This was supposed to be the year that the Chicago White Sox repeated as American League Central Division Champions. From the start, however, things did not go as planned and the Sox will miss the postseason yet again.

So, I need to choose a team to pull for. Yankees fans, who have only had to do this about four times in their lives, can stop reading this column right after this paragraph, for you will not identify with what I am about to say. You probably wanted to go back to getting sloshed and pretending to know something about baseball anyway.

The rest of us, however, usually become “temporary fans” of one or two teams (in order to cover both leagues) for the duration of the playoffs. After all, the post-season becomes much more enjoyable after taking a side. My advice to all the Marlins, Reds and Orioles fans out there is to start scouting your alternate team now.

So how about a little information to get you started?

Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks will be a fun playoff team to watch if they can hold their lead in the NL West for two reasons: Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. These two would easily carry the D-Backs through the first round.

Atlanta Braves: The possibility of watching Andruw Jones make one of his circus-style game saving catches in the World Series is possibly the best reason to root for the Braves. Just remember that supporting them also means supporting Ted Turner’s empire of shoddy television stations. Besides, the Braves have been in the playoffs almost every year since you were 12.

Cleveland Indians: The best offense in the league, containing Kenny Lofton, Roberto Alomar, Ellis Burks, Juan Gonzalez and Jim Thome (to name the first five hitters) will provide excitement for anyone who decides to pull for the Tribe. I personally won’t be cheering for them because Roberto Alomar is the biggest jerk in baseball. My money says that he will do something that angers Frank Robinson, baseball’s suspension-giving king, in October.

Houston Astros: The Astros are mostly a young team, and you feel that they are having fun on the diamond when you watch them. By the way, the ‘stros currently possess the best record in the National League, and home field advantage means that Lance Berkman and Jeff Bagwell will be hitting many, many balls out of Enron Field. Their pitching staff, however, has been recently hit by injuries and lacks playoff experience.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Don’t bet on the Dodgers making the playoffs, but if they do, you may cheer for them based on Gary Sheffield’s beautiful swing alone.

New York Mets: The Mets will probably not make the playoffs either. If they do, however, they’ve got the feel-good story about persevering in a tough situation going for them. Root against the Mets if you have no soul.

New York Yankees: The Yankees, on the other hand, have been on top of the AL East since July, so they’re not quite as likeable as the Mets. Besides, most of you dislike the Yankees to begin with. They do, however, have the best pitcher in the game in Roger Clemens, and the best clutch playoff hitter, in my opinion, in Paul O’Neill. As usual, the Yankees will be very competitive this October.

Oakland Athletics: Jermaine Dye is the most underappreciated player in the game today. Not only did he contribute to the Athletics’ mid-season turnaround with his big bat, but he plays like an animal in the outfield every day. The young pitching staff, featuring Tim Hudson’s miniscule ERA and Barry Zito’s monster curveball, should be exciting as well. The A’s, however, could very well choke in the playoffs, just as they did last year.

Philadelphia Phillies: Although not quite the rag-tag bunch that the World Series team featuring John Kruk and Lenny Dykstra was, this year’s Phillies are another worst-to-first story, embodying the idea of the American blue-collar work ethic. Root for the Phillies if you believe that one (I don’t).

Seattle Mariners: There is no way the Mariners will not choke in the playoffs. Take my word for it – if you pull for them you will be disappointed.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals have the next big thing on the baseball scene in their lineup: Albert Pujols, who has absolutely iced the NL Rookie of the Year. This guy could very well blow up in the playoffs. The Cards’ suspect pitching staff could be a turnoff to choosing them, though.

So choose, and choose wisely. This year’s playoffs will be much more exciting if you do.

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