<
>

Who you should root for in the AL wild-card race

Mike Trout and the Angels are currently a half game behind in the race for the AL's final wild-card spot. Richard W. Rodriguez/TNS via Getty Images

This American League wild-card race is more like a race to mediocrity than a race to the playoffs. Don’t know which team to root for? Here’s a quick guide, although it’s OK to admit you’re really rooting for the chaos of an eight-way tie.

Minnesota Twins: They haven’t made the playoffs since 2010 and haven’t won a playoff game since 2004, having been swept in three straight Division Series. ... Lost 103 games in 2016, most in the majors, so going from worst to the playoffs would be a similar story to 1991, when the Twins went from worst in the AL West to a World Series title. ... Watching Byron Buxton play center field is to dream of the impossible. ... They traded closer Brandon Kintzler at the trade deadline, so even management didn’t really believe in this team, and there’s nothing like the front office not believing in you to rally a team together. ... Before Miguel Sano landed on the disabled list, his performance was simultaneously awesome (on pace for 37 home runs) and frightening (228 strikeouts). ... Max Kepler is from Germany, so if the Twins make the World Series, that would help the World Series TV ratings in Germany! ... Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios would actually give the Twins a puncher’s chance in a short series if they advance past the wild-card game. ... They resisted trading Brian Dozier in the offseason. ... Bartolo Colon is on this team, and who doesn’t want to see the possibility of Bartolo Colon beating Clayton Kershaw to win Game 7 of the World Series?

Los Angeles Angels: Mike Trout. ... To appreciate the greatness of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, the MVP candidate nobody talks about as an MVP candidate. ... No, seriously, check his numbers. He’s second among AL position players in Baseball-Reference WAR and fourth in FanGraphs. Only Mookie Betts has more defensive runs saved (DRS), plus Simmons is having his best year at the plate. ... Mike Trout. ... OK, so he’s more Luis Pujols these days than Albert Pujols, but it still would be the chance to put an all-time great in the postseason spotlight again. ... The chance for an Angels-Dodgers World Series. ... Bud Norris, postseason closer? ... Given the state of the Angels' rotation, maybe manager Mike Scioscia actually starts a reliever in the wild-card game and goes all-bullpen for nine innings. ... Their top starter right now is JC Ramirez, a guy claimed off waivers last June from the CINCINNATI FREAKIN’ REDS, a team with historically awful rotations the past two seasons. The Reds didn’t want this guy! Now he could start a wild-card game. ... Their No. 2 starter is Parker Bridwell, a guy with a name that sounds like he should be tossing a Frisbee around the expansive front lawn of The Hotchkiss School, with his collar turned up while wearing his $325 sneakers from Burberry. He was acquired from the Orioles in April. The Orioles -- another team with major rotation woes -- didn’t want this guy! ... Mike Trout has 15 career postseason plate appearances and that makes everyone sad.

Seattle Mariners: They have the longest playoff drought in the majors, last appearing in 2001. ... Would have made the playoffs or tied for the wild card if there had been two wild cards in 2002, 2003 and 2007. ... Missed wild card by one win in 2014 and eliminated on final weekend in 2016. ... In other words: These fans deserve a playoff game. ... You know who else deserves one: Felix Hernandez. ... Assuming the Yankees are the first wild card, a healthy James Paxton probably gives the Mariners the best chance of beating the Yankees of all the starters on all of the wild-card contenders. So if you’re anti-Yankees, you should be rooting for Seattle. ... You can argue that no team has persevered more than the Mariners. Manager Scott Servais has used 16 different starting pitchers, and at the moment four-fifths of the projected opening rotation is on the DL. They’re surviving with what is really their third-string rotation. ... Nelson Cruz in October, he of the .669 career slugging percentage in 41 games playoff games. ... Who doesn’t want to see the Seager brothers squaring off in the World Series? ... Ben Gamel's hair. ... Because good outfield defense is fun to watch. ... FOR THE LOVE OF THE BASEBALL GODS, LET ME REPEAT: FELIX HERNANDEZ HAS NEVER PITCHED IN A POSTSEASON GAME. Imagine him starting a playoff game in Seattle, in front of the home fans, all decked out in their King Felix T-shirts. It makes me almost cry just thinking about it.

