With the MiLB regular season ending this week and only the Travs headed for the playoffs, and the big-league club officially guaranteed a losing season, you may forgiven if your baseball interest has hit a nadir as we stare down the barrel of another October suffused with Saturdays spent with UW fans and WSU fans sniping at each other on social media, Sundays bathed in the eye-blistering hue of Action Green, and everywhere else the constant, noisy exhortations of fans of teams still in the playoff race.
But there is a freedom in not being tied to a particular team come playoff time: you can choose the team you like best and attach yourself to them, an opportunistic little barnacle stuck to the side of SS Playoffs. And you can choose based on any criteria you like! Pick an underdog, a sure winner, the team with your favorite player, the team with your favorite colors. Base it on the silliest criteria you want. Ain’t no shame in the bandwagon game. After enduring the 2019 Mariners, you deserve happiness. Seek your joy.
AL: Twints, baby
Two words: Nelson. Cruz. And Ian Miller.
NL: (whispering) Dodgers
Look, their fanbase is generally gross and entitled, and I would love to pull for the Fightin’ Phils here instead, but a) primarily I want the WS Champs to be Not the Astros, and the Dodgers have the best chance of knocking them off; and b) the Dodgers have earned my grudging admiration. Yes, they have an outrageous amount of money, but they’ve been smart with that money, investing it in feeding their minor leaguers well and giving them top-flight instruction. They draft and develop well, and their success is sustainable. So until they a) extend their window of contention to interfere with that of the Mariners; or b) I interact with a single Dodgers fan in any context, leggo Dodgers. Also, Clayton Kershaw is a nice guy and I would like to see him get a ring, and any bit of success Gavin Lux has will inspire Jarred Kelenic to go out and try to play to the level of his former teammate, fellow Wisconsin native, and big-brother figure.
Nelson Cruz wasted no time becoming the benevolent, dinger-swatting sweetheart of the Twin Cities, just as he was here in Seattle. You can read the recent Athletic profile here for his exploits, but here, he just did this for the team’s recent dress-up roadtrip:
The twins broadcast just told the story that Nelson Cruz bought football jerseys for the September call-ups so that they could participate in the team’s NFL flight tonight. Just in case you forgot how much Nelson rules.— Matt (@strugglingdummy) September 2, 2019
I don’t really give a rat’s ass about the rest of the Twins, save for our lovable erstwhile dirtbag son IAN MILLER, who just recently got his MLB call up at long last. Seems like a stretch that Ian would make the playoff roster, but here’s hoping he does and he’s involved in a dramatic run scoring play off a Nelson Cruz double or something. They have literally no chance of beating the Yankees or Astros in any series, but I’ll root for them anyways.
The Braves are young, fun, and full of dumb baseball decisions, and they continue to succeed in spite of them. They have nary a puncher’s chance of getting past the Dodgers at any point, but I still find them to be the most likable bunch in the NL by far.
AL: Cleveland rocks!
So here’s the thing. The Twins are the choice I want to make, particularly on behalf of Nelson Cruz. But in the playoffs I gravitate towards aces, and bless José Berríos but his friends traipsing through the AL Central haven’t won my fascination. As much as it pains me, I find Cleveland’s roster most remarkable, followed by the Rays. I would like a Yankees-Astros ALCS for entertainment purposes, but truthfully this is simply a placeholder for who I’ll be rooting against in favor of the NL champ.
NL: Da Mets
I live in New York now and am obligated to root for a team, so I am going local and going hilarious. Failing the Mets making the playoffs, which is extremely plausible, the Phillies, who have been sort of bad for reasons I can’t fully grasp. Should both teams miss the playoffs, go Nationals, because again, I love me some aces. If all else fails, I will root for the Dodgers to dance on the Astros’ graves at last. (And yes, I believe the Astros will win the AL. While I will root against them at every turn and things can always get wild in a 5/7 game series, other teams are unfortunately fooling themselves to think they’re in the same tier as Houston and L.A.)
