Power Rankings: who Red Sox fans should root for in the 2014 MLB Postseason


While the best October baseball is that which is played in Boston, the MLB postseason is worth watching every year. Sox fans may be tempted to tune out this year after such a frustrating season, but to do so would be to miss out on some great storylines. Will the Royals’ first postseason appearance in 29 years feature more than one game? Will the stumbling A’s rebound and play like it’s July again? Will Lackey, Lester, or Peavy win a ring in another uniform?

Of course, baseball is most fun to watch when one has a vested rooting interest in a team. With the Red Sox out, I’ve reevaluated the field of remaining teams to determine the best bandwagons to jump on this October. Here are my power rankings of the “Teams that Sox fans should root for in the 2014 postseason.”

1. Kansas City Royals

While I’m still bitter that the KC football team demoralized the Patriots last night, I can’t help but root for the Royals. Despite the success of the last 10 years, Sox fans are still a tormented bunch at heart. Although I personally only experienced a decade of suffering, I feel like I inherited this from my father and grandfather. Plus, all of my fellow under-29-year-olds that are Royals fans are watching their team play in the playoffs for the first time.

KC gets not only the empathy vote, but also the underdog vote. They don’t have a single superstar in the lineup, and they have only three guys that hit more than 10 homers (and nobody that hit over 20). Their rotation is solid, but devoid of any serious Cy Young candidates. The Royals win with speed, defense, and an incredible bullpen. I can’t wait to see this scrappy bunch take down the big bats of the Orioles or the big arms of the Tigers. Plus, as a Sox fan, I want to see an impressive show from our potential future starter, James Shields.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates ended their 21-year playoff drought last year, making them newcomers to the October scene. They also have the 4th lowest payroll in baseball, the lowest of any team in the 2014 postseason. They have out-moneyballed Billy Beane and the A’s. I’m rooting for the Pirates because they feel like an underdog, but they are a fun underdog to watch. Andrew McCutchen is a human highlight reel, Josh Harrison is the Pirates’ version of Dustin Pedroia, and Edinson Volquez is on an 18-inning scoreless streak. And, while I’m a little bitter that Mark Melancon is pitching far better in Pittsburgh than he ever did in Boston, I’m willing to root for him too.

3. Oakland A’s

Speaking of ex-Red Sox, the A’s have become the West Coast Sox with all of their acquisitions in recent years: Josh Reddick, Jed Lowrie, Coco Crisp, Jonny Gomes, Brandon Moss, Nick Punto, and of course, Jon Lester. It would be brutal to watch Lester win a ring in a different uniform, but I can’t help but root for the guy—a class act and consummate competitor. Billy Beane went all in on this season, trading away the future for guys like Lester and Samardzija while fully aware that he has no shot at signing them long term. It’s too bad that either the A’s or the Royals will be playing golf after tonight, because the future is hazy for both fan bases.

4. San Francisco Giants

While the Giants don’t quite have the underdog feel of the previous three teams, there are plenty of reasons to jump on the San Fran bandwagon (or cable car). The Giants play in the 3rd best ballpark in the majors (behind Fenway and Wrigley). They have a dedicated fan base. Mad Dog Jake Peavy is a ton of fun to watch, especially in the playoffs. And, as with James Shields, the Sox will get a look at a potential offseason target, Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval (if they can lure him away from the Giants, which is unclear). Even though it’s 2,000 miles away from Boston, a Bay Area World Series would be great for baseball.

5. Washington Nationals

For those that appreciate the art of pitching, look no further. The Nats had three starters with ERAs under 3.00; Stephen Strasburg, the biggest name on the staff, was far from their best pitcher this year. They don’t have a superstar in the lineup, but Jayson Werth (aka the ghost of bearded Johnny Damon), Adam LaRoche, Anthony Rendon, and Ian Desmond all have some pop. Nationals’ fans aren’t the best, given that so many DC residents either are still Orioles fans or moved to DC with other allegiances. But for that loyal core of Expos fans that dutifully followed their team to DC, this year is for you.

6. Los Angeles Angels

If I determined this list purely based on underdog status, the Angels would be at the bottom. But they get bumped up a few spots because they are really fun to watch. Well, Mike Trout is, anyway. If McCutchen is a human highlight movie, Mike Trout is a series that never ends—he’s basically James Bond. Kole Calhoun is an underrated young star as well—Sox fans may remember his leaping robbery of a Brock Holt homerun at Fenway back in August. Plus, anyone who watched Angels in the Outfield as a kid should have a soft spot in his heart for the team that turned a young JGL’s life around.

7. Detroit Tigers

Eight years ago, the Tigers were this year’s version of the Royals or Pirates. Today, the Tigers are a perennial playoff team, so they have definitely run out of underdog and sympathy points. But if offense is your jam, then the Tigers are your team. Victor Martinez made Big Papi look like a slouch with his incredible offensive year at DH (.335, 32 homers, 103 RBIs). Miguel Cabrera had a “down year” and only hit .313. Pitching? They’ve got plenty of that too, in spite of Justin Verlander’s very mediocre year: Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, and David Price picked up the slack. But the Tigers may be most fun to watch because of what they don’t have: a reliable closer. You never know what could happen in a late inning game in Detroit this October.

8. Baltimore Orioles

There are a couple of clear reasons not to root for the Orioles. They’re an AL East team and Red Sox rival, and they’ve gotten a large portion of their offense from guys who have failed drug tests (Nelson Cruz last year and Chris Davis this year). But I’ll root for Andrew Miller, who hopefully will be back in a Sox uniform next year. And it would be great for the DC-Baltimore area to see the first Nationals-Orioles World Series. But overall, there are many better teams to root for this October.

9. Los Angeles Dodgers

With their insane spending in recent years, the Dodgers have become the new Yankees. That, along with the fact that they play in LA, is reason enough for Bostonians to root against them. Plus, after all of his bad-mouthing of Boston this year, no Sox fan wants to see Carl Crawford win a ring. But the Dodgers do have Yasiel Puig, a loose cannon that makes every game interesting. And Kershaw, who needs no explanation. An LA v. LA, Kershaw v. Trout World Series would be incredible for the sport. But there are still plenty of reasons to root against the Dodgers.

10. St. Louis Cardinals

If the Dodgers are the new Yankees in terms of spending, the Cardinals are the new Yankees in terms of annoying consistency. They’ve made the playoffs in five of the last six, and eleven of the last fifteen seasons, winning two rings. They don’t have the “wow” factor that the Dodgers do—just a lot of solid players named Matt. I respect the franchise and the fan base, but they don’t need any more love. It’s too hard to root for a team that the Sox have played in the World Series twice in the last 10 years.