In his "Historical Baseball Abstract" the great Bill James does a thing in which he puts each decade of baseball history in a "box," making an idiosyncratic list of each decade's defining features.
Without pretending to be anywhere near as exhaustive or baseball savvy as James, I'm stealing the idea to briefly summarize the teams still fighting for a playoff spot in the tight National League wild-card race (including both the Brewers and Cubs, who are battling it out for the NL Central title).
Say your favorite team is out of the running and you're shopping for a club to throw your emotional weight behind, say you're looking for a jersey to slip on for the stretch drive, maybe a box to stand up and cheer on.
Read these labels as you ponder your commitment. It's penny-for-a-pound stuff, everything in the box you choose is yours to keep.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
Padre Zero: Ollie Brown -- 52 home runs and 205 RBIs in three years with the club
Mr. Padre: Anthony Keith Gwynn
Mr. Heartbreak: Frederick Stanley McGriff
Franchise High-water Mark: Comeback win over the Cubs in the 1984 NLCS
Stink They Can't Shake: Chub Feeney, Eric Show and a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese
Old-school Line: Cito Gaston, 1970 -- 29 home runs, 93 RBIs, .318/.364/.543
New-school Line: Jake Peavy, 2007 -- 2.43 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 16-6
Baddest Brother Trucker: Dave Winfield
Samsonian Source of Power: Rollie Fingers
Special Sauce Purveyor: Randy Jones
Stance: Steve Garvey's
Acceptable Throwback Jerseys: Gwynn, Winfield and Goose Gossage; Not Ozzie Smith
Favorite Color: Brown
Best Nickname: Bud "Pepe Negro" Black
Department of Redundancy Department: Team originally named Philadelphia Philadelphias (1883) by owner Alfred Reach
Mr. Phillie: Michael Jack Schmidt
Mr. Heartbreak: Mitchell Steven Williams
Franchise High-water Mark: Tug McGraw's cleats a dime's width above the mound dirt
Stink They Can't Shake: 1964
Old-school Line: Cy Williams, 1923 -- 41 home runs, 114 RBIs, .293/.371/.576; at age 35
New-school Line: Chase Utley, 2007 -- 18 home runs, 92 RBIs, .339/.419/.568; so far, and after missing 30 games to a broken hand
Baddest Brother Trucker: Dick Allen
Number of Guys Named Richie Ashburn Who've Hit the Same Fan With a Foul Ball Twice In One Game, The Second of Which Hit the Poor Mug While He Was Being Taken From the Field to Receive Medical Treatment: One
Delivery: Steve Carlton's
Best Nickname: Bob "Death to Flying Objects" Ferguson
Best Name Straight Out of "Fat Albert": Bake McBride
Acceptable Throwback Jerseys: Schmidt, Ashburn, McGraw, Allen; Not Curt Schilling
Forgotten Hero: Robin Roberts
Suspicious Hero: Lenny Dykstra
Favorite Freaks: Philadelphia Philadelphias Phanatic and Darren Darrens Daulton
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Humble Origins: Played in seven World Series before winning in 1955, losing to the Red Sox in 1916, the Indians in 1920, and the Yankees in 1941, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1953.
Mr. Dodger: Jackie Roosevelt Robinson
Mr. Heartbreak: Ralph Theodore Joseph Branca
Franchise High-water Mark: Kirk Gibson's pumped fist
Stink They Can't Shake: "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!"
Old-school Line: "Hi again everybody, and a very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be "
New-school Line: Russell Martin, 2007 -- 17 home runs, 81 RBIs, .299/.380/.477; and oh yeah, 21 stolen bases
First of His Kind: Robinson
Last of Their Kind: Garvey, Lopes, Cey and Russell
Playgirl Model: Steve Yeager
Playboy Model Doubleheader: Mike Piazza
Stance: Reggie Smith's
Stunning Fernando Valenzuela Number: 8, as in shutouts, as in of 13 victories, as in at age 20, as in during his first year in the league
Samsonian Source of Power: Don Sutton
Moment You Can't Have Back: "Now pitching, No. 49, Tom Niedenfuer."
Moment You'll Never Let Go Of: 100,000 lights held up at the Los Angeles Coliseum in honor of Roy Campanella
Just for Good Measure: Koufax's perfect game and Hershiser's 59 straight
First Sign That When We Say "Mile High" We Mean "Mile High": In 1993, his first season with the expansion Rockies, Charlie Hayes hits seven more home runs and collects 32 more RBIs than he ever has before.
