To the football obsessed it may come as a huge surprise that the MLB playoffs have started. The AL Wild Card playoff is today and, as I type, the Yankees and Twins are showcasing some terrible starting pitching in what looks to be a typical American League baseball game (read: 24 combined runs over the course of 4 hours and 22 minutes). The winner will play the defending AL champion Cleveland Indians and Game 1 of that series will be Thursday.
Baseball will be all over prime time over the course of the next month, but, because MLB’s TV deals suck, you’re gonna struggle to figure out where to find the games even if you have a robust cable package. ESPN, CRT, TBS, The Ocho, FS1, and Fox will all televise games. Alright, I made up some of the “networks” on that list, but seriously, why does this have to be so damn complicated?
TV problems aside, I am writing here to give you a quick primer on the 10 teams who emerged from the 162 slog that is the MLB season.
New York Yankees: This is not your father’s Bronx Bombers. Gone are the days of financial waste and gaudy payrolls. This team has won on the strength of its farm system and might actually be contending a year ahead of schedule.
Minnesota Twins: If you’re looking for Cinderella, here she is. This team lost 103 games last year, but somehow locked up the final playoff spot in the AL just one season later. In fact no team in baseball history has ever made the playoffs in the season after losing 100 games. Anyway, Joe Mauer has served well as a career Twin, but the most exciting player on this team is Byron Buxton. Remember that name. Byron. Buxton.
Cleveland Indians: This team had the best winning streak in modern baseball. They probably should have won the World Series last year and smart money is on the Tribe to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy when we close the book on the 2017 MLB season.
Boston Red Sox: We all love the Red Sox. No we don’t. Boston sports have experienced unbelievable success the last 15 years and it makes me want to throw up. I respect that fan base though. They buy tickets, they hold the media accountable. Jealousy turns into hate really easily.
Houston Astros: The ‘Stros are young and exciting. They have a healthy mix of home-grown talent and free agent might. Altuve, Springer, Correa. These are gonna be household names before too long. Get used to this team being in the conversation.
Washington Nationals: Tons of talent, terrible health luck, bad playoff history. That’s probably all you need to know. Recent history says there is no way they survive the first round match up with the Cubbies, but history is something that the North Siders would love to lecture you on . . .
Chicago Cubs: Defending champs. Won the NL Central by showing up. They were more compelling when they had a goat curse and a 100 year losing streak. Now they’re bordering on obnoxious.
Los Angeles Dodgers: This team was hot and cold in epic fashion. They won 104 games, but it feels like they won about 88 of those games in one stretch which means that they were kinda uninspiring during the rest of the schedule. This is not a team to cheer for though. At all. Ever.
Colorado Rockies: The Rox are in the middle of a youth movement and can really hit. Blackmon, Arenado, LeMahieu, Desmond. The bats are there, but the stigma of their home park makes them an outsider for the Series.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Yep, that’s 3 National League West teams in the playoffs. Pitching favors the Snakes here so expect them to advance on the strength of Grienke’s arm to meet the Dodgers in the NLDS. Good to see the Mountain Time Zone so well represented in the playoffs this season.
Any of these 10 teams could realistically win the whole thing, but I think you have to favor Cleveland because that bullpen is so dominant. I really hope the Nationals finally escape the first round. I’d happily ditch work on a Tuesday in November to go march down Constitution in my Anthony Rendon jersey (assuming the victory parade will be there). LET’S GO NATS!!!!