If you enjoy baseball, you should be rooting for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yes, the Evil Empire West.
Even if you are the most diehard of Arizona Diamondbacks fans. Even if every Dodgers game you've attended at Chase Field left you cursing under your breath about the Dodgers. Even if you keep a framed picture of the Dodgers partying in the Chase Field pool on your wall to remind you every day of your Dodgers hate so you can feed off of it.
Even then, you should be rooting for the Dodgers.
There's a tendency to frame this World Series matchup as the ultimate Davis versus Goliath. The Tampa Bay Rays and their $28 million dollar payroll versus the Los Angeles Dodgers and their $100 million dollar payroll. No matter the year, pandemic shortened season or not, the Dodgers spend more than three times the amount in player salaries than the Rays do in a typical season. The team who's in Hollywood's backyard versus the team that might share home games with Montreal.
But this isn't about money or glamour. This World Series is a battle for baseball's soul.
And believe it or not, the Dodgers are the good guys in this fight.
The Los Angeles Dodgers winning the World Series represents the best team winning with the best players and the biggest stars. The Tampa Bay Rays winning represents the smartest team winning with the smartest people and who cares really about anything else.
We all know sports are copy cat leagues, so what happens if the Rays win and many teams in baseball decide to follow their successful formula? Strip down, turn over your roster, follow the analytics and see what happens. If it doesn't work, try again with different players, different analytics and more brainpower. Which sounds fine. But it's not fun to watch.
If the Rays win, wouldn't the Dbacks be justified in trading Marte, Peralta, Escobar and Ahmed? Transforming this team to mirror more of the Rays than the Dodgers. The Dbacks are already struggling to attract attention further watering down the roster hardly seems like the solution.
I'm not anti-intelligence or even anti-analytics in major league baseball. I'm anti-unrelatable. I'm anti-boring.
Every sport in North America does at least one thing better than any other league. The NFL does competition better than anyone with only 16 games, teams going from worst to first every year and a wide open postseason. The NBA does drama better than anyone with player trades, player empowerment and social media theatrics. The NHL does integrity better than anyone with a purity of mission and respect for competition.
Major League Baseball used to do history and nostalgia better than anyone. But the connection to the past has been permanently severed with PED's, analytics and a game that currently looks very little like the game I grew up playing and loving.
Now baseball does math better than anyone. Think about that. I want to watch a baseball game not prepare for the SAT's. I want to recognize players and their strengths and weaknesses not the university degree of the GM. I want to see action, chaos and unpredictability not scouting reports, formulas and methods.
All of these new developments have a place in baseball. Somewhere where I don't have to see it.
The Rays are the personification of new baseball. It's not their fault. The players are fun. Randy Arozarena is great for baseball. Give me more Blake Snell on Twitch. But they'll be gone soon whether they win the World Series or not because they are replaceable. Numbers on a spreadsheet.
I like baseball better when I recognize it.
So yes, I'm rooting for the Dodgers, a team that is also deeply engrained with analytics. At least if the Dodgers win it means talent matters, that star power carries weight and baseball can still look and feel old school even if it's driven by new school principles.
You don't have to like it but if you love baseball, you should be rooting for the Dodgers too.