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The Orioles fan’s rooting guide for the 2020 National League playoff field

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The Orioles didn’t make the postseason, but there are former Orioles all across the National League who it’d be nice to see get a ring.

San Diego Padres v Seattle Mariners
It’d be fun if Manny Machado’s team won the World Series, wouldn’t it?
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The only thing that has ever made me think about rooting for a National League team in the postseason is if they were playing the Yankees or the Red Sox in the World Series. In a year where both leagues used the designated hitter, I’m willing to make an exception for this stance, because an NL team winning it all is less likely to be used as some kind of justification by aggrieved NL fans acting like they play real baseball just because sometimes the #8 hitter gets intentionally walked in front of the pitcher.

When I wrote about the American League playoff teams yesterday, my case of who to root for was based heavily off of personal or Orioles-related grudges. The NL field doesn’t have the same connection to O’s grudges since, you know, the team hasn’t played a lot of significant games against many of them. The only teams who’ve ever beaten the Orioles in the World Series are the Mets and Pirates, and neither one of them made the 2020 playoffs.

For the NL teams, it’s more about who seems more likeable than who seems less hate-able, although there will be some of that as well. Here’s how the NL teams stack up if you ask me:

#8 - Milwaukee Brewers

  • Last playoff appearance: 2019 (lost wild card game to Nationals)
  • Last World Series appearance: 1982 (AL representative; lost to Cardinals)
  • Last World Series title: Never
  • Former Orioles: None, though there is Maryland-born former Orioles farmhand Josh Hader (21 games)

That 1982 World Series berth happened after the Brewers beat the Orioles in Earl Weaver’s first final game, when the O’s entered the day with the chance to win the division if they won the game. This was before my time, so I don’t think about it very much, but still, you know. Screw those guys.

Ordinarily, I’d be all in favor of a team that’s never won the World Series before pulling off a championship run. In 2020, however, the Brewers qualified for the expanded postseason with a 29-31 record. Nobody who is below .500 deserves to win anything.

Rooting level: Low

#7 - Cincinnati Reds

  • Last playoff appearance: 2013 (lost wild card game to Pirates)
  • Last World Series appearance: 1990 (beat Athletics)
  • Former Orioles: Wade Miley (six games), Pedro Strop (four games)

When a guy plays for one team his entire career, the team never wins anything for most of it, and he gets a shot to win one late in his career, that’s a great story. That’s Joey Votto with the Reds, who was drafted by them all the way in 2002 and has known no other MLB team. He just turned 37. He’s signed through 2023, but this could prove to be his last, best chance. The Reds can’t count on an eight team field every year, though if the commissioner has his ill-conceived way, they might be able to.

Any tentative plan to root for the Reds will require ignoring or forgetting about Trevor Bauer, who’s not my favorite baseball player. It’s been a long time since they’ve won, though they’ve won in my lifetime, so my sympathy about that only goes so far.

Rooting level: Medium

#6 - Miami Marlins

  • Last playoff appearance: 2003 (beat Yankees in World Series)
  • Former Orioles: Richard Bleier (19 games), former farmhand Stephen Tarpley (12 games), plus Ryan Lavarnway (five games)

A true thing about the Marlins is that they have never lost a postseason series. In both of the years they’ve made the playoffs, they won. That they’ve won two titles in my lifetime kicks them far down the list of teams to root for, though. Plus, the current face of their ownership group is Derek Jeter, about whom I will never say or think anything nice. Sorry, Marlins, but you ain’t it.

If the team that was first and most ravaged by COVID was to end up winning the World Series, that would be a fitting 2020 story.

Rooting level: Low

#5 - St. Louis Cardinals

  • Last playoff appearance: 2019 (lost NLCS to Nationals)
  • Last World Series appearance: 2013 (lost to Red Sox)
  • Last World Series title: 2011 (beat Rangers)
  • Former Orioles: Matt Wieters (19 games), Andrew Miller (16 games), Ryan Meisinger (two games)

These guys have two titles in the 21st century and have appeared in the World Series twice more. They only won 30 games in the regular season. No, I won’t be rooting for them. But if they did somehow win it all this season, I’d be happy for Wieters getting a ring.

