After nearly 30 consecutive weeks of mediocrity, baseball is finally interesting! It’s the MLB playoffs, which means the MLB finally has real, tangible stakes. I’m looking forward to this postseason in particular because we’ve got so many interesting teams. The Cubs! The Pirates! The Dodgers! The Mets! The Astros! The Rangers are somehow in the playoffs! Yeah we’ll still have to watch some Cardinals games, but it could be so, so much worse.
Chances are you’re one of the many Americans who either don’t care about baseball, or pull for a team that’s been out of contention since July. I feel for you, I’m a Padres fan myself. But you can still totally have fun! Below is the official Extra Mustard guide to who to root for in this MLB postseason.
If you’re a fan of unfulfilled legacy, root for the Los Angeles Dodgers
The ownership group behind the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent an inconceivable amount of money trying to make their team good. There’s nothing wrong with that! Baseball is one of the few sports that doesn’t have to contend with a strict salary cap, so building a dynasty through pure brute force of salary is a totally legitimate option.
The Dodgers will probably be very good for a very long time, as long as they keep handing out contracts like they’re candy.
Here’s the thing though. This current regime has yet to win a World Series. You know why the ‘90s Braves aren’t regarded as the biggest joke in the history of sports? It’s because they finally managed to take home a title after years of coming up short. The Dodgers are secretly in danger of becoming the ‘90s Braves, and they have to claim a World Series in the next couple of years. If you want to watch a $310 million payroll face off against destiny, throw it in with the Angelenos.
If you’re a fan of awkward situations, root for the New York Yankees
The reason I like sports is because the false-idolhood sometimes puts fans in tremendously delicate situations. The Yankees going to the playoffs should be a boring story, they’ve seemingly done this more than every other franchise in American professional sports, but this time it comes under the transcendent play of Alex Rodriguez.
You know, the guy who was suspended last year for cheating. Like, literally cheating. Not in the cute Tom Brady way, we’re talking juicing. The same thing that’s currently keeping Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds barred from the Hall of Fame.
Like most reasonable people I would kind of hate to see the Yankees win another World Series, but if it came off of A-Rod’s bat? If he delivered an all-time World Series MVP performance? That would be incredible. The MLB itself might need to fold.
If you’re a fan of getting in early, root for the Houston Astros
The Houston Astros were not supposed to be this good. For years they’ve dwindled at the bottom of their division. Two years ago they lost over a hundred games. Last year wasn’t much better. But suddenly all that asset-gathering, high draft picks, and financial solvency has paid off! The Astros are in the playoffs, and they’re probably only going to get better from here. They probably won’t win this year, but if they do it’ll serve as one of the best Cinderella stories in sports, and the potential start of a dynasty. Just like the Astros, you should bet on the upside.
If you’re a fan of doing the right thing, root for the Chicago Cubs
The Boston Red Sox have three titles since 2004. Their sob story is over. They join the ranks of the Chicago White Sox, the New England Patriots, and the Los Angeles Kings of formerly long-suffering fanbases who simply don’t get to complain anymore. The only franchises that are really allowed to moan are the New York Knicks, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Chicago Cubs. Almost nobody on Earth was alive the last time the Cubs won a World Series. That’s nuts.
The last time the Cubs won a World Series the Ottoman Empire was still a thing. Hell, the last time the Cubs won a World Series countries will still using the term “empire” in their name.
Obviously this is the easy bandwagon choice, but it is always fun to watch the Cubs in the playoffs because there’s a chance that it might finally happen.
Root for the Cubs, unless your team is playing the Cubs.
If you like slightly less desperate legacies, root for the Pittsburgh Pirates
It’s such a shame the Cubs and the Pirates are playing each other in a one-game Wild Card. Two franchises with an outstanding legacy of great players, great fans, and long stretches of failure. The Pirates are really good this year. They’ve got a great bullpen and probably the most likable young superstar in the league with Andrew McCutchen. Unfortunately they’re going to fight to the death with the Cubs, lengthening one team’s tragedy. The baseball gods are so cruel.
If you’re a fan of schadenfreude, root for the Texas Rangers
Towards the beginning of the season, the Los Angeles Angels basically handed Josh Hamilton’s contract over to the Rangers for free.
Several months later, the Rangers complete a worst-to-first run, beating those same Los Angeles Angels in a series to secure their place at the top of the American League West.
Obviously it helps that the Angels are so egregiously unlikable, but can you seriously write it any better than that?
If you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, root for the St. Louis Cardinals
Nothing against the Cardinals. They’re obviously a great franchise that only occasionally hack into other teams’ data, and they’re super competitive again with the best record in baseball. 100 wins, 62 losses. That’s pretty freaking impressive, and anyone who doesn’t muster at least a little bit of respect is a dejected weirdo.
That being said, you should absolutely not root for the Cardinals unless you’ve been doing so for the previous three decades.
Do you really want another winter of talking-head sycophants extolling the virtues of “playing the game the right way.” You know why that always comes up when the Cardinals are good? It’s because they literally never have any other storylines. They’re the most boring team in sports. They have no personality, no swagger, no edge, just a lot of milquetoast talent. They’re like the Spurs if the Spurs weren’t aesthetically appealing. If you’re a Cardinals fan, by all means. Keep cheering like you have been. If you’re not? Pick literally any other team.
If you’re a fan of Canadian pride, root for the Toronto Blue Jays
It’s always so much fun when a Canadian team is in the playoffs. The last two seasons of Raptors postseason home games were awesome, and it’s cool to see a country rallying around a city like Toronto, which is a place most Canadians absolutely despise when it comes to hockey. It also helps that they got guys like Tulowitzki, R.A. Dickey, and Jose Bautista who are all super fun to watch. Personally I’m throwing in with the Blue Jays, unless this Chicago thing happens in a major way.
If you’re a fan of shirking the odds, root for the Kansas City Royals
This time last year the Kansas City Royals were gearing up for one of the most memorable playoff runs, regardless of sport, in recent memory. They came about as close as you can possibly can before getting edged out by a transcendent Madison Bumgarner. If you would’ve pulled most experts following that series, they would’ve said the Royals road a miracle wave to the World Series, and were probably doomed to a middling campaign and a lot of what-ifs.
ESPN had them ranked 15th before the season started. Such disrespect!
This year the Royals own the best record in the American League and pretty much putting all the pundits on notice. Personally I kind of want them to take home the title just so every baseball writer in America is forced to eat their words.
If you’re a fan of the zeitgeist, root for the New York Mets
Honestly I had no idea the Mets moved the needle this much. Every time I turn on my radio, hoarse, SPORTSTALK lifer dudes scream about how the Mets are GOOD and they might win the WORLD SERIES and MATT HARVEY, and so on and so forth. It feels like these guys were waiting in a bunker since, like, 2006 to talk about THE METROPOLITANS.
It speaks to the publishing power of New York City that when the b-team makes the playoffs it automatically becomes a huge deal. Good on them I guess!