Barring a miracle, we know the five playoff teams in the American League. We basically know nothing in the National League, except the Braves are getting pretty close to a sure thing in the NL East. We have drama every night in those tense NL races, but I have to admit, I'm already dreaming of potential World Series matchups ...
The We Definitely Don't Want to See These Matchups
Cardinals vs. Red Sox: I don't think I need to explain this one. For starters, they just played in 2013. And I just realized this: The Cardinals could finish in third place and win the World Series. We've had wild-card teams win, but never a third-place wild-card team. A third-place team with 90 wins or so beating a team with 109 wins would feel like an anticlimactic ending to the season. That means this is now probably inevitable. Congratulations on your World Series title, Cardinals fans. The only way I'd be OK with this is if Harrison Bader wins World Series MVP honors.
Braves vs. Yankees: You know, the Braves have lost seven consecutive playoff series, plus a wild-card game, going back to 2001. It's not that I'm against them reaching the World Series. They've been a pleasant surprise, they have exciting young talent, they deserve to win the NL East. I just don't want to see them playing the Yankees. We've seen the Jim Leyritz highlight enough in our lifetimes.
Dodgers vs. Astros: Hey, maybe you thought it was awesome that the Cavs and Warriors played in four straight NBA Finals. I love the idea of the Astros trying to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since the Yankees won three straight from 1998 to 2000, I'm just not sure I want a rematch here unless the baseball gods guarantee the Clayton Kershaw-Justin Verlander duel that we didn't get last year.
The If You Like to See Baseball in Snow Matchup
Rockies vs. Red Sox: The World Series starts Oct. 23 with a potential Game 7 on Oct. 31. According to AccuWeather, the historical average temperature for Denver on Oct. 26 is a high of 64 and a low of 34, which wouldn't be so bad if they still played World Series games in the day. They don't. Boston isn't much better, with highs in the upper 50s and lows in the low 40s. Bring your parka if we get this matchup (not to mention it's a rematch of the 2007 World Series, one of the least memorable in recent history).
The They Haven't Won in a Long Time Matchup
Brewers vs. Indians: It's hard to believe it has been 36 years since Robin Yount and Paul Molitor led the 1982 Brewers to their only World Series appearance, when they lost to the Cardinals in seven games. I used to imitate Cecil Cooper's batting stance playing Wiffle ball in the backyard. This is the franchise's 49th season in Milwaukee, but Cleveland has actually gone even longer without a World Series title. The Milwaukee Braves won it all in 1957, but Cleveland hasn't won since 1948.
Along the way, the Indians suffered two of the most painful defeats in World Series history, the 1997 Game 7 to the Marlins and the 2016 loss to the Cubs. Would that make them the team to root for in this showdown? Maybe. It always felt unfair in 2016 that everyone outside of Cleveland acted like Cubs fans deserved the title that year, ignoring the drought of Indians fans. But I might lean to the Brewers if we get this matchup, in part because the Indians have taken advantage of a crappy AL Central. The Brewers, meanwhile, have played in a tougher division, draw more fans and have an outstanding selection of bratwursts and sausages ... although Cleveland's stadium mustard almost makes up for what the meat product itself may be lacking.
The Some World Series Rematches Are Better Than Others Matchups
Diamondbacks vs. Yankees: It would be pretty ridiculous if Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge hit game-winning home runs off Brad Boxberger, only to see the Diamondbacks win when Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray go all Johnson and Schilling and Aroldis Chapman loses Game 7 on a little blooper by Paul Goldschmidt. I love you, Yankees fans!
Cubs vs. Indians: Joe Maddon squaring off against Terry Francona. Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber trying to hit Carlos Carrasco's slider. Jose Ramirez battling Jon Lester and Cole Hamels. Josh Donaldson heating up at the right time. Rajai Davis stepping up and doing something impossible. The risk with this matchup: None of us could take the Cubs beating the Indians again. Well, except Cubs fans. They'd be happy. Too happy. Does one fan base deserve so much happiness over another?
Dodgers vs. A's: In 1988, the Dodgers pulled off one of the biggest upsets in World Series history when they beat the Bash Brothers A's behind Orel Hershiser's brilliance. Imagine if these A's ... with a rotation made from duct tape and screws ... with a payroll equal to what the Dodgers spend on front-office executives ... with the big trade deadline acquisition of Mike Fiers while the Dodgers picked up Manny Machado ... imagine if that team beats the Dodgers. (This, of course, ignores that the A's are going to win more games and may actually be the better team. That bullpen is insane. Don't ruin my storyline! The A's are David, the Dodgers are Goliath and you can't convince me otherwise.)
The Five Best World Series Matchups
Cubs vs. Red Sox: Sure, this would have had more drama and angst in 2003, but even though both teams have ended their curses, a World Series that takes place at only Wrigley Field and Fenway Park would be pretty cool. When the Red Sox beat the Cubs in the 1918 World Series -- Babe Ruth won both his starts -- the games in Chicago were played at Comiskey Park instead of Wrigley. One thing though: Please, no "Wrigley Field is better than Fenway Park" stories or vice versa. Wrigley is great! Fenway is great! We don't need to turn this into something.
Braves vs. Indians: OK, this isn't the World Series showdown with the most politically correct team nicknames, but I love the idea of a rematch of the 1995 World Series, when the pitching-rich Braves shut down one of the best lineups of all time (the Indians hit .179 in the series). This one would feature rookie phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. on the big stage and Freddie Freeman trying to solve Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer and Mike Foltynewicz trying to blow fastballs past Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion. Sign me up.
Brewers vs. A's: OK, this may be the first World Series in history when no starting pitcher lasts more than three innings, but these are good teams with exciting players like Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain and Khris Davis and Chapman. The A's would have to run an impossible gauntlet to get here by beating the Yankees in the wild-card game (most likely, although they could still win the West), the Red Sox in the Division Series and the Astros or Indians in the ALCS, but that would make their story even more dramatic. Maybe this is the Billy Beane team that finally makes the deep run in the playoffs. And if you're sick of Cubs hype, then you can root for their neighbors to the north. Plus, Sal Bando and Rollie Fingers can throw out first pitches for both teams!
Dodgers vs. Yankees: I know, two big-market teams with fat payrolls. But it's the Dodgers and Yankees! Enough said. Sure, the Dodgers have been kind of annoying with their whole "we don't need to do anything" approach in the offseason -- and then receiving surprise seasons from Max Muncy and Matt Kemp, and then trading for Machado, and since that wasn't enough also adding Brian Dozier and David Freese, and yet they still might not make the playoffs. But if they do, imagine this scenario: Game 7 at Yankee Stadium, Clayton Kershaw starting for the Dodgers ...
Cubs vs. Astros: I know, the past two World Series winners. I'm not going to apologize for wanting this matchup. Both teams are fun, exciting and full of stars. You wouldn't want to watch Javier Baez and Jose Altuve and Anthony Rizzo and Alex Bregman? Lester and Verlander trying to prove themselves as October legends and help their Hall of Fame cases? The Cubs won 103 games and a championship in 2016. The Astros won 101 games and a title last year and could win 100 games again. This matchup could help settle the question of which team becomes the top dynasty of the late 2010s, but I also think it's a matchup of the best team in the AL (sorry, Red Sox) and the best team in the NL.
P.S.: I reserve the right to change all opinions before the playoffs start and even change rooting interests on a game-by-game basis.