AL: The Tampa (Bay) (Devil) Rays
Yes, they’re Mariners East, but hear me out further: the Rays can also take up the second AL East playoff spot, which according to the Declaration of Independence belongs to the Red Sox or Yankees every year. There’s nothing better than throwing off the chains of oppressors. Also, Tommy Pham is great, and plays baseball with the reckless abandon of me running into the house when my wife says she’s made lemon poppyseed cake or white sauce pizza or gin and tonics. The Flappy Boys should be every Mariners fan’s favorite. They even play in a stadium that should be eminently familiar to all of us: the tilted-roof Kingdome.
Philadelphia has Bryce Harper, who is fun (bad kid names notwithstanding, also Kyle Seager did “Crue” first and better, Bryce); Rhys Hoskins, who hits a lot of dingers; Scott Kingery, who can help me feel better about picking him for NLROY last year before he put up a 62 wRC+; and maybe most importantly, JT Realmuto, whose reaction to a Jared Hughes’ ridiculous sprint (seriously, it’s like watching someone who is an expert at QWOP play QWOP after 2.5 drinks) converted me to the Phils’ cause instantly. Go Phillies. Make JT Realmuto less sick of this shit. Oh, also, this would probably knock the Cubs out of the playoffs and that would be funny.
AL: The Twins
As always, the question of which AL team to bandwagon is a question of which team makes you want to set yourself on fire the least. And as Kate noted above, the Twins have Nelson Cruz. Even without Cruz, though, the Astros, Yankees, Rays, and Cleveland are all too disgusting to even consider.
This is less bandwagoning the Nationals and more bandwagoning Max Scherzer and only Max Scherzer. I love everything about Max Scherzer, and if any individual player deserves a World Series ring, it’s him. Even when the Nationals were doing poorly earlier this season, Scherzer was out there gutting out ace-caliber outings while injured. He’s one of the best pitchers of all time and a joy to watch. The only way it could be more fun to watch him would be in the World Series.
Since Francisco Lindor will be a Seattle Mariner in 2021, it’s important we take in his greatness as much as possible until then. The smile, the charisma, the machismo… I’m here for it. (I’m also here for JP Crawford). I’m all about the Tribe this October. Besides, they’ve only got another year or two of seriously competing left. Get it while it’s hot.
How can anyone not thoroughly enjoy watching Ronald Acuña Jr. run around the outfield and hit clutch dingers? How can one man carry a city, and a chain that big, all on his own? He’s got one of the prettiest swings in all of baseball. Also, the bromance he’s got with Ozzie Albies is what we all yearn for. I’m also a sucker for Freddie Freeman dingers, so give me more of that. Finally, Austin Riley will be a Seattle Mariner in the next two years, some way, somehow, so take it in, Seattle fans.
Minnesota improbably making it back to the World Series would be both a fun underdog story and an excuse for FOX to show this clip upwards of eight thousand times, especially if they match up with my preferred NL squad.
The Twins have been extremely watchable this season thanks to an utterly impossible amount of home runs. Apart from Nelson Cruz (whose eyebrows would surely be in peak postseason form), this AL Central lineup features the fun and powerful bats of Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, and Max Kepler, who are all delightful in their own right. Add in the endlessly likeable Jose Berríos and Sergio Romo, plus a fanbase with a deep history of disappointment, and you get an easy bandwagon choice.
Anyone choosing the Astros or Athletics will be removed from the site like Kent Hrbek did to Ron Gant.
NL: Ronald Acuña’s Braves
Listen up, chief.
[puts on multiple gold chains, hits play on ATLiens]
I would lay down my life for Ronald Acuña Jr. He is my sunshine, my north star, my light where there was once darkness, and my entire vision board for a more joyous life. If he plays in the World Series I fear that I will physically get too excited and need one of those special vests that dogs wear when people light off fireworks. Seems worth it, though.
