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Rooting guide for the American League playoffs

The Orioles aren’t in the playoffs, so which team should you root for?

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MLB: Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The postseason is here! Well, it’s here tomorrow. But the stage has been set and unfortunately the Orioles aren’t a part of it. They made us think they might do it! Remember that one glorious day when they held the third wild card spot?

The future is bright in Birdland, and maybe next year will be the year they make it back to the playoffs. But for this year they’re out, which means if you’re going to watch the postseason your rooting interests will have to lie elsewhere. I am here to help!

Tomorrow at 12:07 EDT, the Guardians host the Rays to kick off the American League portion of the postseason. Then at 4:07, the Mariners and Blue Jays kick off their series in Toronto. Both series are best of three with no venue changes.

The ALDS begins on October 11th with the winner of Guardians/Rays taking on the Yankees and the winner of Mariners/Blue Jays playing the Astros.

Nobody making the decisions asked me about giving teams a bye, but I think it’s weird.

Division Winners

AL West: Houston Astros (106-56)

Last playoff appearance: 2021 (lost WS to Atlanta)
Last World Series win: 2017

Former Orioles: Trey Mancini

Pros: I normally have a hard time coming up with an argument to root for the Astros, but not this year. As we all know, former Oriole Trey Mancini is headed to the playoffs with the Astros. Trey was a special player with the Orioles and still is a special person, and I wish him nothing but the best. If he were to get a ring this year, that would be pretty cool.

Another pro is also something we’ve all heard before. The Mike Elias-led Orioles followed the blueprint that built this Astros team. If all goes right, this could be our future. There is a connection there, if you want to see it.

Cons: They had that whole cheating thing awhile ago, but between the passage of time and the lack of many current Astros who were on that team, I’ve kind of gotten over it. But if you still want to maintain your righteous indignation on that front, I support you. Especially if you throw in the Brandon Taubman grossness.

For me the Astros have become another one of those teams that are hard to root for because they’re just always there. Since 2015 they’ve only missed the playoffs once. They’ve been in the World Series three times in a five year span. We get it. You’re good. Maybe back off for a few years so we don’t have to keep seeing your faces.

AL East: New York Yankees (99-63)

Last playoff appearance: 2021 (Lost in wild card game to Red Sox)
Last World Series win: 2009

Former Orioles: Zack Britton (IL), Miguel Castro, Nestor Cortes

Pros: Frankly, I am disappointed in you that you thought I might have a pro list.

Cons: The cons are plentiful and the cons are well documented, so instead I’m going to tell you a story from my own experience. Once long ago, probably 15 years or so, my friend and I arrived very early for a game at Camden Yards between the Orioles and Yankees. This was back when you could still get in during batting practice.

My friend and I were hanging out in the left field seats watching the batting practice dingers fly when suddenly, one was headed in our general direction. In prime position to make a great catch was a kid in an Orioles shirt, maybe 12 years old.

Just as he was about to make the catch, he was slammed into by a grown man in a “Jeter - 2” shirsey. The kid went flying and the ball clattered around in the seats where this man scrambled after it like it was Albert Pujols’s 700th and held it aloft proudly when he got it. My friend rushed over to help the kid up and I said “What is wrong with you?” to Jeter Shirsey. He shrugged and said, “I’ve never gotten a ball before!” and continued celebrating.

AL Central: Cleveland Guardians (92-70).

Last playoff appearance: 2020 (Lost in wild card round to Yankees)
Last World Series win: 1948

Former Orioles: N/A

Pros: After many years with a problematic name and a racist logo, smarter minds prevailed and in 2022 the team from Cleveland was renamed the Guardians. The new logo is a little cheesy but, to me at least, endearing. Could the karma gained from this name change be just what the team needs to finally get their first World Series title in 74 years?

The Guardians are good, but they’re not so good that we have to see them in the playoffs every year. They have years when they make the playoffs and year when they fall short, which is a pretty good recipe for good will.

They also have a 1-2 punch in their starting rotation that feature two of the top 10 pitchers in the American League, Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie. They also have an exciting infield featuring two all-star level players in José Ramírez and Andrés Giménez. They’re a fun team.

