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Who should Rays fans root for: Cubs/Pirates Edition

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It all comes down to how you feel about Joe Maddon.

Stare into the eyes of death itself
Stare into the eyes of death itself
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, just as a baseball fan, you should be glued to this game because it's a great pitching matchup. Cole /Arrieta features two pitchers at the top of their games. Plus, both pitchers are not terribly effective at holding on runners, which from a fan perspective is always fun. There he goes!

So yeah, you should tune in. But who should you cheer for? Unlike the Astros/Yankees matchup, this one is a lot harder to figure.

The Pirates are natural Rays allies, the plucky team from the small market. In addition to the headlining star pitcher, they feature bona fide stars in the field with Starling Marte and the incomparable Andrew McCutchen. As for the rest of the lineup, though not as young as they used to be, they are still plenty athletic. They've also weathered injuries, including the loss of the excellent Jung Ho Kang from the left side of the infield. Plus, they have Dat Ass.

Charles LeClaire (USA TODAY Sports)

Charles LeClaire (USA TODAY Sports)

All this should be enough to put the Bucs safely in the "Root for" column for all but the most cynical Rays fan. Except for one thing. The Cubs have Joe Maddon.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Anthony Rizzo is great, Kris Bryant is a phenom, Addison Russell is young and exciting. They have cool ex-Rays in Jason Hammel and Fernando Rodney. There's that stupid billy goat curse. All good stuff. But really, who you plan to root for in this game comes down to how you feel about this guy.

Stephen Dunn (Getty Images)

So, as a public service, here are some guided questions to help you figure out where you stand on Joe, along with my own personal answers.

  • Are we getting tired of carrying that chip on our shoulders over the way Joe done us wrong?  
    (me: lol what chip? Ain't nobody got time for chips. Except for Tostitos lime. Those are fantastic.)
  • Do we owe Maddon any loyalty for all he gave us over the years? 
    (me: oh, you mean like the loyalty Joe showed us? That loyalty? Hahahaha! Screw you, Joe Maddon! And I hope the Cubs are cursed for another 100 years!)
  • Um…are we sure that chip isn't getting a little heavy? 
    (me: well, maybe just a little...)

So, again, it all comes down to how you feel about Joe. If the sour taste over how his departure went down has left your mouth, then by all mean, cheer his boys on. He did leave us with a lot of great memories. Life is too short for bitterness.

On the other hand, if you're still carrying a grudge, well, then I have bad news for you. Because you should probably root for the Cubbies anyway.

Now before you go calling me all sorts of names, hear me out. Is a one-and-done really schadenfreudey enough?  Shouldn't there be more build up, more time for joy and hope to sink in, to fill the breast of Chicago fans everywhere, more time for them to revel in their genius, merlot sippin' manager? Then won't it be that much sweeter when, in game seven of some series later on, Joe makes a wacky lineup call, and it bites the Cubs in the butt? And it's finally revealed to all that the wizard behind the curtain is naked? Or something?

Love Joe or hate Joe, the choice is clear: Go Cubs! (for now.)

The Cubs take on the Pirates at 8:00 PM EST on TBS.