. It was the other 80 years when things fell apart. Maybe that's a reason to root for them? See them finally win a Series in the last 80 years of a century?

The Dodgers are the opposite. They have more NL pennants than anyone but failed in 2/3 of those—mostly because they lost their first seven in a row. Since 1955, they're .500. 

Braves? They're their own brand of pathetic. They never amounted to much in the early days and played second fiddle to the Red Sox in Boston. They've moved three times and have one title per city: Boston in 1914 (moved after the '52 season), Milwaukee in 1957 (moved after the '65 season), Atlanta in 1995. Most of their pennants, five of the nine, are from the 1990s, when they were good, with an out-of-this-world pitching staff, but couldn't close the deal. I would argue that the one time that team did win it all was against the best team they faced—the '95 Indians.

Anyway, historically, it's Astros or Braves.

How about payroll? I like rooting for have-nots.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: $267 million/1st overall
  • Houston Astros: $194 million/4th
  • Boston Red Sox: $184 million/5th
  • Atlanta Braves: $147 million/12th

The Braves aren't exactly have-nots but their payroll is half that of the Dodgers. So: Braves.

As for historical postseason rivalries? What matchup sounds the best? 

vs. Boston Red Sox Houston Astros
Atlanta Braves   1997-Division 1999-Division 2001-Division 2004-Divison 2005-Divison
Los Angeles Dodgers

1916-Series 2018-Series

1981-Division

Astros were NL until the 2013 season and mostly a punching bag. They faced the Dodgers in 1981 in a true division matchup (split season: winner of the first half vs. winner of the second half), won the first two games and then lost the next three. Against the Braves, they lost in '97 (three and out), lost in '99 (four and out), lost in '01 (three and out again), before finally turning the tables in '04 and '05. Astros fans, I'm sure, remember, and wouldn't mind having another shot at the Braves. Revenge is a dish best served in the World Series. 

The Dodgers and Red Sox first faced each other in 1916, when the Dodgers were called the Brooklyn Robins (after manager Wilbert Robinson) and the Red Sox pitching rotation was anchored by a young phenom named Babe Ruth, who, in Game 2, gave up an inside-the-park homer to Hi Meyers in the 1st inning, then put up goose eggs for the next 13 innings until the Red Sox won it in the bottom of the 14th. In 1918, Ruth ran his scoreless innings streak to 29 2/3—a World Series record until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961. (“A bad year for the Babe,” someone quipped.) That fifth title for the BoSox, a record at the time, wasn't matched until the Athletics won their fifth in 1930; then the Yankees in '36, the Cardinals in '44 and the Giants in '54. The Dodgers didn't win their fifth title until 1981. Eight of the original 16 teams, and 22 teams overall, have never won five titles.

Oh, and they faced each other again 102 years later, in the David Price-Steve Pearce World Series. Boston won in five.  

But the coolest matchup to me would be the two teams who haven't faced each other, both of whom started out in Boston: the one-time Boston Americans (now Red Sox) vs. the one-time Boston Red Stockings, Red Caps, Beaneaters, Doves, Rustlers and Bees (now Braves). 

So to recap who I should root for:

  • Recent: Braves
  • Historical: Braves, Astros
  • Payroll: Braves
  • Matchups: Braves, Red Sox

So it's pretty obvious: I should be rooting for the Braves.

And yet I find myself rooting against the Braves, and with a passion. And here's the reason: The tomahawk chop. I hate the thing.

And it isn't even original to them? It started at Florida State for the Seminoles? Then migrated to KC for the Chiefs before Braves fans, with hints from the organist, adapted it for the '91 team? 

It is effective, I admit: this repetitive warlike chant resounding throughout a stadium of 50,000 people. It's just embarrassing. In an age when the Washington football team has dropped “Redskins” and the Cleveland baseball team has opted for “Guardians,” this Atlanta team is still known as the “Braves” and its mostly white fanbase still chants the “tomahawk chop.” The less we hear of this thing, the better. 

Anyway, against all logic, I find myself rooting for the Boston Red Sox. Maybe because that's the one champion that'll annoy Yankees fans the most? The Red Sox would be the third team to 10 titles, following the Yankees (who won their 10th in 1943) and Cardinals (2006). They'd truly be the team of the 21st century, with five pennants and five titles. (Second-best Giants have four pennants and three titles). And they'd finally break the back-80 jinx. 

Posted at 12:56 PM on Sunday October 17, 2021 in category Baseball  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard

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