If you're of the same mind as I am, then the four Division Series couldn't have gone much better.
Of course, the most obvious gratification comes from seeing the Red Sox' rivals given a quick boot from the postseason. The "team of destiny" Rays? They won only one more game for all their trouble making their way into the playoffs. In a few years' time the story of the Red Sox' collapse will only be told when us Sox fans want to get depressed or broadcasters want to make us shut off the television. And while the Yankees may have been in it all the way until the last pitch, there will be no 28th championship this year, and nothing to lord over Sox fans other than five games in October--hardly an impressive bounty for two teams that see playoff action so often.
But now what? The obvious rivals are gone, as is the Philadelphia team--one which many fans love to hate. What we have left are a couple of American League teams each with a former Red Sox star (albeit with a combined 2.5 seasons with the team), and a couple of National League teams with only tenuous connections to the Sox.
The Cardinals seem like the easiest team to eliminate from contention, as it were. With ten titles including one in 2006, they aren't exactly in dire need of a win. They seem more like a New York Yankees (and, sadly, 2011 Red Sox) collection of professionals than the rest of the teams, and there's no way that squirrel won't get to be as annoying as the Rally Monkey if they win the World Series and give it a chance to take off. There's just not much to recommend them.
Their competition, however, have quite a bit going for them. Because if there's any team left in the playoffs with real personality, it's the Brewers. Yeah, from the outside "Beast Mode" is a bit stupid, and Nyjer Morgan can be a little bit of a polarizing figure, but look hard, and it's all-too-easy to see the "Idiots" in them. From the big-hitting combo of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to the center fielder who doesn't seem to be all there
and will inevitably leave the team for their highest-bidding division rivals. From having lived in Wisconsin for much of the past three years I can assure you there's a certain pre-2004 Sox feeling to the team's supporters. For the sake of their sanity and their livers, it's the Brewers that will be drawing my support these next few weeks.
But it's not hard to see why those who live elsewhere could want to root for the Tigers or Rangers. After all, there's something to be said for supporting the American League in the same way one might support their NCAA conference rivals in a bowl game--just so long as the teams in question aren't, say, the Rays and Yankees.
So who do you root for between the two? It's a little hard to distinguish between the two. The Rangers have been more consistently strong of late, but the Tigers at least have a World Series title to their name in the last 30 years. Between Verlander and Cabrera in Detroit and the ridiculous Rangers' lineup, neither can really be called an underdog. Each team also has its fair share of unlikable personalities and serious personal issues which don't really need to be rehashed here.
So maybe it really comes down to just Beltre vs. Martinez. Each was a fan favorite in their short time in Boston, and each was allowed to go amicably by the Sox before the 2011 season started. Neither of them have a championship yet, and both of them are the sort of players who would be perfectly deserving of one. Personally, I think I'd throw my weight behind Beltre just for the prospect of more one-knee homers and head rubs, but it's hard to ever go against V-Mart.
No matter which way you choose to go, though, the important part for the Red Sox is already over. The Rays and Yankees have joined them on the golf courses, and us fans can breathe easier knowing that things won't be getting any worse.