With the Rays eliminated, Tampa Bay baseball fans looking elsewhere for a team to cheer on through the 2010 postseason should consider these recommendations.
In the aftermath of the Rays losing the ALDS to the Texas Rangers, it's entirely possible that you may not want to even think about baseball until next spring. That's an entirely reasonable reaction. Unlike the slow, sad death that comes from rooting for a non-contender (with which we are all intimately familiar), losing in the playoffs is sudden and far more painful. Emotions and expectations are heightened and it's truly heartbreaking when the outcome isn't favorable.
It's perfectly understandable if you want to spend some time in a dark room, muttering under your breath about physically impossible feats you'd like to see Joe Maddon and Kelly Shoppach perform or just watching football and hockey instead. But on the off chance you want to see how this whole postseason plays out and would like a rooting interest but just aren't sure who to pull for, here are my personal recommendations (actually, none of these five would have been listed ahead of the Twins and Reds if they were still in it, just because the possibility of them meeting in the World Series might have caused anxious tv executives to actually jump off of bridges, which would have been awesome, but oh well):
1. Texas Rangers
You might be saying, "The jerks that beat my beloved Rays? With the stupid antlers and claws? Treason! Never!". That's just your emotions talking. The fact of the matter is that battle is over now, and even MMA fighters who pound each other into lumpy bags of pulp embrace and say "nice job" once the final bell rings. Removing emotion from the equation, there's a lot to like about the Rangers.
For a quick example, look no further than the first three runs they scored in game five of the ALDS, the ones that really buried the Rays. Those runs were the result of sheer guts and hustle. How can you not appreciate that? If you want to add emotion back into the mix, you can consider the incredible, ongoing comeback of former Rays prospect Josh Hamilton. If that doesn't do it for you, what about Nolan Ryan, one of baseball's true all-time greats who was a minor contributor to only one champion team very early in his career as a player and who now owns a team he pitched for that's never even been to the World Series?
2. San Francisco Giants
The Giants haven't won a World Series since 1954, when they played in New York. San Francisco fans have never seen them win one, so there's some serious sentimentality there. Still, this is a tougher choice for Rays fans for one big, expensive, non-productive (when he was Ray) reason: Pat Burrell. That makes the Giants a very distant second choice to the Rangers. If it helps from a karmic standpoint, try to ignore the fact that Burrell would get a world championship ring as a Giant and concentrate on the fact that Barry Bonds never did.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
Probably the most talented team in baseball, it would be easy to root for the Phillies if not for the fact that they're from Philadelphia. Rooting for any team from Philadelphia to win a championship in any sport is rooting for Philadelphia police cars to be set on fire. if civil disobedience masquerading as passionate fan support is your thing, you'll want to pull for the Phillies.
4. Invading Aliens From Outer Space Seeking To Enslave Humanity
I'm not saying flying saucers are going to land on Earth some time between now and the World Series, but if they do and green-skinned aliens step out and announce, "We are here to conquer your world. We will lay waste to your cities and place all of your citizens in our pod farms...that is, unless your vaunted New York Yankees can defeat us in a game of baseball", I'll be looking for the one with a clipboard, seeking volunteers for the first round of anal probes. That's how much I hate the New York Yankees.
5. New York Yankees
Rooting for the Yankees is like hoping a trust fund baby gets an athletic scholarship. Where's the fun in that? And now that you can't even root for Derek Jeter with a clear conscience, the Yankees are less deserving of outside support than ever.