The Wildcard round is in the books. The Division Series loom. And fans of 22 teams sit at home, wondering who they can squint at and see something recognizable as their own. Who are your angels in the outfield? Who’s your ace on the mound? Who will keep the darkness at bay? Don’t worry; we’re here to tell you.
Miami Marlins: They should have to root for the Giants as penance for caring about the team that fired Barry Bonds. Also, how the hell are Cole Gillespie and Conor Gillaspie not brothers? Aren’t they brothers? Or are they the same person, with a less than creative secret identity? Have we ever seen them in the same place? Which one plays for the Giants again? OH THAT ONE DOES. THAT ONE. Wait, I still can’t can’t tell them apart. Damn, almost had it.
New York Mets: LET’S GO METS! LET’S GO METTS! LET’S GO BETTS? Makes you think.
Atlanta Braves: The Atlanta Braves are rooting for the Arizona Diamondbacks, because even though the Diamondbacks didn’t make the playoffs, sometimes you want to do something nice for the poor slob in your fantasy league who made terrible decisions and has no idea why everyone else is mad at him.
St. Louis Cardinals: Ask any bad witch or warlock you meet and they’ll tell you the same thing: Cardinals Devil Magic and whatever one-run game nonsense the Rangers are pulling is all part of the same evil brew. Were the Rangers be lucky and good? Oh, sure. Did Jeff Bannister accept an afterlife of eternal bunting and other drudgery to outperform their pythag by 13 game? You freaking bet. Soldiers of the dark army unite: Adrian Beltre is your god now, and Texas follows with him.
Pittsburgh Pirates: It’s pretty clear based on this year’s trade deadline that the Pirates have a vested interest in the Blue Jays winning it all. Plus the Cardinals didn’t make it so the rest is really just gravy.
Milwaukee Brewers: Northern pride compels them to root for the Blue Jays. American pride and a distaste for wasted beer says otherwise. Still though, in the interest of not wanting to hear it from Canadians, the answer is the Blue Jays. Plus the Cardinals didn’t make it so the rest is really just gravy.
Cincinnati Reds: The Giants are like summer in the Midwest. It’s nice on June 1st, then an awful swampy hellscape come mid-July. By August, everything is sticky and less good than it should be. You walk around in air that feels like hot soup. All you want to do is sit in an air conditioned mall and sip on an Orange Julius. Except the air conditioning just broke down, and everything is still melting and sticky and awful. That’s what the Giants were. Good through midsummer, and then just a melty, leaking mess that made you long a time without hot soup air, and bullpen runs. Only, that might be familiar in a dysfunctionally comforting way to fans of the Reds, so go Giants. Plus the Cardinals didn’t make it so the rest is really just gravy.
Colorado Rockies: Cubs. Look, they’ll protest this in the comments and on Twitter but these people root year-round for the team with the hands-down worst mascot in baseball. Clark the Cub is probably the worst of those remaining and even if he’s not, his lack of pants and plastered-on smile will be soothing to Rockies fans.
Arizona Diamondbacks: In all honesty they’re best off rooting for the meteor. Giants and Dodgers are clearly off limits, and no one else really captures the oeuvre of this team. Perhaps because the remaining teams all have front offices. But maybe they should get a few weeks of happiness and a sense of what competence looks like if they root for the Cubs and their highly-regarded management team. Or maybe they’ll have their hopes crushed when the Giants do something stupid and win the whole damn thing. They’re used to that anyway.
San Diego Padres: Gotta be the Red Sox, what with Craig Kimbrel and the remains of Drew Pomeranz’s left elbow on the team. Plus, if the Red Sox win, they’ll be hungry for a repeat, which probably means Dave Dombrowski will, I don’t know, trade Rafael Devers for Jon Jay this offseason or something. That will make for a great story in 2024 when the Padres must then trade Devers back to the Red Sox in exchange for more prospects as they look to rebuild. The Boston-San Diego connection is, after all, a flat circle.
Baltimore Orioles: The Giants, for making you feel better about not using your closer in a tie game? Otherwise, root for the bats to come alive and carry Gatorade coolers around like the brooms with pails of water in Fantasia, because your team’s decisions are fantastical and don't make sense anyway.
New York Yankees: Nationals. We know Bryce Harper is a future Yankee, but why stop there, ya know? Turner, Strasburg, that Ross guy for Robby Refs, Austin, maybe Romine. I'd even throw in that guy from the trade. I'll hang up and listen.
