Well sports fans, here we are. This season has been marked by some great moments and some bitter disappointments. And perhaps no brew is as bitter as the fact that barring a dark magic run (more on that from David later), the Mariners will once again be watching the post-season from the couch, bar, or employment agency of their choosing. But lest we, the afflicted fans of a bad baseball team, miss out on the October and November fun, some members of the Lookout Landing staff decided to make a case for the bandwagon team of their choosing. Happy bandwagoning!
David: Seattle Mariners (Editor's Note: No, really)
Let me tell you a story about the longest of the long shots. You see, picking a bandwagon team is more about embracing the entropy of the universe than properly applying numbers and logic. I believe in hunches, gut feelings, smiles, and that the dimmest-lit corner of the bar is where one finds the most worn leather chair and conversation that kills. You ever get that feeling in the pit of your stomach that you can make it over that final, impossibly high wall? I hope you realize that over that obstacle is freedom, bliss, truth and hope, and the sound of birdsong in a meadow of wheat as you walk hand in hand with your lover. Do you remember what it felt like when you were young and you knew the world could be conquered? Embrace that madness and make from it something positive and productive. See the 2015 playoffs for what they are: proof that foolishness can be both pain and pleasure.
In 1995 a team closed out the season going 24-11, barely making the playoffs and saving baseball in their town for the foreseeable future. In 2015, if that same team repeats the feat, they too, should barely make the playoffs. My 2015 playoff bandwagon team is the Seattle Mariners. I'm all in on the river. Vegas loves me. Vegas loves you. Now, love it in return.
Or, if you prefer your narratives in GIF form:
Peter: Kansas City Royals
For my bandwagon pick I am choosing the Kansas City Royals. Reason why? Who cares about a reason -- it is a bandwagon pick! But for me, it all has to do with family connections. My dad and my uncles spent much of their impressionable youth rampaging around the cornfields of Iowa. They grew up Kansas City Royals fans, and my cousin is named Kacie after the team (or because it is a nice name, depending on which member of my family you ask). When the Woodburn boys ended up in the greater Pacific Northwest, they grew to tolerate the joke of a franchise that is the Seattle Mariners instead of the joke of the franchise that was the Royals.
But now, the Royals are good. People got really upset when the Royals tried to stuff the All-Star ballot box, but who cares? They are a legitimately good team and I'm glad they are busy proving this year that last year wasn't a fluke. I had a blast watching the World Series with my uncle last year as he screamed and yelled at the TV because he finally legitimately cared about who won or lost each game. I haven't had that feeling in October since 1995. I liked that feeling.
Logan: Pittsburgh Pirates
Personally, I'm pulling for the Pirates. I went to a game at PNC Park a few years ago and watched them flatten the Astros (back in their LAstros! days). Andrew McCutchen is still the most exciting player I can remember seeing in person, and the ballpark itself is drop-dead gorgeous. They're just starting to come out of a decades-long franchise-wide slump, so they still feel like underdogs, but unlike the Blue Jays they can make the playoffs without suddenly rendering my Mariners the sole proprietors of MLB's longest playoff drought. Their front office embraced sabermetric principles in a way that didn't alienate their coaches, which is pretty cool. Jung-Ho Kang and Starling Marte are awesome. The team is pretty close to my dad's hometown in Pennsylvania. They have J.A. Happ.
Also, Pirates are basically just angry Mariners, and I'm only looking for a bandwagon team because I'm angry at the Mariners. So it fits.
Anders: Houston Astros (Editor's Note: Ugh, no really)
OK, I know. You shouldn't root for a team in the same division as your favorite team because #rivalries and all that, right? Well, the Astros don't really count for me considering they haven't been both good and in the AL West ever (except this year, when the Mariners are not-good) so I don't really feel a strong hatred for the Astros.
Regardless, the Astros are a pretty fun team. They've got the star power on the field (Jose Altuve), on the mound (Dallas Keuchel, Scott Kazmir), and the awesome youngsters (Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers) to top it all off. Plus, they have Carlos Gomez, who just oozes fun on a good team. The Astros were horrible and the punchline of baseball for several years. Now they're good at an unexpectedly early time. So go Astros, because everyone loves an underdog story, right?
