Hey Rockies fans, adopt the Guardians as your playoff team


Hey, disgruntled Rockies fans, looking for a team to adopt for the playoffs?

Check out the Cleveland Guardians, the club that gives baseball fans who don’t live on the East Coast or in Los Angeles a reason to hope and a reason to cheer.

On Saturday afternoon, the Guardians beat Tampa Bay, 1-0, in Game 2 of the American League wild-card series, sweeping the Rays out of the playoffs with a walk-off home run by Oscar Gonzalez in the 15th inning.

Gonzalez, a 24-year-old outfielder who uses the theme song from “SpongeBob Squarepants” as his walk-up music, was the only player in the game with more than one hit.

The Guardians are the majors’ throwback team. They ranked 29th in baseball in home runs during the regular season but had the fewest strikeouts. They put the ball in play, run the bases well and win with defense. They lock games away with a filthy bullpen anchored by closer Emmanuel Clase, who has a 1.36 ERA and led baseball with 42 saves.

“This team’s good. We’re not just young. We’re pretty good,” starter Cal Quantrill, the club leader with 14 wins, told reporters recently. “I don’t think anybody’s excited to face us right now. We’re playing our best baseball. We’re playing baseball the right way.”

At $82.1 million, they have the third-smallest payroll in the majors. That’s less than one-third of what the Dodgers spent this year ($275.6 million) and a little more than half what the Rockies spent ($158.9).

Meanwhile, the big spenders are choking. The Mets’ Max Scherzer, their supposed ace, made $43.3 million this season, well more than half of Cleveland’s payroll. But on Friday, Scherzer was blasted by the Padres for seven runs, including four home runs, in just 4 2/3 innings in a 7-1 loss. As he trudged off the mound, Scherzer was showered with boos from the sellout crowd of 41,621 fans at Citi Field.

Few expected magic from the Guardians, including Cleveland fans. The Guardians drew an average of just 17,050 fans per game at Progressive Field this season, 25th in the majors.

But Cleveland fields an intriguing team. This season, 17 rookies made their major league debuts, matching a club record established in 1912 and tied in 1914. Only Oakland, with 19 debuts, had more than the Guardians. Cleveland became the first American League team to reach the playoffs with the youngest team in the majors.

They did it under the guidance of veteran manager Terry Francona, one of the savviest men in the game.  After dealing with serious health issues for two seasons, Francona, 63, is making a case to be a Hall of Fame manager. He won two World Series with Boston and now has the Guardians in the ALDS.

“I’m amazed by these guys,” Chris Antonetti, Cleveland’s president of baseball operations, told reporters when the Guardians clinched the AL Central title.  “They came together and played the game the right way.”

Regarding Francona, Antonetti said, “To think of what he’s overcome personally to get to this point … This is a special moment for Tito.”

Cleveland will face the high-and-mighty Yankees beginning Tuesday in New York. The Yankees had the third-highest payroll in the majors at $264.9 million. The Yankees, led by Aaron Judge’s 62 home runs, led baseball with 254 home runs, exactly double the Guardians’ 127.

Of course, the muckety-mucks at MLB headquarters want to see a Yankees-Dodgers, Yankees-Mets, or Yankees-vs. anybody World Series.

But if you’re looking to adopt an underdog, go with the Guardians.


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