Mr. Rockie: Todd Lynn Helton
Mr. Heartbreak: Michael William Hampton
Franchise High-water Mark: Um ... uh ... Brian Bohanon's NL-Best 2.79 road-ERA in 2000? (Unfortunately his home-ERA was 6.57)
Stink They Can't Shake: See Franchise High-water Mark
Old-school Line: Larry Walker, 1997 -- 49 home runs, 130 RBIs, .366/.452/.720, and 33 steals
New-school Line: Matt Holliday, 2007 -- 27 home runs, 113 RBIs, .334/.394/.576
Stance: Andres Galarraga's
Delivery: Byung-Hyun Kim's
Acceptable Throwback Jerseys: None. No disrespect to Walker and Galarraga, but it's a purple thing
Guys You Forgot Were Once Rockies: Dale Murphy, Howard Johnson, Bret Saberhagen and Darryl Kile
Double-secret Mojo Bonus X factor: Best ballpark dogs in all the land
Samsonian Source of Power: Royce Clayton
Bon Scott Power Drain: Todd Helton
The Sonics and Oklahoma City? That Is So 1970: Four days before the start of the 1970 season, Bud Selig bought the bankrupt Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee
Mr. Brewer: Robin Yount
Mr. Heartbreak: Pat Listach
Franchise High-water Mark: Seventh-inning two-run single by Cecil Cooper to give Brewers the lead for good in the clinching game of the 1982 ALCS. All the better for the David Banner and the satellite-dish style specs he was wearing at the time.
Stink They Can't Shake: Bud Selig's 2001 threat to contract the Minnesota Twins
Old-school Line: Robin Yount, 1982 -- 29 home runs, 114 RBIs, .331/.379/.578
New-school Line: Prince Fielder, 2007 -- 43 home runs, 104 RBIs, .288/.386/.611
Stance: Paul Molitor
Name Straight Out of Tolstoy: Vukovich
Never Mind the Cowboys or the Braves, This Is America's Team: In addition to moving cities, the Brewers have moved from the American League West to the American League East in 1972, to the American League Central in 1994 and to the National League Central in 1998. Frosty mugs for ALL my people!!
Best Nickname: Harvey's Wallbangers
Something They Need To Go Back To, Like Yesterday: The Barrel Man logo!!!
Double-secret Mojo Bonus X factor: It's hard to quantify the amount of extra juice a team in a playoff race with a wooly-mustachioed mascot guy sliding into a frosty mug of beer can count on. This isn't a conversation you have in the language of cause and effect. This is a conversation you have while noting the team has won seven of 10, and bending your mug-clutching right arm at the elbow.
Just For Good Measure: Hank Aaron retired a Brewer. Just saying ...
"They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago Way": According to James, Cap Anson is largely responsible for saving baseball in Chicago, and for saving/creating major league baseball, period. "He trolled other leagues which were operating at the same time ... and began stealing their best payers," James writes. "Anson organized the process of identifying and acquiring the best players from other leagues ... and that forced other National League teams to do the same."
Mr. Cub: Duh
Mr. Heartbreak: Leon "Bull" Durham
Poster Boy For Righteous Indignation Society of Greater Chicagoland Area, And I Do Mean Righteous Indignation: Ron Santo
Old-school Line: Hack Wilson, 1930 -- 56 home runs, 191 RBIs, .356/.454/.723
New-school Line: Carlos Marmol, 2007 -- 1.40 ERA, 57.2 IP, 79 strikeouts
Hot Streak: Big Z has a temper, but he's no Lee Elia, ladies and gentlemen: "I tell you one ------- thing, I hope we get ------- hotter than ---- just to stuff it up those 3,000 people that show up every ------- day. Because if they're the real Chicago ------- fans, they can kiss my ------- ass right down town!"
Cool Breeze: Derek Lee
Franchise High-water Mark: Next ...
Stink They Can't Shake: The thing you have to reckon with, more than the cat, the goat or the poor mope in the headphones is the paranoid doubt, the enduring belief that they're snake-bitten ... that's the killer.
One Of A Kind: Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown
You Know He Was Good But You Forget How Good: Ryne Sandberg
Dubious Achievements: Traded away Cy Williams for Dode Paskert (look him up) in 1917, and in 1964 traded Lou Brock (along with Jack Spring and Paul Toth) for Ernie Broglio, Bobby Shantz and Doug Clemens.
Acceptbable Throwback Jerseys: Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux, Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins; Mark Grace not so much.
Eric Neel is a columnist for Page 2. You can reach him here.