To the surprise of nobody, the Blue Jays ended up on the outside looking in this season. So, just as we have for all but two of the past two-and-a-half decades, Jays fans will be looking for a bandwagon to jump on.
If you say you’re the type of fan who doesn’t cheer for a different team in the playoffs than your own, I don’t believe you. We’ve got to witness playoff baseball twice since the team won back-to-back World Series Championships. There’s absolutely no way that any baseball fan went through all those years without having some kind of active rooting interest in a different team.
Maybe you don’t have an official second team you always pull for, but you’ve surely jumped on a bandwagon. Or, at the very least, you’ve cheered quietly for a team to win because you like a couple of players on the team. Hell, maybe you just like to cheer against teams you hate. All of that is fine.
As I do every fall
and will continue to do for the next two decades until we get a couple more ALCS runs I’m going to break down who you should be cheering for and against in the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Rays ran on the turf at Rogers Centre on Friday night after clinching their first playoff berth since 2013 with a win over a hopeless looking Blue Jays team. This is a completely different Rays squad than the one six years ago that featured Evan Longoria, David Price, and Ben Zobrist. Tampa Bay has become the true modern Moneyball squad, finding weird castaway players who get jumbled together to create an annoyingly good team.
They’re a small market team who actually spent some cash this off-season to try to be good, which I appreciate. I mean, they’re a division rival and, as I said above, are annoying as fuck, but they’re a pretty difficult team to root against. You can go either way with this one, really.
It’s the original Moneyball team vs. the new age Moneyball team in this year’s wild card game. The winner between Tampa Bay and Oakland will get the honour of being shit-canned by the Houston Astros in the ALDS.
The A’s, much like the Rays, are a real rag-tag squad. A defining feature of every Oakland team in the Billy Beane era is internally-developed players who fans will fall in love with and get traded and a few other castaways who the market didn’t realize were pretty good. That’s this year’s team in a nutshell.
The biggest reason to cheer for this team, in my opinion, is Liam Hendriks. The former Blue Jay officially became the greatest Australian baseball player of all-time this year with his All-Star campaign. Despite being designated for assignment in 2018, Hendriks bounced back and became one of the best closers in baseball this year. Also, if Oakland somehow won the World Series, Marco Estrada would get a ring.
This is actually harder than it should be.
On one hand, it’s the Yankees. On the other hand, this is a team that features Edwin Encarnacion and J.A. Happ. Back to that other hand, it’s the fucking Yankees. We haven’t seen the Evil Empire win in the Twitter era and their fans would be absolutely unbearable if they did. Is dealing with Yankees fans being even more awful than usual really worth seeing Edwin win a ring?
I mean, to be fair to the Yankees, this is hardly an Evil Empire team. This group got their ass handed to them by injuries and ended up being led by the likes of Gio Urshela all the way to the AL East crown. If you felt the need to cheer for a Yankees team, I guess you could get away with it this time.
I think the Twins are my American League team.
I don’t really find them overly exciting nor do I have an attachment to any of the players on the team, but I have a soft spot for a mid-market team who went hard to kick open their contention window this off-season. The Twins easily could have been like half of the teams in baseball and dove into the perpetual rebuild cycle last winter, but instead, they went and made a bunch of free-agent additions and ended up booting the complacent Clevelanders out of the playoffs.
I can’t bring myself to cheer for the Yankees despite Edwin and thus Minnesota makes a perfect choice as my AL team.
The Astros aren’t fun anymore. They’re just really good and it’s really upsetting.
A couple of years ago when they were just on the rise from their Trust The Process tank sessions, the Astros were cool. They were loaded with exciting, young talent, they had never won before, they rallied behind Hurricane Harvey and the devastating flood in Houston, and they were our pals in dunking on their idiot cousins, the Texas Rangers.
But now? Geeehhhhh. Maybe it’s just because I find the idea of Roberto Osuna winning a World Series kinda gross, but I just don’t enjoy the Astros. I mean, Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, uhhhhhh and Aledmys Diaz would get World Series rings, but I don’t feel like that’s enough to make up for the inclusion of Osuna for me.
I’m sorry, but if you continue to cheer for the Nationals because they’re the Zombie Expos, you’re a weirdo. The Nationals subbing out their Walgreens-ass uniforms for throwback Expos threads this year felt wrong to me, though they were incredibly fresh. Still, it’s like the OKC Thunder raising a Seattle SuperSonics banner. Just, uh, no.
Anyways, the Nationals! The team who has never won a playoff series! Would winning the wild-card game count as a series win? No, it would not. Would losing in the wild-card game still be a hilarious L to add to their collection? Yes, it would.
I still have bitterness towards this franchise for stealing the Expos so I’m not really being helpful here. The Nationals are actually a fairly likable team. They didn’t even really steal the Expos, they were just the benefactors of the whole situation. Anyways, Washington finally doing something in the playoffs after Bryce Harper left in free agency would be hilarious.
They also boast a wealth of Blue Jays legends, like Daniel Hudson, Yan Gomes, and, yep, you guessed it, Javy Guerra!
But how could you cheer against the Brew Crew? Despite losing Christian Yelich to a season-ending injury, Milwaukee went on a late-season surge, edging out a wildly unlikable Cubs team as the National League’s second wild card.
This is a small market team who has never won the World Series. They’re an easy group to get behind. The one thing I don’t like about them is the fact they give me 2015 Royals PTSD with Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. But, Eric Thames!
IN ONLY TWO YEARS ALEX ANTHOPOLOUS TURNED THE SHITTY BRAVES INTO A WORLD SERIES CHAMP GODDAMNIT WHAT HAS SHATKINS DONE!!!!!1
That would absolutely be the reaction if the Braves won the World Series and it would be really mentally exhausting to deal with. Still, I really like AA and would love to see him win a World Series. Same with Josh Donaldson, who rebounded nicely in Atlanta this year. The narrative, though. Oof.
I honestly can’t think of a reason to cheer for the Cardinals. They’re just so… Blah. Next!
This has been my National League team the past few seasons and it’s been a treat.
I get why people would have reservations about cheering for the Dodgers. They’re a massive market team who can spend their way to anything they want. But, really, is that even a bad thing anymore? With most of the league moving away from actually trying to win, are we really going to condemn a team for always going all-in?
The Dodgers have a great blend of legendary talent like Clayton Kershaw and young talents like Cody Bellinger, Will Smith, and Walker Beuhler. There are also random out-of-nowhere stories like Justin Turner and Max Muncy in there too. And, most importantly, how cool would it be seeing Russell Martin pick up the save in the 19th inning of Game 7 to win the World Series?
You know it would be.