Jump on the Bandwagon of These 6 MLB Teams Right NowApril 18, 2022
Jump on the Bandwagon of These 6 MLB Teams Right Now
- Cannot be one of the five most recent World Series champions. (Adios, Astros, Braves, Dodgers, Nationals and Red Sox.)
- Cannot be the evil empire, unless you live in NYC. (Adios, Yankees.)
- And from the remaining options, the team must be fun to watch and preferably a viable candidate to reach the postseason. (Let's discuss.)
A 162-game MLB season is an awfully long time to exclusively root for one team going nowhere fast, especially if that franchise has missed the playoffs in five, 10 or even 20 consecutive years. (Please be kind to all the Seattle Mariners fans in your lives.)
If you're a fan in such a situation and you want a "backup" team for 2022, or if you're a brand-new fan of Major League Baseball looking for a favorite team to adopt—first of all, welcome to the party!—we're going to help you pick your bandwagon squad.
There are three basic rules when choosing your bandwagon team:
There's also an unspoken rule that your bandwagon team absolutely cannot play in the same division as your primary rooting interest, nor can it be a team that eliminated your primary rooting interest from the postseason at any point in the past decade. However, we cannot exactly account for that for each reader, so you'll have to figure out which of these teams are options to become your secondary club.
We'll be identifying the top bandwagon option from each of the six divisions, so up to five of the six could appeal/apply to you. And we'll even provide you with a crash course on players both past and present worth knowing in case anyone tries to challenge you on your newfound fandom.
AL East Bandwagon Team: Toronto Blue Jays
Bird's-Eye View: Toronto's bandwagon is already pretty full from the past two years, but the Blue Jays are still a young, entertaining team that hasn't been to a World Series in nearly three decades.
Batting Need to Knows: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (aka Vladdy or Vladito) is your dude. The now-23-year-old slugging first baseman took the world by storm in the 2019 Home Run Derby and already had a three-HR game just a few days ago against the loathed Yankees. But this lineup is stacked with Bo Bichette at shortstop, Matt Chapman at third base and arguably the best outfield in the league in George Springer, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez. If you dig the long ball, you'll dig the Blue Jays.
Pitching Need to Knows: Between young phenom Alek Manoah and how much the Blue Jays are paying Kevin Gausman, Hyun Jin Ryu, Yusei Kikuchi and Jose Berrios—a combined $67.7 million in 2022 alone—this should be one of the best rotations in baseball. But for some cursed reason, "Toronto" and "top rotation" haven't gone hand-in-hand since 2008, so we'll see how it pans out. Furthermore, Jordan Romano is one of the best and most underappreciated closers in the league.
Historical Names to Know: Joe Carter hit the unforgettable, 1993 World Series-ending home run and will forever live in Toronto lore. George Bell won the AL MVP in 1987. More recent names worth getting familiar with include Roy Halladay, Carlos Delgado, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and, for a brief two-season stay that produced two AL Cy Young Awards, Roger Clemens.
When Repping Your New Merch: Save for the occasional Red Sox or Yankees fan, no one is going to look at you cross or put your fandom to the test. It is inevitable, however, that you will be asked if you're from Canada.
AL Central Bandwagon Team: Cleveland Guardians
Bird's-Eye View: Cleveland painstakingly blew a 3-1 series lead in the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs but otherwise has not won a single postseason series since 2007. The last World Series title came in 1948. And yet, the Guardians are easily the most entertaining of the five franchises spending the fewest dollars on payroll this season.
Batting Need to Knows: Only one player on the roster is making more than $6 million in 2022, and that player (Jose Ramirez) just signed a five-year, $124 million extension through 2028 earlier this month. Ramirez is a three-time All-Star who has finished top six in the AL MVP vote in four of the past five seasons. But this lineup is absolutely loaded with guys 27 years old or younger who are on the path to stardom, including slugger Franmil Reyes, speedster Myles Straw and AL Rookie of the Year candidate Steven Kwan.
Pitching Need to Knows: 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber is the undisputed ace of the staff, though Cal Quantrill was surprisingly effective with a 2.79 ERA over his final 20 starts in 2021. He could be a breakout star. And once James Karinchak returns from the 10-day IL, he and Emmanuel Clase give the Guardians quite the one-two punch at the back of the bullpen.
