The postseason starts tonight with the AL Wild Card game. Can you bring yourself to root for any of the AL teams?
It’s time for the playoffs! And for the fifth straight year the Orioles will not be taking part. I know we’d all rather they were in the mix, and maybe in a few years they will be! But until then, if you’re going to watch the playoffs, you need to have a rooting interest. The first postseason game is tonight with the Boston Red Sox (boo) vs. the New York Yankees (barf).
Following the Wild Card game we’ll see an ALDS of the White Sox vs the Astros and the Rays vs the winner of the WC game.
Let’s talk AL playoff teams. Below are the pros and cons of each playoff team, ranked in order of my personal preference. I’ll be honest, though, there’s a lot to dislike about this year’s batch of teams.
Chicago White Sox (93-69)
Last playoff appearance: 2020 (lost ALWC to OAK)
Last World Series win: 2005 (defeated HOU)
Former Orioles: Zero. They did have former Oriole Mike Wright, but DFA’d him a few days ago. They do have a son of a former Oriole, though! Rookie Gavin Sheets, son of Larry, has has been impressive at the plate since joining the team at the end of June.
Pro: They were in the playoffs last year when they lost the wild card series, but before that they hadn’t seen the playoffs since 2008. They had a long stretch of futility after 2008, but they are now a good, exciting team. They are not one of the same old teams we’re used to seeing.
Also, they are constantly playing second fiddle to the other MLB team in their town, which is super annoying. Even in years when the White Sox are better than the Cubs, you often hear less about them. That makes me want to see them succeed.
This team has a mix of young players and veterans. Eloy Jimenez, Andrew Vaughn, Luis Robert. Those guys are all under 25! And their stacked starting rotation is led by veteran Lance Lynn, who I hated as a Cardinal but who I kind of dig as a White Sock.
Con: Ugh, Tony La Russa. It was a head scratcher when the White Sox signed him, a 77-year-old former manager who has been arrested multiple times for driving while intoxicated. The second one was the day before he got hired! Once entrenched in the job, La Russa publicly threw one of his own players, Yermin Mercedes, under the bus because he dared to swing 3-0 when the White Sox were up big. He just seems like a jerk!
If the White Sox go deep into the playoffs we’ll have to listen to know-nothing talking heads praise him and ignore both the fact that he is a questionable human and also the fact that this team would have won the division even if I were managing.
Tampa Bay Rays (100-62)
Last playoff appearance: 2020 (lost WS to LAD)
Last World Series win: N/A
Former Orioles: Nelson Cruz is the only former Orioles on the active roster, but the Rays season roster is littered with ex-O’s. David Hess, Shawn Armstrong, Evan Phillips, and Rich Hill all made appearances for the Rays in 2021. They also have Brandon Lowe who, while not a former Oriole, is a former Terp.
Pro: The Rays are the smartest team in baseball. They win with a low payroll, they win after they trade their star players away. They just win. They are an organization that most teams would do well to aspire to. And they have yet to win it all.
They also have Nelson Cruz, and I will root for him for as many years as he continues playing. Cruz was traded to the Rays mid-season to help bolster their offense. It’s been a long time since Cruz played for the Orioles, but he’ll always be one of my favorites.
Con: Do we really need another powerhouse in the A.L. East? I mean sure, they’re preferable to the Yankees and Red Sox but enough is enough. This division is too nasty to really root for any of them! And the more the win the more we have to hear, blah blah they’re so smart, blah blah they make all the right decisions.
Houston Astros (95-67)
Last playoff appearance: 2020 (lost ALCS to TBR)
Last World Series win: 2017 (defeated LAD)
Former Orioles: None
Pro: I mean, they’re not the Red Sox or Yankees? I’m grasping at straws here. They do have one of my all-time favorite players, Zack Greinke. Greinke is one of the best pitchers of the past decade-plus with an endearing, top notch personality. He’s 37 years old so who knows how many more times we’ll get to see him in the playoffs.
Con: They are cheating cheaters who cheat. They weren’t really punished and they weren’t really sorry. The Orioles hope to be on the same path as the Astros but their stupid cheating has tainted the whole thing.
New York Yankees (92-70)
Last playoff appearance: 2020 (lost ALDS to TBR)
Last World Series win: 2009 (defeated PHI)
Former Orioles: Nestor Cortes, Andrew Velazquez, Zack Britton (60-day IL), Darren O’Day (60-day IL)
Pro: If they win tonight, the Red Sox are eliminated. Plus I kinda like Aaron Judge (don’t tell anyone).
Con: They’re the Yankees! We hate them! Their fans are obnoxious and entitled. They invade Camden Yards. They spend more money than any team other than the Dodgers. They last won the World Series in 2009 and they act like it was forever ago.
Boston Red Sox (92-70)
Last playoff appearance: 2018 (Won WS over LAD)
Former Orioles: Zero, although some people are still wringing their hands about the Orioles trading prospect Eduardo Rodriguez in 2014.
Pro: If they win tonight, the Yankees are eliminated.
Con: Their fans are even more obnoxious than Yankees fans. That’s not a joke! In Camden Yards at least. I’ve long since stopped enjoying games in Baltimore when the Red Sox are in town. They win the World Series like every five years, and their games are all five hours long.
I gotta admit, not a lot to like about these American League teams. I can root for the White Sox and, to a lesser extent, the Rays. After that, no.
So who you got?