With the Milwaukee Brewers once again absent from the slate of playoff teams, many Wisconsin fans are jumping on board Cincinnati's bandwagon, as the Reds are friendly rivals with fans who aren't obnoxious. But the Reds have drawn powerhouse Philadelphia in the first round, which could doom their chances.
But fans looking for a true underdog should look to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays are champs of the American League East, home to the two highest-paid teams in baseball: the New York Yankees ($206.3 million payroll) and the Boston Red Sox ($162.7 million). The Rays' payroll for 2010 ranks 21st in the majors at $71.9 million.
Rays manager Joe Maddon is the anti-Ken Macha, which is to say he displays an actual personality. Exhibit A: the blue plaid blazers (or, as he calls them, bRaysers) he had custom made for the team to wear on a West Coast road trip in August. The bRaysers inspired a special cap with a plaid bill that the team wore last week.
And Maddon wants Rays fans showing up at Tropicana Field in plaid for the playoffs. "Real men wear plaid," he said. "To have this ballpark plaided out would be very cool."
Rays owner Stuart Sternberg, acknowledging that the economy has hit Florida hard, has offered free parking to carpoolers and lets fans bring their own food and drink on weeknights and Sundays. And last week the team gave away 20,000 free tickets to its home finale, packing the stadium.