The playoffs are starting to come down to the wire as the League Championship Series have begun. Although the four remaining teams hail from the four most populous cities, the odds are your team didn’t make it to the League Championship Series. Which means that you are now in the market for a new team to root for! If we’re being honest no one wants to cheer for a different team but the only other option is to stop following baseball. That particular option adds three more weeks to an already long offseason.
In no particular order, here are the options for bandwagoning:
In the regular season, the Astros won the AL West and were on fire during the first half. They cooled down a bit in the second half but clinched the division easily. Throughout the season the ‘stros biggest strength was their bats. They had the best offense in the league by far, only three players finished the season with an OPS under .800. Their pitching is solid; Dallas Keuchel has returned to ace-hood and they acquired a revitalized Justin Verlander in a trade. While their rotational depth after the first two starters is less than stellar, their bullpen was one of the top ten. The big names to know on this team are Jose Altuve (a legitimate MVP candidate), Carlos Correa (one of the best young SS in the game), and George Springer (finishing up a breakout year).
The Houston Astros are playing for something a bit bigger than just their first World Series Championship. They are trying to bring some happiness to a city that was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey only a month ago. Houston is definitely the feel good team to root for, it’s kind of like rooting for the Boston Red Sox after the Boston Bombing. Every team has their own demons to overcome, but the poor Astros are currently afflicted by the Sports Illustrated Cover Curse.
Root for the Astros if you enjoy:
- Feel-good stories
- Offensive carousel’s that do not stop and do not strikeout
- Breaking curses
- First-time champions
- Excellent young hitters
They’re baaaaaaaack. In the most Yankees move ever, their “rebuild” took all of two years and they didn’t even have a losing season. They couldn’t quite upset the Red Sox for the AL East crown but they did handedly win the number one Wild Card spot. For the Yankees, their team is all about the extremes. Most of their run production comes from home runs (first in HRs) and their pitching staff is all about strikeouts. Additionally, no team has more pitchers that can throw 98+ mph. In July, they traded for Sonny Gray to bolster a rotation that has a resurgent Masahiro Tanaka, a surprisingly effective C.C. Sabathia, and possible future ace Luis Severino. That’s not all though, their bullpen contains David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Dellin Betances…..and Aroldis Chapman. If the lead is taken early enough, the Yankees could effectively just play five inning games.
For all the reasons there are to hate on a Yankees team (of which there are many), this team actually has some heart. New York ranks second in payroll but they didn’t really buy their team this time around, the money is currently going to old players who are either aren’t on the team are relegated to bench warming. Instead the exciting players are the newbies. It all starts with hands-down AL Rookie of the Year (and likely AL MVP) Aaron Judge. He’s the giant with a gap-toothed smile and mishits balls harder than most guys can when they square it up. Behind him, catcher Gary Sanchez continues to be a force both behind and at the plate. Don’t forget about SS Didi Gregorius who has broken out this season and is starting to help Yankee fans forget about Derek Jeter. The New York Yankees even have what is basically a team emoji.
Root for the Yankees if you like:
- Evil Empires
- Young players breaking the mold
- Fire-breathing relievers
- Home runs regardless of distance
This is not the same Chicago team that captivated hearts and minds as they won one of the greatest Game Seven’s ever. Many of the players are the same but some have lost their effectiveness. Even so, the Cubs grabbed the NL Central Division. They started off the season very, very slowly and were unable to obtain the top spot in the division until late July. That is when Chicago turned it on and kept the opposition comfortably at bay. Their offense was once again led by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo but it did not reach the same heights as the year before. On the pitching side, starter Kyle Hendricks has officially emerged as a legitimate ace, just as Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester start their decline. In order to fix the rotation issue, the Cubs traded for Chicago White Sox starter Jose Quintana. The bullpen isn’t quite as strong as last year’s but they replaced Chapman with Wade Davis. Davis doesn’t have the same speed but he has a lot more control than Chapman. In every facet of the game Chicago has stellar young players, that are being backed up by players that are starting to lose a step or are susceptible to bad outings. It’s not stars and scrubs out there yet but give it another season or two. That being said, this is still a lineup that hits well and the every starter has the ability to throw a shutout.
A year ago the “Curse” was still alive and well. Now the cubbies are attempting to repeat as champions. The 2017 team doesn’t have the same kind of spunk and attitude but they are still led by manager Joe Maddon, king of creating attitude (in baseball). These guys are still passionate and will leave it all out on the field. The fans in Chicago have finally tasted glory and they are thirsty for more. Wrigley Field will no doubt be rocking every night as the playoffs progress.
Root for the Cubs if you enjoy:
- Seeing repeat champions
- Solid all around play
- Formerly cursed teams sticking it to the goat (or man)
- Zany managers
- A team with some weaknesses that makes things interesting
Another year, another NL West Division title, NLCS appearance, and the most money spent in the MLB for the Dodgers. The most impressive part about this team is that they had the division won back in July, even though both Wild Card teams came from their division. They were extremely hot at one point this season, then they became equally cold. However, that was then and it’s clear they’ve put that behind them as they swept the Arizona Diamondbacks. This team is excellent in every part of the game. The offense ranked second, their bullpen third, and their starters fifth. The offense is led by young gun Corey Seager and wildling look alike Justin Turner. Behind those two are Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor, both surprise rookie sensations. The Dodgers finally obtained some middle relief arms so that they don’t have to pitch Clayton Kershaw until the wheels fall off. Kenley Jansen is still closing out games, which is basically as surefire as it gets. In the rotation, it’s perpetual Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw, trade pickup Yu Darvish, a breakout sensation in Alex Wood, and then curveball wizard Rich Hill. It’s really hard to make a team better than this one.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been spending money like crazy for years now trying to buy their first championship (and WS appearance) since 1988. They’ve got some extremely fun players in Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner. Who doesn’t want to see the best pitcher on the planet throw on the biggest stage? To take it one step further, who doesn’t want to see the best team prove it?
Root for the Dodgers if you enjoy:
- Throwing money at a problem until it goes away
- Seeing the best players on the biggest stage
- A complete team
- Seeing teams break World Series droughts
- Watching World Series games with some sunlight at game time.
No matter who you choose to root for, or perhaps root against, make sure to take time to take it all in. Soon the intensity of the World Series will be replaced by the cold, baseball-less offseason. Until then, pick a team and take part in the heartbreak of defeat and ecstasy of victory.