MLB Playoffs: A Guide For Haters

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Brian Wilson and the Los Angeles Dodgers score high on the hateability index, but they're not No. 1. (Justin Aller/Getty Images)
Brian Wilson and the Los Angeles Dodgers score high on the hateability index, but they're not No. 1. (Justin Aller/Getty Images)

It's the time of year when baseball fans without a team in the playoffs have to find an alternative club to support. For the past two years, Brian Costa and his colleagues at the Wall Street Journal have turned that challenge on its head and provided fans with a Hateability Index to help them decide who to root against.

Costa joined Bill Littlefield on Only A Game.

[sidebar title="MLB Playoffs Preview" width="630" align="right"] With the Divisional Series underway, we give you eight reasons to rejoice.[/sidebar]BL: According to your system, teams pile up hateability points by being successful, rich and famous. Am I at least half right?

BC: That sums up most of it.

BL: You also assign hateability points for players with beards that make them look like mountain men. That's a little arbitrary, isn't it? What criteria determines if a beard is excessive in that respect?

BC: I think it's completely arbitrary. It's using the Wall Street Journal eye test of, "Do you look like a hipster or do you look like Tom Hanks in 'Cast Away?'"

BL: So Dodgers reliever Brian Wilson and the entire 2013 Red Sox who won the championship are hateable?

BC: Well, Wilson's beard has gotten to be long enough that there are things, I think, living in it now. But most of the Red Sox last year, although they were famous for their beards, were not necessarily the sort of Joba Chamberlain-look of the Detroit Tigers right now that's sort of taking it to the next level.

Costa says pitcher Joba Chamberlain's beard elevates Detroit's "hateability." (Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
Costa says pitcher Joba Chamberlain's beard elevates Detroit's "hateability." (Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

BL: You have determined that the most hateable team in the postseason this time around is the St. Louis Cardinals. Is this primarily because they've been in the playoffs so often lately?

BC: That's a lot of it. Certainly people get tired of seeing the Cardinals beat their team. They've had more success than anyone in the last decade in terms of pennants won. When you throw in the fact that fans around the country are constantly told the Cardinals fans are the best in baseball, it's just kind of like, "Well, so their team is superior to ours. Their fans are superior to ours. Enough of this."

BL: Any indication that the Cardinals organization is upset by your characterization of them?

BC: No, no — if you look at what I'm scoring teams on, it's really flattering for them. If having a rabid fanbase and winning all the time is the main strike against  you, I think you'll take it.

BL: The most likable — hence, least hateable — in this postseason is the Kansas City Royals. According to your figures they are roughly one-fifth as hateable as the Cardinals are. How did they earn that distinction?

BC: Well, when you go 29 years without a playoff berth, don't spend a lot of money, don't really do anything that inspires much hatred — say outside of Detroit, maybe — it's tough. You're not going to score very well on this index.

BL: Brian, we spoke last year about the hateability index, and you told me, had the Yankees made the playoffs, they would have had a record-shattering, beard-free hateability score, which is a distinction of sorts, I guess. But now they've missed the playoffs for two years in a row. Does that make them less hateable? Might this index continue even after New York returns to the postseason?

[sidebar title="Derek Jeter's Goodbye" width="630" align="right"]For one afternoon, everyone in Boston's Fenway Park was a fan of the New York Yankees ... OK, one Yankee. [/sidebar]

BC: I don't know. It's a great, forward-looking question, Bill, because the whole premise of this index has been the Yankees' absence from the playoffs and a lack of an obvious team for people to root against. On the one hand, they've lost some of their more likable players in Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera who were cheered even in Boston.

On the other hand, if they get back to the playoffs, in all likelihood it will be on the strengths of some big free agents that they signed, so that may make them even more dislikable than they were before. We'll see. It's something to look forward to for 2015, Bill.

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This segment aired on October 4, 2014.


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