Texas Rangers: Despite all of their success since 2010, this franchise has never won a World Series. It’s time! ... More Adrian Beltre is always a good thing. ... They traded Yu Darvish to the Dodgers, which means the front office kind of gave up on the season, and yet here they are with a chance to make the postseason, so it would be a perfect finish to stick it to the boss and defeat Darvish to win Game 7 of the World Series. ... It could happen: Joey Gallo becomes the ultimate poster child of modern baseball when he goes for 12-for-70 in the postseason with 12 home runs and 58 strikeouts. ... Rangers versus Astros in the Division Series, thank you very much. ... Alex Claudio, the team’s new closer, throws 86 mph, which is awesome. ... Party at Napoli’s. ... Cole Hamels has allowed 16 runs in 16 2/3 innings in three winless postseason starts with the Rangers, so it would be an opportunity for redemption. ... Elvis Andrus might touch Beltre’s head in the middle of a victory celebration.

Kansas City Royals: Because when they were 7-16 at the end April everybody wrote them off and said they should trade all of their free agents. ... Melky Cabrera is hitting cleanup these days and nothing would sum up the AL wild-card race better than the winning team batting Melky Cabrera cleanup. ... #nedyostdevilmagic ... If they make it to their third World Series in four years and win, we get to debate whether the Royals should be considered a dynasty. ... Among qualified regulars, Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar rank 153rd and 154th out of 154 players in wOBA and yet here they are. ... Mike Moustakas is going to break Steve Balboni’s franchise record for home runs, and a Steve Balboni mention is always an awesome thing. ... The possibility of Jason Vargas winning Game 7 of the World Series after Escobar and Gordon homer off Clayton Kershaw. ... Ned Yost, Hall of Fame manager with two World Series wins?

Baltimore Orioles: The possibility that Buck Showalter once again doesn’t use Zach Britton in a wild-card game that goes extra innings. ... The possibility that Showalter does use Britton and he throws like three innings as the Orioles beat the Yankees. ... They’re 29th in the majors in rotation ERA and yet here they are, and that defies everything we think we know about baseball. ... Manny Machado has had a monster second half so far and it would be fun to see him carry the Orioles through October. ... They have the most wins in the American League since 2012, but nobody ever gives them any credit. ... Last World Series appearance: 1983. ... I’d love to see Adam Jones have a big postseason. ... Camden Yards deserves a World Series spotlight, and imagine all the crying from Red Sox and Yankees fans if that happens. ... Everyone will realize what a superb season Jonathan Schoop has put together. ... How about an Orioles-Nationals World Series in which the winning manager makes the Hall of Fame? ... Or Orioles-Dodgers with Britton, the left-handed reliever the Dodgers didn’t acquire, facing Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger with the season on the line.

Tampa Bay Rays: Because it would be hilarious if the Rays and their $70 million payroll beat the Dodgers and their $250 million -- with former Rays general manager Andrew Friedman at their helm -- in the World Series. ... Chris Archer's slider is that awesome. ... If they get everyone in the rotation healthy, they could actually make a serious run and pull off some upsets. ... Evan Longoria, a career .191 hitter in 30 postseason games, with a chance to redeem himself with a glorious postseason run. ... You know you’ve always wanted to see Logan Morrison in the playoffs. ... No playoff games will be rained out at Tropicana Field. ... Kevin Kiermaier in center field is always worth the price of admission.

Toronto Blue Jays: An entire nation roots for them! ... They also lead the AL in attendance and that support deserves to be rewarded. ... No World Series appearances since 1993. ... Two words: Justin Smoak. ... Two more words: Bat flips. ... Marcus Stroman is one of the most enjoyable starting pitchers to watch and he’s having a terrific season with a 2.99 ERA. ... Because they seemed doomed after that 1-9 start and 8-17 April when they looked horrible. ... They’re next to last in the AL in runs and are still in this race, and with guys like Smoak, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Kendrys Morales, the offense could get hot at the right time. ... With Stroman, Marco Estrada (better of late), J.A. Happ and a hopefully healthy Aaron Sanchez, the Jays actually have the best rotation of all these teams and thus the best chance to actually do damage in the playoffs.