I don't hate anybody. I don't think I've ever met someone who is genuinely malicious or cruel or worthy of hate. People can spark annoyance, ruffle my feathers, or just put out bad vibes, but I've never crossed paths with someone genuinely, legitimately hate-worthy.
But when it comes to sports teams, hoo boy. All it takes is a barely-glimpsed Red Sox hat to send rage neurons firing through my brain. Sports teams are a handy proxy for dumping our strongest emotions; there aren't many events that leave me jumping up and down like a lunatic or screaming inarticulately, but both those things happened last week when I was watching the Broncos.
So in honor of bizarre reasoning and misplaced antipathy, here are my rankings of NL West teams, from least hated to most.
It's hard to hate the Padres; they're just so unassuming. They don't have any superstars with a bad attitude. They don't win a lot. They have a payroll even lower than the Rockies'. It would be like hating the kid in the back of class who never raises his hand and gets B minuses every year; he isn't wrecking the curve and he doesn't call attention to himself. Why bother?
Beyond that, though, they've always been so gosh-darned accommodating to the Rockies. What people may forget about that fast and furious 2007 charge, when the Rockies Tokyo-drifted into the World Series, is that they needed the Padres to drop three straight games at the end. The Rockies had won 13 of 14 to close out the regular season, but still would have come up short in the Wild Card chase if San Diego hadn't dropped two in a row to the hapless Brewers in games 161 and 162. We all know what happened in game 163.
2007 aside, the Rockies seem to have the Padres' number. Since 2007 the Rockies are 71 and 57 against the Friars, with a winning record both at Coors and at Petco. That kind of record can't help but conjure up fond feelings. So keep on keeping on, Padres. You're fine in my book.
This is the team where minor annoyance starts to creep in. When I think of the Diamondbacks I think of the old movie trope where the bad guy has a lot of traits in common with the good guy, but in an evil way (say James Bond versus 006 in Goldeneye). The Diamondbacks share a lot of similarities with the Rockies. Both are recent expansion teams; both have medium-to-small payrolls. They both play in pretty extreme hitters parks and they both share a time zone, at least for half the year.
For a while there it seemed like a rivalry was brewing between the Rockies and the D-Backs. After the Rockies swept them in the 2007 NLCS and Eric Byrnes opened his damn fool mouth about how the Rockies were just lucky, there seemed to be some bad blood stirring. But that whole thing sort of fizzled as the Rockies stumbled out of the block in 2008.
Anyway, what mostly annoys me about the D-Backs is that they beat the Rockies on the reg (51 and 70 since 2007) and that Justin Upton was kind of a punk. Upton's gone, but the beatings remain. In the end, I mostly feel grudging respect; the D-Backs are a pretty well run franchise, all things considered.
This is where the true animosity kicks in. While the Diamondbacks are like the evil twin, the Giants are evil in a wholly different way (say James Bond versus Jaws). They play in a power-killing park on the west coast, pitch like hell, and play small ball and defense.
Then there's the history. Employing Barry Bonds during his most Hulked-out years, providing a constant distraction from the actual game, rankles the nerves. More recently, the knock-down, drag-out battle for second place and the Wild Card in 2009 introduced more antagonism. 2010 was another year with both teams at each others' throats, including the infamous Tim Lincecum "juiced ball" game.
The two Championships in 2010 and 2012 really upped their hateability as well, along with the insane health to their starting rotation, while Rockies pitchers were exploding left and right.
Marks in their favor: their horrible play this year blunts the hatred. I think Buster Posey is legitimately awesome and Pablo Sandoval is fun. Overall, they're a fabulously annoying team, and maybe they would have had the top spot last offseason, but right now, my most hated team in the NL West is...
1. The Los Angeles Dodgers.
During the McCourt years the Dodgers were just silly. They didn't play well, the McCourt divorce was wreaking havoc with their finances, and an overall circus atmosphere accompanied them. It was wonderful.
But when Magic Johnson and his team of billionaires took over, they meant business. Payroll has skyrocketed as they bought every shiny toy that came along. They nabbed the best Free Agent pitcher last offseason in Zack Greinke. They swung a trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett that looks bad in dollars/WAR, but they really don't seem to care about dollars/WAR. They could trade middling prospects for Hanley Ramirez because they could take on his salary easily. And they threw way more money at Yasiel Puig than anyone else, because relax, it's only money.
Not only are they spending outrageously, they're spending outrageously on truly hateable players. Josh Beckett seems like a tool, and pitches slower than Rafael Betancourt on quaaludes. Hanley Ramirez is always hotdogging out there. And Yasiel Puig. Holy crap Yasiel Puig. It's pretty rare for a guy to hit .340/.404/.556 and annoy the living crap out of everyone in the stadium, in both dugouts. But dammit, he gets results.
With the Dodgers steamrolling through the National League with their over-payed, over-swaggering players, they have become annoyance incarnate. The hate is strong with them.
Patrick Saunders writes that Nolan Arenado deserves a Gold Glove. He's absolutely right. And did I see him reference WAR?
Wow. What are the odds? Curse you Grant!
Stay safe out there everyone. Keep to the high ground.