Nathan: Toronto Blue Jays
Really the case for the Blue Jays is one that is made not with words but rather experience. Like watching a cheetah track down a gazelle, leaping out of an airplane, or clashing stripes with polka dots, the Toronto Blue Jays are a product designed to snap you out of your drab, weary existence. Work got you down? Just add Blue Jays, but please be sure to limit yourself to the maximum daily dosage of one time through the lineup per day. Anymore of watching Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Troy Flipping ding-dangin' Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson crush baseballs and pitcher souls in equal measure may be hazardous to your health. Please consult your physician to determine if your body is safe for Blue Jays.
Colin: New York Mets
This—this is the team. I find myself drawn much more to bandwagoning a National League club, what with the random annoyances that seem to come with having faced the AL teams. And in settling on an NL team to root for, I find one with enough similarities to the Mariners that they have their appeal, but enough significant differences that that they're actually in this race. Well, not in it, but leading. They're 6.5 clear of Washington, and while the Nats should charge, this should be a fun ride to the finish for the Mets.
And the Mets, they deserve this. First, they're not the Yankees. Always the goofy kid brother, they've in recent years been the goofy kid brother who can't run legitimate payrolls because their owner got sucked into a Ponzi scheme. The Mariners have a lot of "you're serious?" issues, but that's a tough one to beat. Then of course, this stinginess most recently led to a trade for Carlos Gomez falling apart after it was all but done. But then, the unfathomable. Things got better. A lot better.
Instead of Gomez, they snagged Yoenis Cespedes—which, holy hell, that guy is fun to root for when he's not bouncing balls off the back wall of Edgar's Cantina every other goddamn at-bat. Then, because it wasn't Gomez, they have Wilmer Flores running a 162 wRC+ since he was left to bawl his eyes out on national television. Things just seem to be going right. And speaking of going right, with their absurd young rotation, they've told the idea of TINSTAAPP to get bent—or, I guess, somehow bypassed it entirely by turning a guy who wasn't a prospect at all, in Jacob DeGrom, into maybe the best righty in the National League.
This team's good, they're fun, and they give you plenty of reasons to root for them.
Meg: Chicago Cubs
In grad school, one of my professors liked to frame the history of political theory as an examination of the "thinkability of a thought." Basically, ideas form overlapping and interrelated connections, coming to their fullness in a particular time. They move from the realm of ideas to infecting our reality. You can't conceive of space travel before humans take flight. We knew for a while that the Cubs had a bunch of young, strong baseballers in the minors. And then BOOM: Kris Bryant literally dingered his way into our consciousness. You can't have the Cubs, 2015 playoff contender, without Kris Bryant and his baby blues. He made the thought thinkable. I remember sitting on the Terrace in Madison, WI the day Bryant got called up. Between tables of grad students drinking beers way too early in the day was a guy in head to toe Cubs gear, "Bryant" embroidered across his back, MLB.TV open to its "This Game Will Begin Shortly" screen. Every few moments, he would exhale deeply. He was ready. He had been waiting for this moment his (and his family's) entire life. Wins were a thinkable thought. But if Bryant and his magical dingers (don't make it weird) made the thought thinkable, the rest of the Cubs roster is making it a reality. Anthony Rizzo has officially moved from quiet star to HOLY SHIT RIZZ levels of greatness. I could highlight his 154 wRC+, or his 4.8 fWAR, or his 25 home runs, or this magical warlock slide into third.
Instead, I'll note his walk up songs, because COME ON:
Intoxicated (Martin Sloveig): 1st at-bat
Trap Queen (Fetty Wap): 2nd at-bat
Bad Blood (Taylor Swift): 3rd at-bat
Good Vibrations (Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch): All other at-bats
Add in catching phenom, and perpetual reminder of our Zunino disappointments, Kyle Schwarber and this offense is stupid fun to watch. And despite the fact that you probably can't name their fifth starter (Can you? I couldn't without
checking FanGraphs thinking about it really hard), their pitching has been really good, led by Jake Arrieta and Jon "doesn't have the yips" Lester. Their fan base has been afflicted and tortured and sad, but now they have reason to hope, and we should join them in that hope. In a postseason likely to be littered with solid Mariners proxies, the Cubs make as strong of a case as any. This team has come a long way. The postseason and the World Series are highly thinkable thoughts. And it will be damn fun to watch when the Cubs and their youth movement crash through the door.