“How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
The line from Jonah Hill’s Pete in Moneyball will remain engraved into sports film lore forever. Baseball is the most narrative-driven sport, with so many passionate historians keeping up with stats, the pageantry of the ballpark atmosphere, the strategy that comes with navigating a 162-game season, and the way we go back to admire the teams in the history books.
Each October, a team’s place in history is added to this historic book: the book of baseball. So, with that being said, what’s the best story this year? Not necessarily the best team, but who will we look back at years from now and remember the magic that they experienced going on a run? With every team with a chance to win it all in one of the most unpredictable postseasons, we’ll rank the stories of each team should they win it all.
- Houston Astros
There’s not many people still around on the roster from the cheating scandal, but no one wants to give them the satisfaction that they can win without the ridiculousness of banging trash cans in the outfield to steal signs. They’re the villains. Do you really want to hear Jose Altuve or Carlos Correa get up on the podium holding the trophy yelling about how they were disrespected and could do it all along? Nope. We want those trash can jokes to live on forever. It may be unfair to the actual likeable guys on that team, but we don’t make the rules, and we can’t hear you over the sound of trash cans banging in the outfield.
- Los Angeles Dodgers
They’re the reigning champion and prohibitive favorites despite not even winning their own division. The heartbreak of their previous collapses was admonished last year, so the players that we want to win a ring for the history books, like Clayton Kershaw or Mookie Betts, already have one. It’s no fun rooting for the Goliath of the sport that lost a Cy Young Award-winner midseason and still managed to add Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, and even old man Albert Pujols. The Dodgers have an embarrassment of riches and will have an opportunity to win a ring for the next decade, and they have a target on their back.
- Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are still relatively new blood to the postseason, snapping a 12-year postseason drought last season and have a variety of young stars built for the big stage. Shortstop Tim Anderson, outfielders Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, and third baseman Yoan Moncada all play with flair, flipping bats and dancing in the dugout. Meanwhile, they have a pitching rotation of Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodon, and Lucas Giolito, all of which can be an ace on any given night, so they can beat anyone in a variety of ways.
However, if they were to win the World Series, we’ll probably just remember how they won in spite of their 77 year-old, out-of-touch manager, Tony La Russa. He came into the year already off of two DUI charges and was a questionable hire, then he criticized his own player, Yermin Mercedes midyear when he hit a homerun in a blowout and threw him under the bus. Ever since then, it’s been as if the Sox players have been winning to spite their own manager angrily by expressing themselves. Chicago also just cruised to their division title in the weak AL Central, so you know La Russa will be the one taking credit for steering the ship well all year long.
- Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers weren’t necessarily out-of-nowhere; they’ve been a very competent team that finds ways to win year after year in different ways under manager Craig Counsell, but their dominance over the NL Central was certainly unexpected. They have absolutely shut-down pitching, with Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, and Freddy Peralta in their rotation that gives them the third-best ERA at 3.48, and an exciting defense that makes highlight plays. The offense was atrocious the first quarter of the year until they traded for Rays shortstop, Willy Adames, who ignited their run to balance the team to give their pitchers run support, and even though he’s had an off year, Christian Yelich is the face of the team and a former MVP (who also happens to look like Pete Davidson).
Their story won’t necessarily go down in the history books- they’re a likeable team with veterans that have been good for a long time and deserve to bring a title to the city! They do have the narrative of bringing the best year of sports ever to Milwaukee after the Bucks just won their first NBA Title in 40 years, and the Packers are still winning games in Green Bay like nobody’s business in the NFL. Milwaukee is just a town that loves its sports and makes you want to like that market.
- Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are coming off of a year in which they finished last after trading their franchise player to the Dodgers to merely save money, so they had no expectations going in.
They’ve played with house money this year as a resilient young team and look like they’re having the time of their lives.
They just beat the hated Yankees in the Wild Card game, who were the American League World Series odds-on favorite going into the year, and the Sox have run away with a steady pace to have a fun year, celebrating in shopping carts in the dugout after home runs over the Fenway Monster. They’ve got Chris Sale back from Tommy John surgery pitching for them, 24 year-old Rafael Devers putting up MVP-moment hits, and something that’s the most valuable currency in baseball: hope. They slayed the Yankees. They’re playing the game for fun, and that’s what sparks October magic.
