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Who to root for in the 2017 MLB playoffs

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Let me help you bandwagon a team..

American League Wild Card Game - Minnesota Twins v New York Yankees Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Welcome to yet another offseason of the Marlins not being in the playoffs! Long accustomed to the feeling by now, some Fish fans decide to tune out of baseball entirely once the Marlins’ season ends, and if that’s you, you’re probably not reading this right now.

But if it isn’t, maybe you’re wondering who you should bandwagon. From a personal standpoint, it’s pretty rare for teams that I care about to even get to the postseason, let alone do anything meaningful in it, so going through the pros and cons of the teams that are left in order to extract some sort of vestigial fandom has become an important ritual to me.

I did this last year as well, and hopefully I wont have to do it again next year because the Marlins will be in the playoffs (I sense your laughter; let’s just see where the chips fall before dismissing it out of hand, ok?). Unlike last season, there are surprisingly few Ex-Marlins involved. Or maybe that’s not surprising at all.

I realize, looking back, that while I gave some reasons to root for and against every team, I never really suggested one team over another, so this year I’ll actually rank the teams in terms of rooting interest. You’re welcome.

The San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, and New York Mets did not return to the playoffs from this past season. In their respective places are the Arizona Diamondbacks, New Yankees, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, and Colorado Rockies.

The Twins were eliminated Tuesday and the Rockies yesterday, basically denying the two biggest underdog stories a chance to get any further, so they will not be ranked and have joined us all on the couch (for the record though, they would’ve been #2 and #3, respectively).

What of the eight remaining clubs, though? Surely there must be one amongst them worthy of your brief and half-hearted devotion?

Boston Red Sox (93-69)

Last World Series Title: 2014

Last World Series Appearance: 2014

Last Playoff Appearance: 2016 ALDS (lost to Cleveland 3-0)

The Red Sox return to the playoffs as NL East Champions for the second straight season after going 93-69...for the second straight season. They will travel to Houston to face the Astros later today.

Why root for them:

Get yourself a ring, Hanley Ramirez! If you like classic franchises in the Fall classic, there are worse things that could happen then a Cubs/Red Sox World Series. Uh, Devin Marrero was born in Miami.

Why root against them:

Fans, more unnecessary New England sports glory.

Rooting Rank: 8th.

Chicago Cubs (92-70)

Last World Series Title: 2016

Last World Series Appearance: 2016

Last Playoff Appearance: 2016 (Won the World Series, defeating Cleveland 4-3)

The Cubs seek to defend the crown they won last year, snapping an almost century-long dry spell. That journey will begin Friday at the nation’s capital where they will take on the Washington Nationals.

Why root for them:

I want to give Cubs fans some credit; I felt like after they had won that they had the potential to morph into an overflowing Red Sox/Yankees bandwagon fan base, filling up every stadium with off-color team merchandise and annoying chants, and I don’t feel like that happened. Maybe I just didn’t see it, but I was able to attend a mid-summer Cubs/Marlins game in Fish attire without incident (maybe it had more to do with the low place on the totem pole the Marlins have resided upon, but I was treated kindly).

The team is still by and large young and fun, particularly on offense.

Why root against them:

The lovable losers thing was over the second the final out in 2016 was recorded. I was very happy for them then, but it’s 2017 now. Time for someone else to experience some glory. And we don’t want to give that large fan base the chance to grow comfortable in their winning ways, do we?

Rooting Rank: 7th.

Washington Nationals (97-65):

Last World Series Title: Never

Last World Series Appearance: Never

Last Playoff Appearance: 2016 (Lost NLDS 3-2 to Dodgers)

The Nats led the NL East all season long and in securing the division have now won back to back NL East titles for the first time in their young history. They will play host to the defending champion Cubs on Friday.

Why root for them:

If you like seeing futility come to an end, Washington might just be your team. Dusty Baker in his long, productive coaching career has never won a title. The Nationals/Expos consortium has never won a title nor even appeared on said stage (the only other franchise aside from the Seattle Mariners to have never even reached the World Series).

Why root against them:

Well, from a Marlins fan perspective, you hate to see a division rival be successful. Not to mention it was the Marlins’ poor performance against the Nationals in that final series of August that really started the downward spiral that ended up costing the Fish a playoff spot. You might rightfully hold that against the Marlins themselves, but it doesn’t make me love the Nationals, either.

Rooting Rank: 6th.

Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69)

Last World Series Title: 2001

Last World Series Appearance: 2001

Last Playoff Appearance: 2011 (Lost NLDS 3-2 to Brewers)

Another surprise team in the field, they didn’t quite pull the worst to first finish the Twins did, but still, reversed their record from a year ago (69-93) to capture the top Wild Card spot, and defeated the Rockies yesterday for the chance to play another NL West rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, on Friday.

Why root for them:

2001 was a long time ago, and this is their first time in the playoffs since six years ago. Furthermore, they really weren’t supposed to be here (although, looking at their roster, it doesn’t feel like such a stretch).

Paul Goldschmidt has long been one of the better players in the sport and he deserves a spotlight (and perhaps a ring).

Dave Stewart was laughably bad at his job and the club finds themselves, a mere season removed from his departure, back in the post-season.

Why root against them:

Well, they did clinch the Wild Card against the Fish, which you never really want to be on the opposite end of.

I am certain there are plenty of people who feel this way about the Marlins, but I find the Diamondbacks to be among the least interesting franchises in the game. They don’t have a storied history, and aside from the turn of the century teams, haven’t really had any big personalities or memorable moments attached to them.

Then there’s this:

Pittsburgh Pirates v Arizona Diamondbacks
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Rooting Rank: 5th.

