If your team is fighting for a playoff spot, you're either sweating nervously with every pitch or, if you're a Royals fan, simply counting down the days until the playoffs begin. For those of us whose teams have long since seen their playoff aspirations crushed like a first-grader stepping on an ant, we're left thinking of what World Series matchup we'd like to see.
I'm going to list five World Series I'd like to see, choosing from teams currently in the playoff hunt. But to make this a little more fun, you can only pick a team once. No Cubs versus Royals, Cubs versus Blue Jays, Cubs versus Yankees and so on. Too easy. You have to work at this. So let's give it a shot.
Matchups I do NOT want to see
Cubs vs. Yankees: On paper, this is glamorous: the franchise with the most World Series titles facing the one that hasn't been in a World Series since 1945 or won it since 1908. But that's the problem: It's kind of the baseball apocalypse. It would be great fun if the Cubs won, but what if the Yankees won? Good god, the entire country except Yankees fans would be sent into a months-long depression. So, no, can't have this one, even if there are now kids in the Bronx starting kindergarten who have never seen their beloved Yankees play in a World Series.
Cardinals vs. Royals: At first glance, this seems pretty interesting. They've been the best teams in their leagues all season and would be deserving opponents. An intrastate showdown. A rematch of the great 1985 World Series. But as you dig deeper: We'd all get sick of the Don Denkinger highlights; both teams have been to the World Series recently; and the Best Fans in Baseball versus this new breed of Royals fans who, um, tried to vote Omar Infante onto the All-Star team. That might be a little too much to take.
Cardinals vs. Yankees: I don't think I need to explain this one. Let's avoid this just so I don't have to listen to my friend KJ complaining about it.
Giants vs. anyone: Nothing personal here, Giants fans, but three titles in five years? Give another team a chance!
Dodgers vs. Yankees: Hmm. Intriguing, right? This would be a great old-school matchup, of course, and for those of us who came of age in the 1970s, a fun reminder of those 1977, 1978 and 1981 World Series (not to mention all the Brooklyn-New York showdowns in the 1940s and '50s). But it would also feel too much like the all-bought World Series, with the Dodgers' payroll approaching $300 million and the Yankees well above $200 million. Plus: Thinking of all the Don Mattingly-facing-his-former-team stories already gives me a rash.
Mets vs. Astros: I like this one, a rematch of the classic 1986 NLCS, and in this case, all the replays of Mike Scott and Lenny Dysktra and Billy Hatcher and Jesse Orosco would be awesome. But I'm not sure I like the actual on-field battle: Every game might end up 2-1, considering the starting rotations of the two clubs.
OK, let's get to my list. As you might have guessed, I'd like to see teams that haven't won a World Series in a long time and avoid matchups we've seen recently (such as Giants-Royals or Cardinals-Rangers). Let other fans enjoy a championship. But I also want to see a good battle between good teams. And remember the rules: You can't duplicate teams in your five choices.
Top five World Series matchups
5. Nationals vs. Orioles: This one is now looking like it has no chance of happening, given that the Mets are pulling away from the Nationals and the recent slide of the Orioles. But the Nationals/Expos franchise has never been to a World Series, and the Orioles haven't been there since 1983. And, no, we can't have too much Bryce Harper or too much Manny Machado. And who wouldn't love to see Matt Williams trying to match wits with Buck Showalter?
4. Dodgers vs. Angels. Another one that would be fun in part because it pits teams in close proximity to each other. Maybe it's hard to root for the Dodgers because of that payroll, but it's not hard to root for Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. I'd love to see Kershaw go on an epic postseason run like Madison Bumgarner, silencing all the critics who say he can't win the big one. And those Kershaw-Mike Trout battles would be awesome. Plus we'd get the possibility of Yasiel Puig hitting a World Series-winning home run that would hopefully lead to the bat flip of all bat flips.
3. Mets vs. Blue Jays. It's been 22 years since the Blue Jays won and 29 years since the Mets have won, so that alone makes this an intriguing matchup. But the most alluring aspect would be watching Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard face off against that powerful Toronto lineup.
2. Cubs vs. Astros. How come I don't have the Cubs in the top spot? Because they're probably going to appear in many World Series over the next five to 10 years. There's a potential dynasty brewing in Wrigleyville. But it's a year too early! Other teams have been building or have been competitive for several years, and the Cubs are just going to go from nobodies to the World Series overnight? Doesn't seem fair. (Wait: I hear Cubs fans now: "We've been building for 107 years!" OK, good point.)
1. Pirates vs. Royals. The executives at Fox might not want this battle of small-market teams, but I'd love this World Series. First, think of the two decades of awful baseball that fans of these teams had to sit through. Awful, unwatchable, embarrassing baseball. From 1995 to 2012, the two franchises combined for one winning season. They were laughingstocks. Now they're symbols of how to win when you don't have $300 million to spend on payroll. They're two of the best three teams in baseball, and I like to see the best teams in the regular season reach the World Series. They're fun teams to watch, led by underrated MVP candidates Andrew McCutchen and Lorenzo Cain. The entire country would get to see Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto show their stuff. The bullpens are nasty. And, of course, it's been forever since either team won it all: the Royals in 1985, the Pirates in 1979.
Well ... yes, not as forever as the Cubs.