(Photo by Associated Press)
Driving to work yesterday, I heard Brock and Salk on 710 ESPN talking about whether or not it’s OK for a Mariner fan to root for the Rangers to win the World Series.
I got out of the car before I heard the resolution of the discussion, but I thought it was an interesting topic. First of all, I’m don’t believe anyone should dictate which team another person should pull for. No one has to justify their choice to anyone else. It’s a personal preference, so there’s no wrong answer.
But I daresay a lot of Mariners fans are agonizing over this question now that the Rangers are on the brink of a title. Reflexively, they want the Rangers to fail because they are a rival of the Mariners. As one person in my office put it, flat out, “I don’t want them winning a championship before the Mariners.” I fully understand this. And yet, my sense is that in this matchup between Texas and St. Louis, the Rangers win the likeability factor, and it’s not even close. One team is led by the imperious Tony La Russa, the other by dancing Ron Washington. Derek Holland does Harry Caray imitations in the middle of a game, while Albert Pujols ducks out after making a costly error. The Rangers, I sense, are coming off as more appealing. So people are torn.
Looking at this from the perspective of the Mariners, or Mariners fans, there are legitimate reasons to root against the Rangers, beyond the obvious one that they are a rival. I think you could make a pretty good case that a championship for Texas would open up new revenue streams for the Rangers, via attendance boosts and, eventually, more prosperous radio and television contracts, that would allow them to boost their payroll enough to add elite players like, say, Prince Fielder. And getting a taste of winning can make it addictive, both from an executive and on-field perspective.
But I think, if you stretch your mind, you could come up with scenarios whereby a World Series title might not be so beneficial, perhaps even detrimental, for the Rangers. For one thing, it could lead to a brain drain. Already, the top assistant to able GM Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, is said to be a leading candidate for the vacant Angels GM job (which might help another rival, but that’s another issue). The more success the Rangers have, the more coveted their personnel is going to be, and that could hurt their organizational acumen.
You could also assume that a Rangers title would increase the resolve of the Mariners’ brass to end their World Series drought. The M’s would have the dubious distinction of being the only team in the division not to have won a title (at least until the Houston Astros join). How that resolve would manifest itself — like, perhaps, a higher payroll — is an open question, but you’ve got to think it would be a motivator.
An M’s fan could also hope that a Rangers’ title would lead to many of the consequences of success that have brought down other title teams. Namely, players no longer have quite the same drive, and management simply can’t bear to part with players who led them to the promised land, even when all evidence points to their declining skills. My observation over the years is that sentimentality is the No. 1 foe of successful teams. The early 2000 Mariners succumbed to this syndrome, keeping some popular players around a few seasons too long. One exception that comes to mind was Bill Walsh, whose cold-bloodedness in dispatching no longer useful players was a key to the 49ers dynasty.
I’d be curious to hear from people who are Mariners fans — are you rooting for or against the Rangers, and why or why not?