We’re about a quarter of the way through the season in baseball now, and in a 162 game season, it just goes to show how much can change due to the marathon element of the sport. It makes last year’s 60-game season feel even weirder.
With that being said, there are so many games to get through, so right now, not many games are considered to be “high stakes.”

With the lack of stakes, if you want to watch a baseball game, you at the very least want to watch the most entertaining product. That might not always mean the “best team,” but rather the most “watchable” team, because these two are very different qualifiers.

You want to watch the interesting storylines, the personalities, the matchups, the beautiful and engaged ballparks, and the teams that are really going for it.

So, with all of these things considered, these are the teams that if you have the opportunity to flip on a game in mid-May, are going to be one of the most “watchable” and pleasing products in the game as of now.

5) San Francisco Giants

We would have never expected the Giants to be in the realm of being one of the most must-see teams in baseball at this point in the year, but here we are. Of course, it’s hard to beat seeing a game played at Oracle Park in San Francisco- there are few things more electrifying than a homer hit over the right-field wall and into McCovey Cove with paddle-boarding fans vigorously paddling to recover the ball out of the bay. You’ve also got the beautiful brick wall aesthetic, the mayhem-inducing triples alley field dimensions in the outfield, and of course the great skyline view of the waterfront and the giant Coca-Cola bottle and glove. It just makes for pleasing baseball to see.

But from a game perspective, you might get to watch something just as entertaining! They’re of course in the NL West, so you’re likely going to get an entertaining matchup, be it their historic rival, the Goliath Dodgers, or the star-studded Padres. They weren’t favored to do anything this year given the outlook of the division, and the youngest person on their everyday roster is 30! They’ve accumulated veterans on short deals to potentially reload for next season and become buyers.

The problem with that is that they’ve been winning!

They started out in first place at 23-15, and they’ve got one of the best starting rotations in baseball. Alex Wood has a 1.80 ERA, Anthony DeSclafani has a 2.14, Kevin Gausman has a 1.84, and Johnny Cueto has a higher 3.52, but his iconic “shimmy” pitching mechanic oozes charisma. They’ve also got some familiar veteran faces for everyone to see- Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, and Brandon Crawford, the B’s who have remained Giants throughout their dynastic World Series runs, and even the grizzled former Ray Evan Longoria is still standing tall in the batter’s box and batting .252.

This may not last at all and be a flash in the pan in San Francisco, but the Giants are delightful and have been scrappy enough to keep finding ways to win.

4) St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have been one of the most consistently winning franchises in all of the sports, making the postseason 14 out of the last 20 years and winning 2 of 3 World Series appearances within that span. But outside of Albert Pujols, they’ve won in the “team-oriented” or “classy” way comparable to the model the San Antonio Spurs have used in the NBA. They haven’t been flashy- just well-coached, team-first players with rotating roles who get on base and earn their runs.

That’s changed this year.

Photo: Dilip Vishwanat/MLB.com

They went out and traded for the home-run-mashing, platinum Gold Glove-winning Nolan Arenado to play on the opposite corner of former MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. They’ve got a 7-0 25-year-old stud, Jack Flaherty, looking like a future ace of the league. They’ve got a platoon of young hitters in the outfield who get the pleasure of learning under the tenured veterans on the roster. They’ve got a team full of big names and based upon the aggressive Arenado trade, they could easily look to add more pieces in the future before the deadline too to load up and take over as the class of the NL Central.

This year, the Red Birds have gotten off to a steady start at 23-16, 3 games up on Milwaukee for the largest divisional lead in baseball. They’ve won with balance on both sides of the plate- one night you could turn them on and they could win a game from hitting 5 homers, the next could be an Adam Wainwright shutout. It goes back to the team’s roots of just appearing better than everybody else.

They’ve also got high aesthetic entertainment value- it’s kind of become a running bit how overplayed the Cardinals having the “best fans in baseball” is, but St. Louis is truly a baseball town, and watching a game at Busch Stadium is gorgeous when they’ve got St. Louis Arch mowed into the outfield grass and the stands are filled with fans in red gear waving flags. Thus far this year, they’ve gotten into some heated matchups too, brawling with the Reds and the Phillies over some beanball drama.

They’ll continue to be one of the most intriguing storylines of the NL as Nolan enacts his revenge on the Colorado Rockies for paying him to play against them as they suffer in silence.

3) Atlanta Braves

The Braves are not winning baseball games. Considering their World Series expectations, they’ve been a massive disappointment to start the year at 19-20. Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. are the only guys in the lineup consistently getting on base, but Freeman’s average is still only .221 and Acuna leads the majors in home runs but has been in and out of the lineup with injuries.

And don’t even get Braves fans started about their pitching performance- they’re in the bottom 10 in ERA, hits allowed, walks allowed, opponents’ batting average and WHIP. 4 out of their 6 consistent starters have an ERA above 5. That’s not acceptable in a division with the Phillies, the Mets, the Marlins, and the Nationals.

