Big League Stew has whittled down the myriad reasons to pull for the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays to five apiece. They are not in any particular order. And, no, gambling is not a good-enough reason to be listed here.
Go Phillies, because:
1. Take Mitch Williams totally off the hook for ‘93: The enduring image of the Phillies in the World Series is "Wild Thing" allowing Joe Carter's game-ending, Series-clinching homer in Game 6. Philly fans, mostly, have long forgiven Williams for his disastrous Series, though even in success he pitched on the edge of disaster. That was part of the fun; he really did pitch like his "hair was on fire."
2. Chase Utley loves dogs: The Phillies second baseman (right), who notoriously stood up to Yankees fans who booed him (for some reason) during All-Star Home Run Derby, also stands up for those canines who cannot defend themselves from human abusers. Utley and his wife, Jen, who volunteers for the SPCA, put their money and time into rescuing dogs who need it. Dog is man's best friend, which means your terrier is barking for the Phillies this fall. Join with Scruffy.
3. They are way behind in World Series titles: America claims to love an underdog, which explains some of the devotion to the Cubs. But if you want to buy into a team's sorry history, you're shopping in the wrong part of town. Philly will get you much less bang for your buck: one, count it, one world championship since 1883, and this is their sixth pennant. In 126 years! The Cubs have 16 pennants and two mighty titles. They're a bunch of martini-sipping socialites in comparisons.
4. It's better to be with Phillies fans than against them: Using the common stereotypes, here's an outsider's view of Phillies fans: They are loyal like Cubs fans, knowledgeable like Red Sox fans, profane like Yankees (or Mets) fans, have a sense of community like Cardinals fans, are circumspect like White Sox fans and wacko like A's fans. To the mix, they add a passion that is uniquely Philadelphian, making for a fun and creative fanbase, but one that becomes obnoxious if you get on its bad side. So don't, and just pull for the Phillies. OK, pal?
5. Don't disappoint your grandfather, Jamie Moyer: OK, the Phillies left-hander probably is not your grandfather, but he might have been gramps' favorite player as a kid. Listed at 45 years old, Moyer won 16 games in the regular season despite being oh-so-close to collecting on his pension, IRA and social security. Funny thing, it was probably his ninth- or 10th-best season, statistically. He's not a Hall of Famer, but he is a son of a gun. Give him a hug and listen to his WWII stories, but not right now. He's napping.
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Go Rays, because:
1. They're not the Yankees or Red Sox: Oh, how some fans love to loathe the twin evil empires in the northeast and how both spend their way to championships. Well, along comes an interloper from the same division as the supposed tyrants, and it's not even the Orioles or Blue Jays but instead the Rays, who spent the past decade mostly stuck to the bottom of the AL East. You don't have to anti-New York/Boston faction to root for the youngsters from Tampa Bay, but if you are, and a lot of you are, here's your champion.
2. Carlos Pena is an awesome guy: Not because of an extraordinary athletic feat, or a impressive charitable act, although he probably holds his own both places, but Pena (right) is just the kind of guy you'd want your son to grow up to be. Born in the Dominican Republic, moved to Massachusetts as a teen-ager, pursued electrical engineering at Northeastern in addition to baseball. Multilingual (Spanish, English, also dabbles in Italian). A big reader. Smart, but more importantly, thoughtful. Polite. Experienced failure multiple times but didn't give up. Pleasant. Actually, there are lots of guys on both teams like this, but Pena is first among equals.
3. Joe Maddon makes math fun: Not since it was marketed to kids trying to figure out batting averages and ERAs has math received such a boost from baseball. Rays manager Joe Maddon created a T-shirt, an equation and a revolution in spring training with his "9=8" movement. Talk about an irrational equation (maybe it was his glasses talking) but it worked for the Rays, who proved that a team that plays its best every 9 innings will find itself among the 8 still playing in October. Albert Einstein once said: "You teach me baseball and I'll teach you relativity... no we must not. You will learn about relativity faster than I learn baseball." Well, here the two finally have kind of met.
4. Do it for the kids: Here's a limb: Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton are the Paul Molitor and Robin Yount of their day. Two young players on the same team in the early stages of Hall-of-Fame careers. Molitor and Yount were actually several years into their careers by the time the Brewers reached the World Series in '82. Regardless, here's the chance to someday annoy regale your grandkids with tales of Evan and B.J. in their really early 20s.
5. What pressure?: How many times has a team with exponentially more collective experience than the Rays lost its edge in a playoff series and never recovered? Lots, and lots of examples. After Boston made the second-largest comeback in playoff history in Game 5 of the ALCS, the biggest comeback ever in an elimination game, the Rays were expected to be sent packing like the Indians in '07 and the Yankees in '04. But the Rays, as they had in the regular season, either shook off the pressure or made it work for them. They even got younger as the game went on, putting in 22-year-old rookie David Price, with his month of major league experience, to close Game 7. This is the coolest team in the league, using every definition of the word.