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Baseball is just around the corner, and while the league tries to figure out how to make the games somehow less unbearably long, fans around the nation eagerly await the first pitch of the season. Of course by May about half of you will find yourself rooting for a team with no real shot at the playoffs, so it’s always good to have some backup teams to root for.
Here are the five clubs we think will be the most fun to watch this year.
The Nationals are the most talented team to break your heart every year in the playoffs. They’re absolutely stacked.
Their 1-2 punch of reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are terrifyingly dominant when healthy, and they managed to compliment generational talent Bryce Harper with Daniel Murphy’s decision to become an unstoppable batting machine last season. Add Trea Turner, the Rookie of the Year runner up last season, and you’ve got a team brimming with young, exciting talent.
And with Harper’s rookie deal ending in 2018, there’s a sense of urgency to this Nationals team. These next two seasons are going to be filled with a real sense of “it’s now or never” for this team, which will lead to either an exciting playoff run, or a brutally short one. Either way, this is a team to keep an eye on.
The Astros were a bit of a let down last year after 2015’s surprising campaign, but we expect them to bounce back in a big way in 2017.
They’ve taken their young core, including Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, who are both capable of dizzying stats, and picked up Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran. Yes, Beltran is 39 years old, but guess what? That’s just more exciting. Look at the career of Bartolo Colon and tell us that watching an old vet with monster career stats absolutely crush it against the young guns isn’t fun as hell. Beltran knocked 29 dingers last year, so even if he slows down a bit, still expect his year to be interesting at the very least.
Will the Astros make the jump and see themselves in a deep playoff run, or will things fall apart like last season? We can’t say for sure, but we know it’ll be exciting as hell to watch whatever happens.
Boston Red Sox
While we’re all going to miss David Ortiz, the fact of the matter is that the Red Sox can hit. They were the most potent offensive threat last season, and while they may have lost a loveable slugger in Big Papi’s retirement, adding Chris Sale to a roster that includes David Price and Rick Porcello, the 2016 Cy Young winner, should more than make up for it.
Plus, the Red Sox always give you the outside chance of something truly insane happening.
Remember the whole chicken and beer fiasco? Well, they just put Chris Sale into that clubhouse, one of the best arms in the sport who also once threw a tantrum and cut up all his teammates’ jerseys with a pair of scissors. They’ll be exciting to watch if they play to their potential, and if things go wrong, get the popcorn ready.
New York Mets
The Mets battled through some pretty insane injuries last season to still make it to the Wild Card game, but they have the talent, especially on the mound, to go deep in the playoffs. While we’re sad to see Bartolo Colon go, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are all formidable when healthy. Then there’s Yoenis Cespedes, who got himself paid this year.
It’s not often that the Mets consistently field a more engaging, and more successful, team than their crosstown rivals, so when you have a core this strong, with the Yankees hovering around .500 as they try to rebuild, you should relish it while it lasts.
Listen, we get it. After the Cubs defeated the most infamous curse in American sporting history, you’re probably sick of hearing about them. They got so much press from ESPN last season it felt like they were based in Boston.
But as the Cubs go for their World Series repeat, the narrative might be less exciting now that the 108 year streak is down to a measly “0” but the players still provide some of the most fun in baseball. From the bro shenanigans of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to Joe Maddon’s wacky themed road trips, this team is one of the youngest and most talented clubs in the league right now. And that will include a whole year of Kyle Schwarber, who does things like this and this. And who also made this video (seriously, watch it, it’ll make your day).
The Cubs are currently the favorites to win the World Series, but we know that it’s still more likely than not they’ll fall short. There’s no way to predict. But what we can predict, with relative certainty, is that they’ll be a blast to follow all season long.