Cons: A 21-8 September helped the Guardians pull away from the pack in their division and end with a respectable record for a playoff team, and a win record equal to the Blue Jays and better than the other two wild card teams. But they still play in the worst division in the American League, where no other team finished above .500. The Guardians went 47-29 (.627) in their division and 45-41 (.523) outside of it.

These may be the salty feelings of a fan of a team in the AL East, but come on. What a joke.

Wild Card Teams

Toronto Blue Jays (92-70)

Last playoff appearance: 2020 (Lost in wild card round to Rays)
Last World Series win: 1993

Former Orioles: Kevin Gausman

Pros: This team is really good. They have a ton of young, talented players. I generally wish Kevin Gausman well. And they haven’t won the whole thing in almost 30 years, with half of baseball (15 teams) taking home a title since then. They’ve got a lot going for them.

Cons: In 2013, the Orioles were playing in Toronto. Nate McLouth made a great catch in foul territory. (GIFs via Marc Normandin)

Moments after he got back to his spot in the outfield, someone from the stands threw a beer at him:

Then, in 2016 during the wild card game, outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim had a beer thrown on him while his neighbor in center field, Adam Jones, confirmed that he was hearing racial slurs all night towards both himself and Kim.

Wild Card Game - Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Do those fans deserve happiness? No. They do not. They only deserve misery. Absolutely disgusting.

Seattle Mariners (90-72)

Last playoff appearance: 2001 (lost ALCS to Yankees)
Last World Series win: N/A

Former Orioles: N/A

Pros: When the Mariners clinched their playoff spot last Friday, they ended the longest postseason drought not only in MLB, but also in NHL, NBA, NFL, and MLS. At 21 years, it was a doozy. The Mariners have come close in recent years but couldn’t seal the deal until now. On top of that, this team has never won a World Series.

(Of course, the Mariners didn’t even come into existence until 25 years after Cleveland’s most recent title.)

I don’t know much about Mariners fans, being that they are really far away, but I can don’t have to go through too many mental contortions to know how they feel. When the Orioles went to the playoffs in 2012, it had been 15 years since their last playoff appearance. And it was, at the time, the longest current playoff drought in MLB. That’s a lot of years to wander without hope of seeing your team in the playoffs. I get it, Mariners fans.

How can you not root for that?

Cons: It’s tempting to have bad feelings toward the Mariners because they were the team that the Orioles were chasing in the wild card race for most of the season. And while the Orioles were stuck playing the Blue Jays and Yankees and Astros, the Mariners played a parade of losers. It was a no-win situation for the Orioles.

If the Orioles hadn’t fallen apart a bit at the end of the season, that argument would hold water. But the Mariners gave them a chance to catch up and they just couldn’t take it. That’s not on the Mariners, that’s on the Orioles.

This is a bad con section. Sorry.

Tampa Bay Rays (86-76)

Last playoff appearance: 2021 (lost ALDS to Red Sox)
Last World Series win: N/A

Former Orioles: Shawn Armstrong, Jimmy Yacabonis

Pros: Saying this is a repeat of what everyone always says about the Rays, but they are proof that with the right foundation, a team can compete without having a massive budget. It can even be done in the AL East.

Despite their relatively stable success, they haven’t been able to win a World Series. They lost to the Dodgers in 2020 and to the Phillies back in 2008. It seems that one of these years the should be rewarded for their continual pipeline of highly ranked prospects.

Cons: Is anyone else getting super tired of the Rays? If I have to hear one more time about how great they are at competing with no payroll, I’m gonna puke. Through the league’s revenue sharing system, the Rays receive lots of money. And yet they’re not that far removed from a lawsuit because they aren’t spending it to improve the team. What a fun baseball team.

Who ya got?

So, do you have a rooting interest? Who do you like? Here is my ranking:

  1. Mariners
  2. Guardians
  3. Astros (for Trey only)
  4. Rays
  5. Blue Jays
  6. Yankees


Which American League team do you find least objectionable?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    (71 votes)
  • 2%
    (11 votes)
  • 20%
    (103 votes)
  • 3%
    Blue Jays
    (18 votes)
  • 52%
    (264 votes)
  • 6%
    (33 votes)
500 votes total Vote Now