Here is, for posterity, the ranking of the jokers before Tuesday’s action:
The only thing we know for sure at the moment is that a team from NL West will host the Wild Card Game. It will be either the Dodgers or the Giants. They have the two best records in baseball and are currently fighting for the NL West title. Whichever team does not win, the division will host the Wild Card Game. For now, the Giants are one game ahead of the Dodgers in Western NL.
Apart from that, wild card races remain wide open. There have been a few instances over the years where there really wasn’t much of a mystery, and the Wild Card Game was done for weeks. This is not the case this year. The races are still tight and should end in the last days of the season, otherwise the last day of the season.
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With that in mind, let’s rank the best possible Wild Card Game matches, some of which are obviously more likely than others. We’ll be basing these highly unscientific rankings on team quality, history, potential pitching match-up, and overall oversight. It’s year 9 of the Wild Card Game and we’ve seen a few stinks and a few thrillers. We’re all looking for the latter for the AL game on October 5th and the NL game on October 6th. Let’s move on to the classification.
1. Dodgers vs. Parents
The Padres have faded sharply in recent weeks, although they are not yet completely out of the race, and these two clubs have played some of the most exciting and energetic games we have seen all season. Combine that with the urgency of a win-win scenario and it’s must-see television. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, Mookie Betts and Trea Turner, Max Scherzer and, uh, I guess Yu Darvish? I’m not sure who would start in San Diego (if they’re even able to line up their rotation), but sign me up for Dodgers vs Padres in October. Now San Diego just needs to pull itself together.
2. The Red Sox vs. the Yankees
Nationwide Red Sox fatigue against the Yankees set in around 2006, so I understand why most of you are rolling your eyes. Ultimately, we can’t ignore the rivalry – sorry, The Rivalry ™ – and the fact that this game could give us a clash between Gerrit Cole and Chris Sale. With all due respect to all the other aces from other wild card teams, I don’t think it’s better than Cole against Sale. It would probably be a five hour game knowing these two teams, but it would be five hours of fun.
3. Cardinals vs. Dodgers
Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt have combined to hit around 600 home runs against the Dodgers over their careers (61, to be exact), so I imagine those two plus Adam Wainwright, 40, is the nightmare fuel for the Dodgers loyalists. These two teams have met three times in the playoffs since 2009 (the Dodgers won the 2009 NLDS, but the Cardinals won the 2013 NLCS and 2014 NLDS) and many main characters remain. Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw, Yadier Molina, Justin Turner, etc. It would be a blast from the Wild Card Game past.
4. Blue Jays contre Red Sox
Considering how long these teams have been division rivals, they have had very few “moments of rivalry”. The closest is likely Roger Clemens leaving Boston after former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette said he was in the ‘twilight’ of his career, then signed with Toronto, pulling 16 (and watching owner’s box) upon his return to Fenway Park, and winning back-to-back Cy Youngs. Either way, the Blue Jays are a lot of fun and the Red Sox can take on anyone in one game. Robbie Ray vs. Chris Sale would make a good baseball game.
5. Giants vs. Padres
The Padres and Giants faced off last week and they still have two regular season series left (including the final series of the year), so maybe fatigue will set in if this Wild Card Game was becoming a reality. I don’t think so though. The Giants are good and fun, the Padres are less good and fun, and make fun teams and you have a recipe for an exciting contest for the winner. My only concern is that this showdown could turn into two box games given the state of the San Diego and San Francisco pitching staff likely having to keep their feet on the gas to pursue an NL West title. Bullpen games are such a horror.
6. Blue Jays contre Yankees
A young Blue Jays team up against the hated Yankees? Hmmm, I wonder who non-Yankee fans would root for in this Wild Card Game. Toronto recently swept away a four-game streak at Yankee Stadium in which they failed to allow the Yankees to hold a single lead (the first time a team has done this since 1926), although in one game all could happen. Additionally, we’re looking at a possible pitcher Gerrit Cole vs. Robbie Ray match. Cy Young’s votes will already be there (they’re due ahead of the playoffs), though that makes for a fun tale.
7. Cardinals vs. Giants
Similar to the Cardinals game against the Dodgers, the Cardinals and Giants have a recent playoff history (San Francisco beat St. Louis in the 2012 NLCS and 2014 NLCS) and there are still so many leftovers from these teams. Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, Adam Wainwright, etc. This Wild Card Game would be like stepping into a time machine and going back seven years, when the starters completed six innings and failed to put a runner second in extra innings for some reason.
8. Cardinals against Reds
This NL Central rivalry has had a bit of everything in recent years. There has been gossip (“I hate the Cardinals. Let me be clear, I hate the Cardinals,” former Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said in 2010), extreme pettiness (the former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa left former Reds ace Johnny Cueto off the 2012 All-Star Game list), and a real ugliness (several bench clearing incidents). I don’t want any fights, but give me all the gossip and pettiness.
9. Blue Jays vs Mariners
Squint your eyes and you can see the Mariners as the next Blue Jays, this ascending team built around exciting young hitters. The Blue Jays have Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, then splurged for George Springer and Hyun-Jin Ryu. In theory, the Mariners are where the Blue Jays were in 2019, when Vlad Jr. and Bichette first arrived, and the team had yet to open their wallet. Will Seattle pass like Toronto now that Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert have been called up (and Julio Rodríguez isn’t too far away)? Not clear, but this match is a funny tale.
10. Athletics vs. Yankees
It would be a rematch for the 2018 Wild Card Game, which had the highest combined winning percentage in the relatively brief history of the Wild Card Game (the 100-62 Yankees beat the 97-65 As in that game). These teams also have a playoff history stretching far beyond 2018 (most notably Derek Jeter’s flip play), and they still seem to be playing games that are anything but normal. Recent A games against the Yankees tend to feature a lot of header changes and late-inning quirks.
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