Historical Names to Know: Cleveland had a nice run in the 1990s with the likes of Omar Vizquel, Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez leading the way. Cleveland has also produced AL Cy Young winners CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Corey Kluber in the past 15 years. Grady Sizemore will forever be a fan favorite, too. But it's mostly ancient history here with Hall of Famers Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Bob Feller and Lou Boudreau among the all-time greats.
When Repping Your New Merch: Unfortunately, you are now expected to be an expert on why they chose Guardians as the new team name. (Here's a Sports Illustrated article with a quick explainer.) Hopefully you won't be subjected to too many angry "political" discussions at your local drinkery about said name change.
AL West Bandwagon Team: Los Angeles Angels
Bird's-Eye View: On the one hand, the Los Angeles Angels have the highest payroll in the AL West, more than triple that of the Oakland A's. On the other hand, they haven't made the postseason since 2014, haven't won a single postseason game since 2009 and sure do have a Lakers/Clippers sort of dynamic with the Dodgers in the city of angels. Since the Cubs can no longer be considered MLB's "lovable losers," one could argue the Angels have ascended to that throne.
Batting Need to Knows: The Big Three are Mike Trout (nine-time All-Star, three-time AL MVP and pretty much inarguably the best player of the past decade), Shohei Ohtani (the 2021 AL MVP who clubbed 46 home runs at the dish and struck out 156 batters on the mound) and Anthony Rendon (who signed a seven-year, $245 million contract three years ago and has yet to return many dividends). But don't you dare forget about Jared Walsh, either, who had a 162-game pace of 35 home runs and 114 runs batted in over the past two seasons. Suffice it to say, this team has hitters.
Pitching Need to Knows: Well, there's Ohtani again. There's also Noah "Thor" Syndergaard, who the Halos picked up on a one-year, $21 million deal this past offseason. And the bullpen trio of Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera and Raisel Iglesias is better than most. However, whether this team legitimately competes for the postseason largely depends on how the rest of the staff fares.
Historical Names to Know: Nolan Ryan won 138 games and struck out 2,416 batters during his eight-season stay with the Angels. Vladimir Guerrero won AL MVP in 2004. So did Don Baylor in 1979. But when I think Angels, I think Troy Glaus, Garret Anderson, Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad and David Eckstein. Those guys and Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez were the heart and soul of the 2002 World Series champs. (The rally monkey, too, of course.)
When Repping Your New Merch: For the most part, no one's really going to say anything to you. But those who do are most likely just going to want to talk to you about Ohtani, and for good reason.
NL East Bandwagon Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Bird's-Eye View: Did you know that Philadelphia currently holds the second-longest postseason drought in MLB? The Phillies had a good run while Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Co. were in or just past their prime, but they held onto that nucleus for too long and have been unable to make the playoffs since 2011. But it's a talented team that is paying a whole lot of money (over $230 million) in order to not only end that postseason drought but also hopefully win it all.
Batting Need to Knows: Who do the Phillies have? That's a clown question, bro. Bryce Harper was voted NL MVP in both 2015 and 2021 and is the most noteworthy of their six batters making eight figures in 2022. There's also star catcher JT Realmuto, middle infielders Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius and offseason acquisitions Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber. If the Dodgers don't lead the NL in home runs this season, it's probably because the Phillies mash their way to first place.
Pitching Need to Knows: They've got two bona fide aces in Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, plus Ranger Suarez coming off a 2021 campaign in which he threw 106 innings with a 1.36 ERA. And much to the delight of fans in Philadelphia, the bullpen looks nothing like it did last year. They paid a pretty penny to bring in Corey Knebel, Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand in hopes of not blowing so many darn eighth- and ninth-inning leads for a change.
Historical Names to Know: The four big ones in the Hall of Fame are Richie Ashburn, Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts and Mike Schmidt. But among guys who have played in the past three decades, Utley, Jimmy "J-Roll" Rollins and Shane "The Flyin' Hawaiian" Victorino rank among the biggest fan favorites. Darren Daulton, too, for the slightly older crowd.
