I got the World Series I wanted. The White Sox, the Astros, and, it should be noted, four, count 'em, four, former Yankees starters involved, three of whom the team willingly let go, in favor of the likes of Kevin Brown, Javier Vasquez, Chien-Ming Wang, and Al Leiter. But now what?
Who do I root for? Who will win? Who should win? Which one do I choose?
On the one hand, in a perverse way, I want the White Sox to win it all, because then the predictions I've been making all season would turn out to be correct, and because then perhaps the Red Sox' sweep at their hands would be that much less of a worry. Because it would fit into that weird baseball metaphysics, where last year the champ hadn't won since 1918, and this year, the remaining AL team with the longest drought would succeed them.
On the other hand, it doesn't seem to me like their fans would feel the same way about it that we did. They shun their own mythology. So, inexplicably, does the media. As Bill Simmons wrote:
I was thinking about the whole White Sox/1917 thing. For the past 15 years, Red Sox fans had to deal with this ridiculous theory that Babe Ruth somehow cursed our franchise because we sold him, which makes no sense if you think about it because going to New York was the best possible thing that could have happened to him on every level (I cover this in my book -- did you know I had a book out?).
Meanwhile, the Black Sox throw the 1919 World Series, violate/destroy/obliterate the sanctity of the game and nearly kill professional baseball as we know it, and since then, 86 years (and counting) have passed without them winning a championship ... and nobody ever brings up a potential curse with them? Who could have possibly angered the Baseball Gods more than the 1919 White Sox? If any baseball franchise is "cursed," wouldn't it be them? When we watch these White Sox playoff games, as Williamstown reader Rob points out, "Where are all the montages of the 88 years of futility? Where are the floating heads of Chick Gandill, Eddie Ciccote, and Joe Jackson?" He's right, how do the White Sox fans get a free ride this October? Imagine if the 1919 Red Sox threw the World Series? How many times would McCarver and Buck have brought it up during last year's playoffs? 700? 800? I'm confused.
As am I. That's not fair. Before last year, "1918" was a chant at rival stadiums. It was on T-shirts and hats and signs. It was an unforgettable fact rubbed into our faces at every possible opportunity. Before this year, "1917" was an obscure piece of trivia desperate Red Sox fans would sometimes resort to in order to defend themselves. And no one believed us.
The Astros, meanwhile...they don't have as long a history, but what history they have is a doozy. I can't help but be reminded of the Red Sox, in fact, watching them this year. Their goofing. The fact that they obviously are having a blast and a half together. Their spunk, their spite, their scrap. Their fantastic pitching staff, complete with playoff aces and lights-out closer. Heartbreak in 1986, and again to a division rival in the LCS within the last few years.
Then there's their more proprietary qualities. Their mastery of the suicide squeeze. The adorable story of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, 15-year teammates finally taking their first trip to the World Series together--the first trip the franchise has ever taken. The first time a World Series game has ever been played in Texas.
Still, it's pretty tough to say that I want the White Sox to go wait another few years after waiting 88. And it's true the 'stros have never won, but they've only been around since the 1960's. Rooting for the National League entry somehow seems disloyal, too. As long as it's not the Yankees, I usually side with the AL. Their players and teams are, for the most part, more familiar to me.
But, sometimes, too familiar. Once again, Bill Simmons:
Yet another question: Is A.J. Pierzynski the most annoying professional athlete in recent memory? He's like the Rick Barry of this generation -- everything he does seems annoying for some reason, even his interviews. You can see why the Giants and Twins couldn't stand him. I don't even think he's a bad guy, he's just one of Those Guys. If you played at a $25 table in Vegas with him, he seems like the guy who would say stuff like "Wow, you're way up right now, huh?" and scream "Whammy!" every time he was dealt a blackjack. And he wouldn't even know he was being annoying, so his friends would think of convoluted ways to ditch him, stuff like, "Hey, A.J., I'm gonna go walk around, get some air, I'll be back in 10 minutes" ... and then they would scurry to another casino. That's A.J., right?
On the other hand, it's not like I'd really like to take high tea with Lance Berkman. Racing go-karts with Roy Oswalt is not high on my list of fantasies.
And you've got to hand it to Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras, whose combined age is surely over 100, sticking it to the whippersnappers and carving out refreshed careers for themselves. And Ozzie Guillen, whose antics I find endlessly amusing. You either love that guy or you hate him, and I find I come down on the "love" side. That's not to be taken lightly.
Although their owner does make George Steinbrenner look like Captain Kangaroo.
And watching Brandon Backe watching his team--his team, and his team--record the final out last night brought tears to my eyes. The 'stros are wonderful. Colorful. Childlike. Joyous.
But while the Killer Bees are nice, there's also something to be said for the dignity, perseverance and deadly starting rotation of that White Sox team.
The bottom line? It's incredibly difficult, damn near impossible, to decide. I feel like I'd have to watch and see what team I ended up cheering for from the gut, and at this point, that's a photo finish. Trying to anticipate from before the fact, I get the general sense that the only certainty is that I'd be both happy and sad at either outcome. And that it's shaping up to be a truly classic Fall Classic.
But those are platitudes. A cop out. I feel like I have to pick one. I have to admit, I've been going back and forth on this all day, and it's been a draw every time.
And then, just now, at the last minute, as I agonized over ending this post so noncomittally, I ran across this picture:
And things were suddenly, if only momentarily, clear.
So let me say this: though it would be hard for me to suppress a grin if the Astros went home with the trophy, what I keep coming back to is, which team would I most be able to stand to see inherit our crown? Which team would I be most willing to let last year's glory visit? And, over and over again, it sticks in my craw, regardless of how South Side fans or FOX actually feel about it: how do you tell Chicago to just wait another few years?
The 'stros are so loveable. But I know only too well where the Other Sox are coming from.
So there you have it. My final answer. It wasn't easy, but right now I'm going with those Other Sox victorious, that other eight-decade drought over, in 7.