They would be higher on the list if they weren’t already a part of the loathsome Bostonian sports Empire, where the Sox already won 4 titles since 2004, the Bruins and Celtics are consistently good, and a little team called the New England Patriots won 7 Super Bowls in two decades. You’re guilty by association.
- Atlanta Braves
If the Atlanta Braves were to win a World Series this year, it would break a curse that has plagued the city in seemingly every sport. The Falcons infamous blown 28-3 Super Bowl. The Georgia Bulldogs haven’t won a football championship in 40 years and had Alabama win on a Hail Mary in 2018. The Atlanta Hawks have 0 NBA Titles. The Braves
have been one of the most dominant teams in baseball since 1991 and have only won 1 World Series, and just LAST YEAR, they had a 3-1 NLCS lead over the Dodgers only to lose three games in a row. Atlanta sports knows nothing but pain.
This year, they looked like they had a shot to redeem themselves again with one of the most loaded rosters that brought back everyone, only to lose their stud, Ronald Acuna Jr., to a torn ACL, and the unexpected domestic violence charges against Marcell Ozuna, who led them in home runs. Those losses along with injuries all season long made them a write-off team for a while, but they’ve rallied without their transcendent star. They brought in an entire new outfield from trades and have had an infield that rose to the occasion- Austin Riley, Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, and Ozzie Albies all hit over 25 home runs. Freeman, the reigning NL MVP, is one of the most-likeable personalities and leaders in the sport, is the core of this team, and could be making his final run with the team to get a ring. This is an Atlanta team that would make for a historical narrative arc.
- Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have a bottom-five payroll in baseball, by far the worst stadium in any of the four major sports, play against the goliath Yankees and Red Sox in their division every season, and over the past year have lost their two aces via trade or injury (Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow) and traded their starting shortstop, Willy Adames.
They might be the smartest and best team in baseball.
Coming off of a World Series loss to the Dodgers last year, it is a triumph what they are doing in terms of continuity to win no matter who they field and what they cost. None of their pitchers pitch deep into games, thus, they rely on the bullpen, which has the best ERA in major league baseball at 3.18. They score a ton of runs per game at 5.35 despite having little to no stars someone walking down the street could identify (most-notably Nelson Cruz, the 41 year-old who was acquired via trade). They’re doing this all while fielding players who practically just got out of daycare- Wander Franco is 20. Randy Arozarena is 26 and a rookie. The starting rotation has two rookies, Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz, at the helm of it, and Drew Rasmussen, who has 10 total starts. They’ll only stay dominant and stay young- all of their minor league affiliates won their leagues this year.
Some may argue they’re bad for baseball. They get rid of their stars early and don’t re-sign them to big contracts. They don’t invest in their marketing or stadium. They play the game a different way, a nerdy way that values that outcome that will win the most rather than put up flashy highlights. But the Rays, this little engine that could figure out a way to be the most-consistent team in baseball year after year with a payroll almost as small as just one year of Gerrit Cole on the Yankees, are a sports wonder. Winning their first World Series in “Champa Bay” as its now known after the Buccaneers and Lightning’s success, would be an incredible redemption story and one that defines this era of baseball.
- San Francisco Giants
The Giants’ over/under projected win total going into this season was 75.5 in a division with the World Series champion Dodgers and the Padres, who were expected to win 94 games this season and also be in World Series contention.
They won 107 games. In other words, they were the best team in baseball and stole the division from the consensus most-talented team in the league.
The Giants came out of nowhere with a combination of grizzled veterans, like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt, all who have been with the team during their early 2010’s dynasty, and cheap players trying to prove their worth on short-term contracts who were thought to be used as trade bait for prospects at the deadline if they perform.
At the beginning of the season, their hot streak was seen as luck. “Oh, the Dodgers will catch them and they’ll come back to earth,” we all kept saying. But they kept winning… and winning… and they thought it was sustainable, so they were buyers instead of sellers at the deadline and acquired former NL MVP Kris Bryant.
It never stopped. Any time the Dodgers were about to catch them on a hot streak, they would be on a win streak as well. It took them until the final game of the season, but this team with the second-oldest roster in baseball, has proven that they ARE good. They’re not a fluke. They have the second-best overall ERA at 3.24. They have allowed the fewest walks and home runs all season. They’re top 5 in slugging and OPS.
They’re the most-unlikely story, and they have a chance to be a season-long David that looked Goliath square in the eyes and slayed him throughout the year.