When Repping Your New Merch: When around fans of other teams, people will assume you're a loose cannon with "throwing batteries" in your pocket. But around other Philadelphia fans, you might be required to participate in an E-A-G-L-E-S chant, lest you out yourself as a fraudulent member of the cheesesteak fraternity.
NL Central Bandwagon Team: Chicago Cubs
Bird's-Eye View: The Cubs won it all in 2016, but the only players left on the roster from that curse-breaking bunch are Kyle Hendricks, Jason Heyward and Willson Contreras. They missed the playoffs in both 2019 and 2021 and were eliminated in the wild-card game in both 2018 and 2020. Enough time has passed and the team has regressed enough that you're not exactly jumping onto any coattails here.
Batting Need to Knows: It's the Seiya Suzuki Show in Chi-Town. After six years of dominating in Nippon Professional Baseball, the Cubs signed who they hoped might be the second coming of Ichiro Suzuki. So far so good, as Seiya has taken the U.S. by storm. Elsewhere in the lineup, Ian Happ has hit double-digit home runs in each of the past five seasons, and both Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom received a few votes in last year's NL Rookie of the Year race.
Pitching Need to Knows: Hendricks is only 32, but he feels like the old-timer of the bunch, now in his ninth season with the Cubs. They brought in Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley and Drew Smyly this offseason to surround Hendricks with some fellow veteran talent. They also picked up an established closer in David Robertson, so there's a shocking amount of experience on the pitching staff for a team that traded away seemingly everyone it possibly could last July.
Historical Names to Know: No shortage of Hall of Famers here, ranging from Cap Anson and Mordecai Brown from over a century ago to the more recent Ernie Banks, Ryne Sandberg, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins. Greg Maddux also got his start in Chicago, though most remember him with Atlanta. There's also Slammin' Sammy Sosa, who should be in the Hall of Fame. And, finally, the pitcher who made hitting home runs cool before Shohei Ohtani did: Carlos Zambrano.
When Repping Your New Merch: There might be people who challenge you on whether you're a true Cubs fan, refined by the decades of pain and suffering prior to 2016. But who cares? Let them be miserable while you enjoy those Seiya Suzuki highlights. Just make sure you respect your elders who did soldier through the dark years.
NL West Bandwagon Team: Colorado Rockies
Bird's-Eye View: The Rockies have never won the World Series, only made it past the NLDS once (in 2007) and weren't expected to do much of anything this season after running both Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story out of town in recent years. Yet, as of Sunday morning, they were tied with the White Sox, Dodgers and Giants for the best record in the majors. If that's not a bandwagon candidate, what is?
Batting Need to Knows: He has yet to homer in his new threads, but Kris Bryant was the big offseason acquisition in Colorado. Signing him to a seven-year, $182 million deal was the first sign in a long time that the Rockies want to be more than the fourth-best team in the NL West. They also added Randal Grichuk on a five-year, $52 million contract. And second-year Rocky C.J. Cron has already crushed five home runs this season.
Pitching Need to Knows: Pitching in Colorado has been a decades-long struggle, but German Marquez has given this franchise a ton of solid starts over the past five-plus seasons. Each of the five members of the current starting rotation has a career ERA in the 4.15-4.85 range, so hanging onto the best record in the majors is going to be quite the adventure. But, hey, sometimes bandwagon rides are a little bumpy. Strap yourselves in.
Historical Names to Know: There's only 30 years of franchise history here, most of which was of the sub-.500 variety. But if you're going to root for the Rockies, you better at least know about five-time All-Star Todd Helton and 1997 NL MVP Larry Walker. Troy Tulowitzki is also a memorable name, albeit an oft-injured one. As far as pitching is concerned, Ubaldo Jimenez had a decent run?
When Repping Your New Merch: You're probably going to get some double takes, because outside the state of Colorado and with the exception of when the Rockies are the visiting team at a nearby ballpark, I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone just out in the wild in Rockies attire. Throw on a Bryant jersey the next time you go to a barbecue and you might be deemed the most interesting person in that backyard—and not just because of the bold purple and black fashion choice.