Also, Freddie Freeman has quietly been one of the best hitters of this decade despite looking like Buzz from Home Alone. The Braves’ first baseman ranks in the top 20 of hits, home runs, doubles, and slugging percentage for the 2010s and has yet to win a playoff series. In fact, the Braves haven’t won a playoff series since the Mariners last did, as both teams fell in their 2001 League Championship Series. By comparison, the Dodgers, Cubs, and Cardinals (who Atlanta will presumably compete with for the NL crown) have won 29 playoff series in the same time frame. In other words, it’s time for some new faces representing the National League in October.
AL: The Devil Wears Rays!
What I look for in a bandwagon team is a team whose success would bother me the least. Most other teams’ success bothers me because they are not my team. That’s petty. But this is a game and I have accepted my pettiness. The Rays, though, are unhateable because:
- they have a payroll roughly the same amount as the money in the Yankees’ swear jar.
- absolutely no one in Florida has ever heard of them.
- they wheeled and dealed and developed and innovated and took risks and made thousands of tiny moves in order to succeed.
- Kevin Kiermaier chases baseballs around a big yard like an excellent golden retriever.
- Tommy Pham continues to let people call him “Tommy” like he’s a Rugrats baby.
- They’re filled with unhateable former Mariners: Zunino, Heredia, Yarbrough, Pagan, and Choi! Choi!
- They would take Nice Man Mike Zunino to the playoffs.
The Rays are a team that I will never hate, I don’t think, and so their success affects me the least. This is what I look for in a bandwagon team.
NL: The Mets?
I am a terrible baseball fan. I know almost nothing about the National League and everyone who does know about the National League is a better baseball fan than me. I know about the Mets because the Mets are basically the Mariners. They’ve been bad forever in unthinkable ways. “Go Mariners!” I scream at the Mets on my TV.
I’m here to say what nobody wants to hear - the Astros. Primarily because my boyfriend is from Houston, is a huge Astros fan and I want him to be happy (but only while my team is a huge pile of burning trash). Also, I think the Astros have the best shot at beating the Yankees, who I absolutely despise. But, I’ll admit it - I like the core Astros guys. I think Altuve, Springer and Bregman are charming and fun to watch and good at doing baseball things. Don’t @ me.
NL: Don’t Mets It (they will totally Mets it)
Like Nick, I’ll own up to not paying much attention to the National League. But I’ll be rooting for the Mets. When there isn’t really anyone I’m rooting for, I like to see an underdog do well. And the Mets have been unbelievably bad, in absolutely hilarious ways, which I appreciate. For example, five minutes ago they blew a 6 run lead in the 9th inning to lose to the Nationals. Most of the recent headlines I’ve seen have read something along the lines of “Mets Still not Eliminated from Playoffs.” That’s the kind of team I want to see go all the way.
As others have noted above, the Minnesota Twins have Nelson Cruz. Not only do the other teams in the playoff hunt not have Nelson Cruz, they have other major flaws. The A’s? In our division, and really annoying. The Astros? In our division, and absolutely obnoxious. The Rays? I’m frustrated that the Mariners aren’t the Rays. Cleveland? I don’t want to reward a team that actively avoids spending money on good players. The Yankees? Please. So, thanks to process of elimination, let’s go Twins!
NL: The Nationals
Playoff baseball is centered around great players coming through in big moments. This October, I want arguably baseball’s brightest young star to etch his name in the annals of the game. Give me Juan Soto walkoff dingers to beat the Cardinals or give me death! When you combine Soto’s brilliance at age 20 with guys like Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon, plus the nearly-untouchable playoff rotation of Scherzer-Strasburg-Corbin, the Nats will be a tough out...assuming they can advance past the Wild Card Game, that is. But I’ll be rooting for them to do it the whole time.
Twins (5), Cleveland (2), Rays (2), Astros (1 poor, misguided soul)
Braves (3), Mets (3), Nationals (2), Philadelphia (1), Dodgers (1)
Who is your early fave NL playoff team?
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And your early AL pick?
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