It feels like baseball is over.
The San Francisco Giants won’t play again for 178 days, and Sunday’s finale - featuring the send-off to end all send-offs - sure felt like a fitting way to wrap a bow on the season.
But for ten other teams, ten other fanbases, and the millions of fans whose interest doesn’t cease when their team is eliminated, there’s still baseball to be played.
Still quite a bit of it, in fact. The wild card games take place Tuesday and Wednesday, with the Divisional Series kicking off later in the week. The exciting baseball games are here.
Which means you need some teams to root for.
So here’s the definitive guide for you, gentle Giants fan. You’ll probably disagree with it, but that doesn’t make it any less right.
Here’s who to root for, in order.
This is a controversial opinion right off the bat, but if you know anything about me, I’m a person who seeks out controversy and conflict (note: I am not a person who seeks out controversy and conflict).
First, a confession. I’ve never actually lived in the Bay Area proper. I don’t think I know a single Oakland A’s fan, and I certainly haven’t interacted with them much.
The Giants-A’s “rivalry,” complete with a horrendous attempt at a college-style trophy for the winner, is entirely manufactured. But I’m sure there’s some negative feelings between the two fanbases, so your view of the A’s may vary.
Sports fandom is weird. I would guess that most fans arrive at their team due to location - either based on proximity, or on places that they feel strongly about.
Cheering for your team then, is to toe the line between pride in your notion of home, and some narrowed version of pseudo-nationalism. It can get weird.
I grew up in Northern California. My heart will forever be in Northern California, even if my posterior is currently in Los Angeles. I feel that vaguely problematic sense of superiority and pride when talking about Northern California. That includes Oakland. Someone mentioning Oakland makes me feel a way that someone mentioning Houston or St. Louis or Milwaukee does not.
Also, the Warriors are moving from Oakland to San Francisco this year, and the Raiders are moving to Las Vegas next year.
So go Oakland. They deserve this.
There are so, so many reasons to root for the Twins this postseason.
The biggest one is the roster, which employs not one, not two, but three former Giants. Three former Giants that you probably have fond thoughts of.
If you watched Bruce Bochy’s ceremony yesterday, you probably found yourself missing Sergio Romo. Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, and Javier Lopez were there, but Romo was notably absent.
Because he’s on the Twins. So is fellow reliever Sam Dyson (and his cat, Snuckles), as the Giants shipped him off to Minny at the deadline.
And then there’s middle infielder Ehire Adrianza, who had a better season than Brandon Crawford or Joe Panik. Because of course.
Today’s manager: Ehire Adrianza pic.twitter.com/n1Fzh62YLW— Betsy Helfand (@betsyhelfand) September 29, 2019
But it’s not just the Giants connections that make the Twins a team worth rooting for.
Most people had penciled in Cleveland to make the postseason this year, and, thanks to Minnesota, we get a wholly boring and uninspiring, but completely not-racist logo representing the AL Central. I’ll cheer for that.
Also, Minnesota hasn’t been the luckiest sports city. The Twins last won the World Series in 1991. The NFL’s Vikings haven’t held a trophy since winning the NFL Championship in 1969. The NHL’s Wild is championshipless, as is MLS’ United FC.
Only the WNBA’s Lynx - with four titles since 2011 - have given Minnesota fans anything to root for in recent decades.
Through innovation, evolution, and just plain smart decision-making, the Rays have found a way to not only survive, but succeed in an environment that’s built to destroy them. They’re good for baseball, and a lot of the things pushing baseball in a new and exciting direction have come from Tampa Bay.
The ten postseason teams make up four tiers for me. Tier 1 is the teams I actively want to win the World Series, and that’s Oakland and Minnesota. Tier 2 is the team I’d be happy with winning, and that’s Tampa. Tier 3 is whatever, and is everyone else, minus one team. You can re-arrange 4-9 all you want. They’re basically the same.
But Milwaukee emerges at the top of group for me, partly because they’re largely responsible for us not having to watch the Chicago Cubs anymore.
The Brewers are also an extremely fun team, albeit a team that was a bit more fun when Christian Yelich’s knee cap was still in one piece. Josh Hader notwithstanding, there’s not a lot to cheer against with the Brewers.
The Astros are utterly dominant. If you like watching great baseball players on great baseball teams do great baseball things, they’re a good team for you.
Everyone likes underdogs, but the thing about favorites is that they’re favorites for a reason. And that reason is that they excel at the sport you’re actively making the decision to watch. Which, you know, seems noteworthy.
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke is an all-time triumvirate of pitchers. Alex Bregman, George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Jose Altuve form a murderer’s row of position players that are as fun to watch as they are effective. Yordan Alvarez is Yordan Alvarez.
If you want to watch a stream of baseball highlights, just tune into an Astros game.
6. New York Yankees
Everything I just said about the Astros is pretty much applicable to the Yankees, except a little bit less so, and with prettier jerseys.
They play baseball. They play baseball very well, and it’s fun to watch.
They’re baseball villains, but they play the role so damn well, whether you love it or hate it.
On pure on-field product alone, the Braves deserve to be so much higher than this.
There’s Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr., two of the most fun young players in the sport. There’s a host of other entertaining players, from Josh Donaldson to Mike Soroka. There are former Giants Mark Melancon and Adam Duvall.
They’re a spectacularly entertaining baseball team.
They’re also home to a racist chant that echoes through their park multiple times literally every single game, and I’m sorry, I just can’t root for them.
There’s no real reason to dislike the Nationals, other than them rather pathetically low-balling Bryce Harper over the offseason.
And god knows they’ve got plenty of good and fun baseball players.
But I just can’t stand them. Maybe it’s the jerseys, which are way too white and preppy looking, like a company that shelled out thousands of bucks for perfect jerseys for the company softball game instead of using that money towards employee benefits.
I dunno. The Nationals kind of piss me off, and honestly, they should kind of piss you off too. They’re trying to achieve National League dominance, but also trying to be cheap about it.
I definitely wouldn’t call the Cardinals a rival of the Giants, yet anyone who rooted for the Giants in 2014 knows that the NLCS win felt better because it was over the Cardinals. No team, save for “the team to the south” would have been more fun to crush in literally Travis Ishikawa style.
And you know what? 2012 as well. When I think of the Cardinals I think of Barry Zito galloping down the first base line, and it simultaneously makes me love the Giants and hate the Cardinals.
It’s just the way it is.