And yet you still can’t take your eyes off of them.

The Braves came so close to beating the Dodgers in the NLCS last year and retaining the pieces that they had that every single night, baseball fans are just waiting for them to put their magic back together and put together a winning streak. They’re a team fueled off of swagger- the darling Dansby Swanson flips his hair at second after legging out a double in the gap. Marcell Ozuna celebrates his bat-flipped homers by taking a selfie with his team in the dugout. Acuna beats his chest after stealing a base and avoiding the tag. They have so much energy and personality as a team that it could be so easy for them to finally get some good vibes back in the clubhouse and go on a winning streak to take back the NL East.

On top of the talented, charismatic team that oozes energy, you get to see them play in one of the most star-studded divisions in baseball, so their games are matchups galore. Trust Park is still one of the newest parks in the majors, but it’s got a nice retro-modern look to it with highly engaged Braves fans.

It’s not too late to get hot, Atlanta. We’ll all be watching, glued to the TV waiting to see.

2) San Diego Padres

All-around, they’re the most exciting team in baseball on paper. From a lineup including Tatis, Machado, Hosmer, and Grisham to a starting rotation with Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe “No-no” Musgrove,” you’re almost guaranteed for a big name to perform in a big spot every single night.

The only reason they’re not the #1 pick is that the hitting and defense has been off to a bit of a lackluster start; they’re the worst fielding team in baseball, and every bat has just felt steady, never necessarily “hot” outside of Tatis against the Dodgers. However, the pitching has been phenomenal- they’re first in ERA, second in strikeouts and third in WHIP.

They also could even be MORE loaded given that we haven’t ever seen the team at full health yet. Grisham was out to start the year, Tatis suffered an injury and is currently dealing with COVID, pitchers Dinelson Lamet and Ryan Weathers are finally back from their injuries that left them out, and we also seem to gloss over that they traded for Mike Clevinger last year, who may be out all year with Tommy John surgery, but if he comes back healthy, he’s a Cy Young candidate in the future.

They stir the drama pot of the league as the season’s challengers to the Dodgers and potential National League World Series representative as a historically plucky underdog. They’re just plain likable from top to bottom (outside of the people that hate Manny Machado) and win in the most exciting way possible in one of the most scenic ballparks and cities in the country.

1) Boston Red Sox

Even if you hate Boston, baseball just feels better with them back and winning games. It’s great for the sport. Last year was essentially a wash with the ripple effects of the Mookie Betts deal, the manager Alex Cora sent to exile for a year after being caught up in the Astros scandal, and the pitching giving up a home run in seemingly every inning. It certainly didn’t help when Betts went on to win the World Series in LA and the division rival Rays and Yankees both made postseason runs as they finished dead last.

Photo: Ian Browne/MLB.com

This year, they got off to the best start in baseball, and the vibes around the team are BUZZING. Because they had such a rough year last year and didn’t have expectations to perform this year, all they’ve been doing is having fun as a young team with all the talent in the world and no pressure (for now.. If they keep winning, expectations may start to rise.).

Here’s how good their offense has been: they lead the league in hits, runs, slugging, and doubles, they’re 2nd in average, and 4th in on-base. JD Martinez struggled last year and was open about how he struggled during the 60-game season when they took away the capability to look at the video, but now, with that option back, he’s back in business as an AL MVP candidate. He’s tied with his TEAMMATE Xander Bogaerts for the league lead in hits, and trails only his OTHER TEAMMATE Rafael Devers in RBIs; the top of their lineup of Martinez, Bogaerts, Devers, and Alex Verdugo is just nasty at the plate.

The pitching has been serviceable; it was clearly one of the weakest position groups in all of baseball last season, but it hasn’t been a weakness enough to deter their 25-17 start with how many runs the offense puts up night after night. We have no idea if it will be sustainable, but they’ll eventually be getting Chris Sale back this summer and could easily become buyers before the trade deadline.

They also have the added allure of playing the AL East teams night after night. They get the matchup against the defending AL champion Rays, the young and hungry Blue Jays at their minor league park, the Orioles at their beautiful, homer-friendly Camden Yards, and the matchup we’ve all been waiting for: Red Sox-Yankees. We haven’t gotten to see a competitive Red Sox-Yankees series since so much has happened with the Betts trade and the Yankees acquiring Gerrit Cole. They’re finally both playing well at the same time, and that first game on June 4th in the Bronx will be appointment-viewing television.

Love them or hate them, there’s nothing quite like watching a competitive Red Sox team playing in a tight matchup in the romantic Mecca of baseball, Fenway Park. This Sox team that dances together and has the best chemistry in the game has been an absolute delight.

Featured Image: Ian Browne/MLB.com
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