- Is your team young, in its prime, or aging?
- In the last 3 years or so have they not made the playoffs, made the playoffs and lost, or made the playoffs and won it all?
Young - No Playoffs
"Can't handle the pressure yet" Everyone knows that young players can't handle the pressure cooker that is the playoffs! Pressure cookers are hot! Stay out of this hot kitchen, rookie! Bring up a few clutch moments where they failed, talk about how they probably shouldn't have even been here, (because they are so young!) and finish with how they'll probably be here again. Make sure to note how the team loved their taste of the playoffs and the fans should be excited about the team's hungriness to get back. So hungry! Also remember that since they are young they are probably a bunch of fun guys. I bet they did the shaving cream pie thing or had some fun symbol they did after every big play. Talk about that, too. Everybody likes fun guys.
Young - Playoff Losers
"Missing Piece" Similar to the "Can't handle the pressure yet" column (they are still young and learning, aren't they) but with more focus on the places they need to improve. And let's be honest - unless there is an obvious hole - what they need is some veteran presence! The vigorousnessness of youth is actually hindering the team in some unknown way. Remember how last year they were fun? Maybe they are too fun this year. They need some focus. Veterans have laser focus. Examine the team that beat them and point out a veteran guy on that squad. That guy was so veteran! Note that they would stand a better chance with someone who's been there before who can lead the team to success just by merely standing next to players much more talented than he is currently. (If there is an obvious hole, then they need that... and some veteran presence)
Prime - No Playoffs
"Chokers, Blame Someone" Teams don't lose in the playoffs because it's a tiny number of games dominated by which pitchers happen to be hot right now. That's crazy talk! What are you? Living in your mother's basement? Nerd Alert! Am I right? Teams lose because someone messed up. Hopefully that person made it easy for you and went 0-13 or something but sometimes you have to dig deeper. Here's some help. It was probably the manager. If not him, than anyone in particular that is unpopular that underperformed will do, but also maybe the manager. Kind of hint that if they changed this one thing that they might win next time, but don't go too hard in this direction though because they probably won't change that one thing and they could very well win next year.*
Prime -Playoff Losers
"Chokers, Blame Everyone!" What a bunch of arrogant jerks, am I right? They believe their own press. They felt entitled! Entitled! 25 players - 26 cabs! (one guy paid for a empty cab to follow him just to put more space between him and his teammates) They thought they could just cruise to a title without even trying! The manager has lost the clubhouse! The GM doesn't know what he's doing! This team has no heart! Look at the team that beat them! That's a TEAM! Chemsitreamwork! ARRGELGLEGLE! (
Old - No Playoffs
"Happy to be there" These guys just didn't give up. Despite having some failing that kept them out of the playoffs or World Series in most of the recent years (which you can bring up offhandedly) they kept plugging at it until they finally made it. Fighters. Battlers. Warriors. Really just making it was a success, so focus on that. Talk about all they've done individually over the years like All-Star appearances. Mention aches and pains as battle scars, close call seasons as heartbreaks, and just how old they are. Old old old. Also good here are "what if" columns. If they traded away or let a guy go in free agency that became real good you can get something from that.
Old - Playoff Losers
"Didn't have what it takes" Losers. Chokers.That's what these guys are. They made the playoffs over and over and just couldn't get over the hump. They didn't have what it takes, pure and simple. Point out some scrappy player on the other team and compare him to a well paid player that didn't do well in his playoff at bats. Say the team needed more of those guys. Talk about how you could see the pressure get to them. They tried too hard. They needed guys that were more relaxed like that team that beat them. Maybe go ahead and throw some valid reasons in there if you feel like it, but it's not vital. (oh and don't think too hard about why these guys are choking losers and the guys that didn't even make the playoffs all those years are fighters to be praised. THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS)
Young/Prime - Winners
"Normal Column" - Fans are still happy that the team won in the past couple of years so there is no real reason to make anyone angry. If you're lucky maybe there is a free agent to be or a player retiring that you can focus your column, or maybe a big injury. If not write the same boring end of the year column you'd write for a not good team that missed the playoffs. Good here, bad there, blah blah blah, next year. This ain't rocket science.
Old - Winners
"End of an Era?" Old winning teams will eventually not win and for the lazy sportswriter you have to always be half-heartedly looking for that time. Maybe it can be a "lost their hunger" column but you're probably better just talking about how they were too old to get it done. Definitely bring up an old guy that didn't do well this time. Maybe someone stumbled in the field so you can bring up Willie Mays. Old teams always have nagging injuries, don't forget those. I'm sure someone is slow or struck out too much. Assume it was because of old age. My recommendation on an overall column theme? Focus on one of the older vets cleaning out his locker. It's pretty symbolic. Powerful stuff.
*Actually don't go hard unless you are ready to be THAT columnist who just says things with the hopes he can eventually get on TV. If you are, then go right ahead and write... nay DEMAND they make that change. Don't worry about making sense. Worry about being loud. The louder you are, the better. When they don't make that change and lose again next year (because 31 teams do lose, the chances are pretty damn good) you can ride this train all the way to a half-hour on a local network and a 2 hour radio show. You're on your way to moderate local celebrity. Comped at Applebees, baby!