Rooting level: Low

#4 - San Diego Padres

  • Last playoff appearance: 2006 (lost division series to Cardinals)
  • Last World Series appearance: 1998 (lost to Yankees)
  • Last World Series title: Never
  • Former Orioles: Manny Machado (60 games), former prospect Zach Davies (12 games), plus coaches Bobby Dickerson, Wayne Kirby, and Ryan Flaherty (really)

I want Manny’s team to win it, you guys. I think it’s hilarious that they’ve got two former Orioles coaches on the staff, plus a former Manny teammate in Flaherty on the same staff, perhaps with the hoped-for result that Machado would play better with familiar faces around him. He only had a .796 OPS last year and had a .950 OPS this year, so I guess it worked.

Even without Machado, this would be an easy team to pull for in this postseason. They broke a playoff drought that was over a decade old, they would have qualified for this postseason even under standard rules, and they’ve never won a title before. I hope 2020 is their year.

Rooting level: High

#3 - Chicago Cubs

  • Last playoff appearance: 2018 (lost wild card game to Rockies)
  • Last World Series appearance: 2016 (beat Indians)
  • Former Orioles: None

We all know what happened to Red Sox fans after they finally broke their long drought and then won again three years later. Let’s not have any more of that. It’s time for someone else’s long streak without a title to break.

Rooting level: Low

#2 - Atlanta Braves

  • Last playoff appearance: 2019 (lost division series to Cardinals)
  • Last World Series appearance: 1999 (lost to Yankees)
  • Last World Series title: 1995
  • Former Orioles: Nick Markakis (37 games), Darren O’Day (19 games), Tommy Milone (three games)

I don’t know how it would feel to have my favorite baseball team in the postseason most years and also losing in the postseason most years. This is the sixth Braves playoff berth since 2010. Their title drought can now rent a car without jumping through extra hoops. A fresh 21st century winner would certainly be interesting.

Markakis is a former Oriole who, even more than Machado, I would be happy to see win a World Series. He had opted out of the 2020 season and then opted out of opting out, so now he’s back. I still remember how he smiled when the Orioles were celebrating the AL East clincher in 2014. Imagine that face if he won a World Series!

Rooting level: Medium-to-high

#1 - Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Last playoff appearance: 2019 (lost division series to Nationals)
  • Last World Series appearance: 2018 (lost to Red Sox)
  • Last World Series title: 1988
  • Former Orioles: Justin Turner (42 games)

It would be fitting if the team that won the most games in the regular season of this shortened 2020 season went on to win the title. The Dodgers went 43-17. They were the best. Of course, they only played NL West and AL West teams, so we’ll see how they do now that they have to face other divisions, including in the tiny best-of-three wild card round where any fluky thing could happen.

The Dodgers have made the playoffs every year since 2013 and won 90+ games in every full-length regular season in that time. One reason they have been able to do this is that they have spent a boatload of money. Another reason is they have made a lot of smart decisions over a long time.

If their excellence was rewarded with a trophy, that would be kind of boring but probably also kind of deserved. They have a good case that they were hosed out of a World Series win by the cheating Astros. And Clayton Kershaw is in that Votto one team career category where it’d be nice if he won with the only team he’s ever played for.

Rooting level: Medium

**

There are several teams with some interesting things going on for them here. With the first round of this expanded playoff field only being best-of-three, there is no guarantee that the best team will win. With none of these teams playing games outside of their division up to now, there’s no way to be sure who the best team even is.

What is certain is that, unless something unexpected, four of these teams will be gone from the playoffs 72 hours from now, looking ahead to the more traditional best-of-five division series round.

Do you have a favorite here? Or a team you’re hoping loses two games and is gone from the postseason right away? Let us know who and why in the comments below - and vote in the poll too.

Poll

Which National League team do you most want to triumph in the 2020 playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Brewers
    (3 votes)
  • 4%
    Reds
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    Marlins
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Cardinals
    (1 vote)
  • 57%
    Padres
    (67 votes)
  • 3%
    Cubs
    (4 votes)
  • 20%
    Braves
    (24 votes)
  • 9%
    Dodgers
    (11 votes)
117 votes total Vote Now