Cleveland Indians fans may choose not to tune in for the 2019 playoffs, but for those who do watch, this field isn’t without teams to get behind.
The 2019 season ended in about as discouraging a fashion as possible for the Cleveland Indians. One week ago, the Tribe was poised to give Oakland and Tampa Bay a fight to the finish in the AL Wild Card race.
Two days ago, those hopes were dashed. Now, for the first time since 2015, 10 teams that play their home games outside of Cleveland will compete for a World Series crown.
For the last two seasons, it’s been difficult (for obvious reasons) for me to pay attention to the playoffs once the Indians were eliminated. This year, I’m heading into October simply as a baseball fan.
Instead of my emotional well-being hinging on the outcome of every single pitch, I’ll be able to enjoy and appreciate the 2019 playoffs for what they are.
For anyone else who decides to tune in, we are naturally going to develop rooting interests along the way among the teams left standing. For me, that team is the Los Angeles Dodgers. My dad is a lifelong Dodgers fan, and he deserves to see them bring it home for the first time in 31 years.
But I understand that cheering on a big-market team with several World Series titles already to its credit doesn’t exactly appeal to Tribe fans. So what other story lines are out there for us to latch onto? What other hard-earned reward may rest ahead for one team out of 10?
Here are four teams I think the baseball fan in all of us can get on board with for one reason or another.
I can’t think of a pitcher more deserving of a deep playoff run than Max Scherzer. His Nationals have either missed the playoffs or been bounced in the first round in each of his seasons since joining the team.
The three-time Cy Young winner last appeared in a Championship Series all the way back in 2013 with the Tigers, losing in six games to the eventual World Series champion Red Sox. He’s been the best of the best for years on end, and it would be truly enjoyable to see his fiery presence on the mound late in October.
I’m also partial to Anthony Rendon here. For the duration of the Bryce Harper era in Washington, Rendon always took a back seat in terms of recognition. I was happy to see him finally garner the national attention he always deserved this season, and it would be fun to watch him play for a championship.
The Brewers weren’t supposed to be here. Christian Yelich’s broken kneecap was supposed to end their season. An incredible September run will pit them against the Nationals in the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night.
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Milwaukee is one win away from a chance to exact revenge on the team that knocked them out in the 2018 NLCS (Dodgers), and especially without Yelich, they have to be the underdog of all underdogs in this playoff field.
If the Brewers are able to pull off the unthinkable and make a lengthy run into late October without their best player, it would have to qualify as one of the better Cinderella stories in recent memory.
Adding more intrigue to this upstart Brewers team is that the franchise has never won a World Series. I can very much sympathize with that, seeing as how I’ve never seen my team win one either.
Oakland is a team facing many of the same disadvantages as the Indians. The A’s don’t have a jacked-up payroll. They’re not a huge media market or a popular free-agent destination. They don’t even have their own stadium, for crying out loud.
They’re just a scrappy team full of likable players that most of the country doesn’t have many chances to watch. Tune in on Wednesday night to see the likes of Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien, Matt Olson, and Ramon Laureano as they try to knock off the equally scrappy Tampa Bay Rays.
I love the idea of an Oakland/Houston ALDS matchup. The A’s aren’t intimidated by the Astros, and they played well against them down the stretch. I think this would be the most compelling first-round matchup if it were to come to fruition.
The A’s haven’t won a World Series since 1989, and haven’t been to one since 1990. That’s not nearly as extensive as the Tribe’s drought, but it’s a long time for a fan base to go without a title.
Tampa Bay Rays
I hesitate to list the Rays here because they had the second-lowest attendance of any team in baseball in 2019. Only the Marlins were worse, and somehow the 100-loss Tigers, Royals, and Orioles regularly had more fans show up to their home games.
But I’m not going to hold this against the actual players, because they deserve better. No team in baseball faces a bigger or more perpetual challenge as a small-market franchise than the Rays, who constantly rank near the bottom of the league in payroll and have to contend with the Yankees and Red Sox in their own division.
Like the A’s, they’re just a scrappy team that finds a way to win with the guys they have. If they win in Oakland on Wednesday night, they’ll get a chance to go toe-to-toe with the Astros in what will inevitably be billed as David versus Goliath.
In any case, I think I speak for all of us when I say I’m rooting for the AL Wild Card winner to survive till the World Series.