A Fan's Formula: Picking A Side In The World Series Two games into the World Series, many fans are still wondering whom to pull for. What you really need, says Mike Pesca, is a formula. It takes into account famous beloved underdogs of the past; payrolls; the use of rookies; the appeal of each team's manager — and their mascots.
NPR logo A Fan's Formula: Picking A Side In The World Series

A Fan's Formula: Picking A Side In The World Series

OK, you've seen two games, the Phils won the first, the Rays the second, and still you sit wondering, "Hmmm, whom should I root for?"

Your own team is toast, your backup pick has backed out quick, and the one team you love to hate has succumbed to a nasty fate.

Like most of the Americans contributing to making this one of the lowest-rated World Series (and enough about that; it gets higher ratings than Gossip Girl, and The New York Times Style section won't shut up about that thing), you need a rooting guide.

And if you're like me (and, uh, probably no one else), what you really yearn for is a formula.

I closely examined famous beloved underdogs of the past. There was the U.S. hockey team of 1980; the Jamaican bobsled team; the Boise State Broncos; and the various presidential bids of Dennis Kucinich.

I studied their shared traits; I discounted peripheral distraction attributes; I busted out the slide rule; I asked, "How the hell does a slide rule work?" — and I came up with the following formula.


Rooting for the Yankees, it has been said, is like rooting for U.S. Steel. By the way, with its stock having lost more than 80 percent of its value this year, I have to admit, I'm rooting for U.S. Steel.

But the point is, the Yankees are just too rich. My formula takes the league's median payroll — around $80 million — and adds a point for every million dollars below that figure and subtracts a point for each million above. The Phillies' payroll is $97 million; at $43 million, the Rays' is the league's second-lowest.

Then I divided by two.

The result: the Phils -8.5; the Rays +18.5.


If the teams' own fans don't support them, why should you?

So, award 1 point per million fans (special exceptions would be made for Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, which always sell out but are small. Special exceptions would be made, that is — but they're not in it this year, are they?).

We take average attendance and divide by 100. Phillies averaged 42,000; the Rays 22,000

That give us: Phils 42; Rays 22.


One point for each year since a championship. Wait, doesn't this discriminate against expansion teams? Yes, it does; but then, expansion teams often incorporate purple or teal into their uniforms.

So: the Rays, 10 years (of existence); the Phillies, 28 years.

Those are the major factors. And after the compulsories, we have the Rays with 50.5 points, as a young, not well-loved, but parsimonious team, and the Phils with 61.5 points as free-spenders with a strong, though tortured, fan base.

Now, for some bonus points:

+ 1 for each Molina — I like Molinas. But unlike in recent World Series, the brothers Bengie, Jose and Yadier aren't on either team.

0 points both

+4 for each future Hall of Famer who has never won the Series

+ 2, if he's only a bench player

+ 1 if he's a beloved vet who won't make the Hall

So, the Phils are +1 for having Jamie Moyer.

Total: Phils 62.5; Rays 50.5

+3 for each really good stadium innovation/team superstition. The Angels had their rally monkey; the 1982 Tigers had The Wave, the 1986 Mets introduced rally caps, which have never gone away. The Rays have cowbells, and the Phils wave little towels. Eh.

0 points both teams

Total: Phils 62.5; Rays 50.5

+ 1 for each trash-heap-reclamation project that has found new life

Hmmm... I'll give the nod to Brad Lidge, who wasn't on the trash heap, but certainly in the recycling bin, and Brett Myers, who actually went down to the minors this year and is now a really good starter. So they combine for +1.

Total: Phils 63.5; Rays 50.5

+1 for everyone battling through a major injury

Rays + 2 for Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria

Total: Phils 63.5; Rays 52.5

+2 for a brilliant manager

+ 1 if he's also a nice guy

+1 if he gives good press conferences

+1 if he's funny

+1 if he really likes Springsteen, wine or anything else that shows he has a frame of reference besides baseball

Charlie Manuel, Phils +3

Joe Maddon, Rays +6

Total: Phils 66.5; Rays 58.5

+ 2 for triumphing over a disease

+2 for rare disease the players shed light on

Rays +4 for Rocco Baldelli, who has a rare mitochondrial disease that makes this spark plug of a player weak and exhausted at times — but always intense when he can play

Total: Phils 66.5; Rays 62.5

-2 for each arrest

Deduction for each arrest that resulted in the team's citing "innocent until proven guilty" and not "remember, he also murders left-handers" as a reason for keeping the player in the lineup

Neither team has players on the active roster who've been arrested. Notice all the qualifiers in that sentence?

Total: Phils 66.5; Rays 62.5

+ 1 for every player who plays the game the way it's supposed to be played

+3 for every player who insists that the way the game is supposed to be played is according to the 1845 Knickerbocker Base Ball Club rules — including:

If there should not be a sufficient number of members of the club present at the time agreed upon to commence exercise, gentlemen not members may be chosen in to make up the match, which shall not be broken up to take in members that may afterwards appear; but in all cases, members shall have the preference, when present at the making of the match.

Total: Phils 66.5; Rays 62.5

+ 2 for every come-from-behind or dramatic "walk off" win in the playoffs. +4 if it was in an "elimination game."

Both teams +2 — each had one dramatic win of this type in the playoffs.

Total: Phils 68.5; Rays 64.5

+ 2 for each rookie who makes a major contribution

Rays +4 for David Price and Evan Longoria

Total: Phils 68.5; Rays 68.5

+ 2 for going "worst to first"; + 3 if you had the worst record in all of baseball last year

Total: Phils 68.5; Rays 71.5

+ 1 for having a very clever mascot

The Phillie Phanatic: good off-road vehicle skills; Raymond, the Rays' weird mascot: Why the formality?

Total: Phils 69.5; Rays 71.5

- 1 for hideous uniforms

0 points, both teams — they've worn bad threads in the past but are now sartorially sound.

Grand Total: Phils 69.5; Rays 71.5

So there you have it: Root for the Rays, those young, triumphing-over-injury, disease-battling, Molina-less upstarts, and not the Phils who, though they make up for in cagey vets what they lack in Molinas, still in the end lack Molinas.