New York Yankees (91-71):

Last World Series Title: 2009

Last World Series Appearance: 2009

Last Playoff Appearance: 2015 (Lost AL Wild Card game 3-0 to Astros)

The Yankees surprised pundits by hanging around all year and sneaking through a glut of other American League hopefuls to nab the top Wild Card spot. By virtue of their victory over the Twins on Tuesday, they’ve earned the right to face the Indians in Cleveland later today.

Why root for them:

These aren’t your decrepit yet frustratingly effective Yankees of yore; the Baby Bombers are young, talented and a little ahead of schedule as far as being competitive goes. Does that qualify them as an underdog? In comparison to the rest of the field, maybe so, though it’s hard to consider any team with Aaron Judge on it an underdog.

More than that, though, they’ve broken from long tradition and are actually a fun team.

They haven’t won in almost a decade, which may not sound like very long but still is, relative to their storied history.

The Yankees going all the way would probably make new owner Derek Jeter pretty happy. If that matters to you.

Why root against them:

Evil Empire, most championships in the sport. Rooting against the Yankees almost feels like a vital part of baseball fandom in general at this point.

Rooting Rank: 4th.

Houston Astros (101-61)

Last World Series Title: Never

Last World Series Appearance: 2005

Last Playoff Appearance: 2015 (Lost ALDS 3-2 to Royals)

The Astros came out of the gate strong and maintained momentum all the way through, cruising to a 101 win season and an AL West title. They will take on the Boston Red Sox at home later today.

Why root for them:

We already take for granted the Astros’ talent but it was only a few short years ago that they were the laughing stock of the American League, earning the dubious moniker “Lastros” during a four year stretch in the early part of the decade where they lost 416(!) games.

It’s been quite a turnaround since. Under manager AJ Hinch, the club has made the playoffs two out of three years and has seen the homegrown talent flourish and grow up together, now bringing some serious talent to bear on both sides of the ball.

Jose Altuve has to be one of my favorite players ever on a team I don’t root for. Old friend Cameron Maybin has become something of a journeyman and now finds himself in position to potentially win a ring.

The Astros have never won the World Series and have only been there once; this team is better than the one that lost to the Yankees in ‘05. You like to see franchises make the most of their best opportunity.

Houston and the surrounding area was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey; it would be nice for the Astros to reward their loyal supporters who braved that hardship with a title.

Why root against them:

Despite everything listed above...much like the Diamondbacks, I don’t find the Astros particularly compelling; an “Astros vs any NL team” World Series doesn’t really pack a punch storyline-wise, aside from the fact they’d being going for their first, which might be just enough to root for them anyway.

Rooting Rank: 3rd.

Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)

Last World Series Title: 1988

Last World Series Appearance: 1988

Last Playoff Appearance: 2016 (Lost NLCS 4-2 to Cubs)

The Dodgers were the best team in baseball throughout much of the year, to the point where chatter rose about them breaking the single season record for wins. Then, hilariously, they became one of the worst teams in baseball during a prolonged, eleven game September losing streak.

They seem to have righted the ship just in time for the playoffs, which begin tomorrow for them when they host the Diamondbacks.

Why root for them:

1988 was almost 30 years ago. I remember it vaguely, but there’s a generation of Dodgers fans who’ve never seen their team win the big one, let alone appear in the World Series. I like to see regular season greatness rewarded, and aside from the perplexing losing streak at season’s end, the Dodgers were great this year.

I want to see Clayton Kershaw or Yu Darvish pitching with the title on the line. Can you imagine a Dodgers/Yankees World Series? Or Red Sox/Dodgers? Even Dodgers/Indians. There is something appropriate about the classic franchises being involved at the highest level of the sport. I don’t want to see it all the time, mind you, but again, when’s the last time the Dodgers were even remotely close to the title game?

It’s just a shame that Vin Scully wont be there to call it, if they do make it back. I hope they’d consider at least inviting him into the booth for the occasion.

Why root against them:

History shows that we tire quickly of nostalgia acts and once the Dodgers have won, much like the Cubs, they’ll become yesterday’s news almost instantly.

Perhaps you hold it against Kenley Jansen for spurning the Fish in favor of his old team this past off-season.

Oh look, there’s Marlins Killer Chase Utley...just lurking about.

Rooting Rank: 2nd.

Cleveland Indians (102-60)

Last World Series Title: 1948

Last World Series Appearance: 2016

Last Playoff Appearance: 2016 (Lost World Series 4-3 to Cubs)

Coming off of a devastating World Series loss, many were left wondering if the Tribe would collectively have it in them to rebound and contend. Cleveland put that notion to bed early and really stepped on the pedal late, putting together an AL record 22 game winning streak that finally ended mid-September. They will host the New York Yankees later today.

Why root for them:

Prior to the start of the last World Series, I wrote about how the ‘97 series still haunted Cleveland. Well, things only got worst for the Indians, who, courtesy of the win they ceded to the Cubbies, are now the dubious owners of the longest championship dry spell in baseball (sorry Astros/ can’t call it a dry spell if you never had any water to begin with).

I think we all like to see long-suffering fanbases get their due, and much like when the Royals won the year after their victory was stolen by the Giants and their even-year luck dragons, it just feels like Cleveland has a date with destiny.

You might hold it against Andrew Miller that he got good after he left the Marlins; I’m not one of those people, and I appreciate his incredible relief acumen on regular post-season display.

Why root against them:

Don’t. It’s their time. It’ll be easy enough to turn on them once the playoffs are over, this is just a bandwagon after all.

Rooting rank: 1st.


Who are you rooting for?

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  • 5%
    Red Sox
    (3 votes)
  • 10%
    (6 votes)
  • 5%
    (3 votes)
  • 5%
    (3 votes)
  • 12%
    (7 votes)
  • 21%
    (12 votes)
  • 7%
    (4 votes)
  • 30%
    (17 votes)
55 votes total Vote Now