Baseball has four teams left. Some of The Prompt’s brightest baseball minds got together to deliver you a guide to help you decide which team you should root for. Jake Cantrell, Daniel Comer, Jeremy Taché, and Josh Bard break down the Dodgers, the Braves, the Astros, and the Rays, respectively and respectfully.
Disclaimer: I just want to say at the outset of this—in favor of transparency—that I will not be rooting for the Dodgers to win the World Series, the NLCS, or even one game against the Braves. To be completely honest, since this is the first time the Braves have made it this far since 2001 (when I was 5 years old and completely unaware that they or an organization called Major League Baseball even existed), I will be rooting against the Dodgers harder than I’ve ever rooted against any team, player, person, political party, American Idol candidate, or other non-human evil that plagues the planet (cancer, asteroids predicted to hit Earth and end civilization, 2020 in general, etc.). That is because of the simple fact that if I’m ever blessed to have a family of my own one day, I’ll still love the Braves more than my first-born child, even though they’ve done nothing but hurt me for as long as I can remember.
(Dear [Insert whatever corny, gross millennial-name my future wife chooses without my input for our future first-born here]: If you’re reading this, I’m sorry, you deserve more. But also, how many World Series have you won? That’s what I thought.) Alright, I guess I should end this filibuster.
TL;DR: I love the Braves, so everything that follows is a fabricated lie.
Here’s why YOU should be rooting for the Los Angeles Dodgers to win it all.
*In Vin Scully’s soothing voice* “It’s time for Dodgers Baseball!”
The Dodgers are once again in the thick of the Hunt for MLB’s most coveted “piece of metal” and this time, supposedly, they won’t be cheated out of it. And it sure looks like Clayton Kershaw has decided he won’t choke it away this time either, but rather he will continue to be the dominant, once-in-a-generation pitcher that he’s been for most every regular season of the past decade.
The Dodgers look particularly determined to redeem their recent postseason misadventures, and if you have a problem with it, here’s a message from America’s favorite relief pitcher, Joe Kelly:
Besides the fact that they feel robbed from the Astros’ 2017 season and all the unfortunate collapses that have kept them away from winning the fall classic, maybe the Dodgers are trying to win for Kobe, which I think everyone could get behind.
When the Braves left the inner-city for SunTrust (now Truist Park) in the spring of 2017, many inside-the-perimeter (ITP) kids (myself included) felt betrayed by the franchise, which was leaning into the sport’s conservative stereotype by moving closer to a wealthy section of its fan base, which many Atlantans associated with bigotry and ignorance.
After the move, I assumed the Braves’ on-field product in Cobb County would continue mirroring the organization’s long-held good-old-boy, “play the game the right way” culture, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Brian Snitker and his team of rowdy ball players, who have managed to balance bat flips and selfie celebrations with the hustle and effort required to win playoff series.
In addition to the on-field growth for the formerly buttoned-up franchise, this year we’ve finally seen the team move away from racist Native American imagery, following their willingness to cease the “Tomahawk Chop” chant in last year’s National League Division Series after St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley called out the franchise and its fans. Now the fans can focus on the guys that really matter: the players.
The 2020 Braves roster is loaded with talent, from presumptive league MVP Freddie Freeman to NL home run and RBI champion Marcell Ozuna, to budding superstars Ronald Acuña and Ozzie Albies.
Despite losing three major starting pitching anchors early this season, Atlanta has showcased extraordinary pitching depth led by lefty Max Fried and former No. 3 overall pick Ian Anderson.
More than talented, this group is pure fun and extremely easy to root for, playing with joy unmatched among the other three MLB teams remaining in this year’s playoffs.
Heading into the NLCS for the first time in 19 years, the Braves are once again on the precipice of prolonged success, making now as good a time as ever to jump on a bandwagon that’s moving in the right direction inside and outside the building.
Whether or not you like the Tampa Bay Rays (and honestly, whether or not you can name three players), the Rays are our next best chance to rid the MLB season of the slimy, cheating, rejuvenated-and-still-hateable Houston Astros.
But you don’t have to default into picking the Rays the rest of the way; there are also good, logical reasons to root for the sneaky best team in the American League. For one, they just vanquished the Yankees. And it’s not just about their opponents, I promise! It’s the way they sent Yankees home!
(Quick backstory: Rays and Yankees played 10 contentious games this season, which included some suspicious plunked batter, and culminated in Yankees closer and vile-henchman Aroldis Chapman throwing a 101 MPH baseball at the head at Rays utility player Mike Brosseau.)
On Friday night, in the eighth inning tie game, Mike Brosseau faced Aroldis Chapman. After fouling off pitch after pitch (it was a 10 pitch at bat!), Brosseau drove another Chapman fastball over the fence, in what would be the game-winner. Brosseau was pumped but his teammates exploded out of the dugout, as if it won them the World Series.
Afterwards, Brosseau didn’t use the moment to taunt or pour salt, but celebrated with his team. His teammates had a dance-off. No one was concerned about the past or revenge, they were happy for each other and ready to take on the next super-villain on their trek to save America. Go Rays!
The 2020 Houston Astros season has been more about trash talk—no, seriously, like actual trash cans—than what they’ve done on the field.
Coming off one of the stranger offseasons in recent memory due to a revealed cheating scandal from their 2017 World Series run, the Astros entered 2020 with the entire baseball world outside of Houston rooting for them to fail… and they did.
The Astros were under .500 this season for the first time during Carlos Correa’s entire career. They were below average offensively in nearly every statistical category. Their leader in innings pitched, wins, and strikeouts was Framber Valdez, a man who’s name you just had to google to be sure I wasn’t making it up.
By all qualifications, the Astros did not rebound from their bleep show of an offseason.
Yet, due to a COVID-shortened season and expanded playoff, the Astros snuck into the postseason and are four wins away from their third World Series appearance in four years.
Prior to the cheating, the Astros core of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and George Springer were one of the most lovable baseball cores in recent memory. Don’t you remember how much we loved Altuve looking like a toddler next Aaron Judge?
So, now that they’ve found their way back to the big stage, there are two ways to find yourself rooting for the Astros: rooting for the villain or rooting for redemption.
Lane 1: The Astros are the villains of the 2020 season. Due to the lack of fans in the stands, they escaped the inevitable evisceration in opposing stadiums. They’ve talked smack about being in the playoffs even while backing in, and their arrogance about their cheating has been the only example in baseball that has rivaled A-Rod’s. Now, with a win, they could face the very team they cheated against in the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers. There are research papers written to dissect the psychology of why we find ourselves rooting for Michael Coreleone in The Godfather or The Joker in The Dark Knight, and if you want to, we can add the 2020 Astros to that list together.
Lane 2: Think back to the days when this team was full of fun personalities and overachievers because that’s *exactly* who they are without the trash cans and buzzers, and as the lowest seed to reach either LCS, they’re back to being the underdogs. This will likely be this group’s final chance to win together with free agency threatening to break it up. In a world that’s been pretty bleak for the last 6 months or so, couldn’t we use a redemption story? Wouldn’t it be nice to find something pure to latch onto? The Astros can be 2020’s saving grace if we want them to be, and I sure do.