Tampa Bay Rays: This is tough. It could be the team with David Price or the team with Ben Zobrist or the team with Melvin Upton. Maybe even the team with Asdrubal Cabrera and James Loney, or the one with J.P. Howell and Scott Kazmir. But ultimately, it’s the Giants. What could be sweeter as a Rays fan than watching Buster Posey collect his fourth ring? Somewhere Tim Beckham slowly lowers his head as he trudges to first after a meekly hit ground ball.
Detroit Tigers: You have to imagine the Tigers would be really, really happy if the Red Sox won it all this year. Watching Dave Dombrowski get a ring just 1.5 years after getting the boot would certainly validate the long-standing opinion all Tigers fans have of Dave; he just knows how to win. “Wow, I’m so happy he finally figured out how to build a bullpen,” Tigers fans will surely think as Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel pitch key innings late into October. “Oh look, a big David Ortiz home run in the postseason. That’s fun!,” they’ll write on Twitter. This would just be a feel-good story for all of Detroit. Not that they need any more of those!
Kansas City Royals: It’s a crying shame the Orioles didn’t make it out of the Wild Card because their mediocre pitching stuff and shut-down bullpen would have been an easy transition for Royals fans trying to recapture a little bit of yesteryear. There’s not a great fit among the remaining teams, so perhaps they’ll just root for a time machine or that PECOTA burns down or something.
Chicago White Sox: What do you recommend to the fan who has nothing? Presumably the team that has everything. Is it too trite to suggest their crosstown rivals? Possibly not, but probably so. But what about that other team that has everything? Yes, the boys from Hollywood. Let these fans root for a team that has four contracts on the books bigger than any handed out in White Sox history. Plus, they’re used to rooting for a team led by two dominant southpaws anyway.
Minnesota Twins: You might think Cleveland is the obvious answer, as any positive doings will only shine a rosier light on incoming President of Baseball Ops Derek Falvey, but if they want to root for a team who might more align with their future, look no further than…the Boston Red Sox? Hear me out: The Red Sox position players are almost entirely homegrown, something the Twins will need to emulate to a T. Obviously they can’t expect their club to drop a record contract on whoever the next David Price is, but no one is going to be a perfect match here. Besides, they can keep dreaming on Kennys Vargas being the Next David Ortiz. I know I am.
Seattle Mariners: Would you like to take a trip through time? A winding journey back through the ages? All the way back to June 4, 2012, a time when the Seattle Mariners were 25-32, casting about for any bit of joy, aimless, alone, irrelevant save for the King. You’re drawn to a young man with a strong swing and gorgeous eyes from North Carolina. Corey. You dream of an infield full of Seagers. Of every Seager the light touches being your Seager. Of brother bobbleheads. Of one beautiful and one well-bottomed, and Justin weirdly right-handed, but all yours. You weep at the potential. What things you might all do together…but then a dog or a possum or a bee finds its way into the draft room and your whole big board gets shaken up, and man, John Jaso might grow some stupid hair and Jesus Montero just isn’t good…and you draft Mike Zunino. But this October, you cheer for what might have been. This October, you say, “Go Dodgers!”
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Anyone but the Nationals. Bryce Harper is already going to win more MVP awards than Mike Trout, because apparently the term “valuable” is actually a Chinese-invented hoax. Trout-lovers can’t have Harper earn more rings than their much-maligned star, too, or we’re gonna get a lot of “well, actually,” First Take-ish arguments in 2030 about how Harper was the better player because of the hardware.
Then again, they can’t root for the Jays, because Josh Donaldson stole the MVP from Trout last year. And they can’t root for the Red Sox, because Mookie Betts is gonna steal it this year. And they can’t root for the Rangers, because same division. And they can’t root for the Dodgers or Giants, because interstate rivalry. And they can’t root for the Cubs, who serve as a reminder that this franchise could’ve had Joe Maddon/a farm system. So … go Mets? (whoops)
Oakland Athletics: This seems easy. Cleveland is the most cost-conscious of the playoff teams and A’s fans still have fond memories of Coco Crisp. That’s good enough, right? Right? Eh, go back to watching Ryon Healy highlights. Really, R-Y-O-N? Ryon. Ryon? Ryon.