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A Cubs fan guide to hate-watching the 2019 wild card and divisional series

The Cubs aren’t in, but you can still enjoy the postseason via schadenfreude

Yadi is having a bad night as Happ hits a home run and it’s going to get worse
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

So, 2019 didn’t work the way any of us wanted it to, but baseball is still the greatest game ever invented and it’s only on regularly for another month. If you’re like me you want to be able to enjoy that, but you’re torn because seeing the Cardinals or Brewers happy and still full of hope fills you with rage.

Well, I have a solution for you: the 2019 guide to hate-watching the playoffs. Below are my rankings by “hate score” from most to least hateable. I may update this for the Championship Series and World Series, honestly it depends on how much rage I still have in me as the playoffs continue.

1. N.L. Division Series - Braves vs. Cardinals

Nothing good can last and you knew the Cardinals were going to make it to the postseason again eventually, but the way they did it this year was particularly tinged with Devilbird Magic. It wasn’t just the improbable comebacks at Wrigley Field, but Tommy Edman is straight out of pre-2015 Cardinals casting. On Feb. 21 MLB published the top prospects for the St. Louis Cardinals, Edman is no where on this list. But of course, when Jedd Gyorko got injured in June the Cardinals could just reach into their farm system and pluck a guy who wasn’t even on the 40-man out of their system to slash .308/.357/.491.

Like I said, Devilbird Magic.

The good news is that Mike Shildt and this Cardinals team doesn’t seem to have fully figured out how to activate the evil that has long persisted in St. Louis. They failed to clinch the division until the final day, struggling to beat the Cubs backup roster in St. Louis. They had to throw their ace, Jack Flaherty in the final game of the season so he will not get the start in game one in Atlanta. What I’m saying is, the Braves have a chance to ward off evil for the rest of the league early and I would like to see them take advantage of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of the Braves either. The tomahawk chop is one of the worst chants in the modern game of baseball, and I’m still not really over Tyler Flowers getting in Willson Contreras’ face earlier this season. The Braves broadcast also has a tendency to take inappropriate swipes at players like this gem from Jeff Francoeur from the same incident:

Who should you cheer for? This is a classic hate watch situation. The Braves are terrible in a lot of ways but their every day terribleness can be dealt with in a later series. It’s imperative that they put a stop to the resurgent Devilbird’s Magic in St. Louis in the NLDS before it takes on a life of its own like 2006 or 2011.

2. N.L. Wild Card - Nationals vs. Brewers

I’ve never wanted anything more than the Nationals to Fly the Curly W (yes, it’s apparently a real thing) against the Brewers. I’ll be more than happy to celebrate this tongue in cheek way they troll the Cubs when they beat them if they will only eliminate the Brewers from the postseason. It’s not that I like the Nationals or anything so much as they are just fine and I cannot deal with the Brewers celebrating again. Besides, there is a Cubs connection here, Davey Martinez could win a postseason game and that would make me happy. I also genuinely enjoy watching Max Scherzer do incredible things on the mound, and who doesn’t love a guy like Juan Soto that has them re-make his bobblehead because it wasn’t smiling?

Additionally, I am more than over the Brewers. It’s ridiculous that they are going to send Brandon Woodruff to the mound against Max Scherzer in a one game playoff and it might work. That only works because they employ Josh Hader, and I will never be able to unsee his tweets or the standing ovation Milwaukee gave him in response to them. Then again, this is the only city that still cheers for Ryan Braun.

It’s also obnoxious that they keep trying to edge their way into “rivalry” status with the Cubs and the Cardinals in a division they basically arrived in yesterday. It’s annoying that they can’t fill their stadium so they keep coming up with gimmicks to give free tickets away or keep people with Illinois addresses out.

Who should you cheer for? This is easy, cheer for the Nationals. Not only has the franchise never won a World Series (dating back to their days as the Montreal Expos) they’ve never even won a league pennant. Plus if the Nationals win you don’t have to watch a city cheer for Hader or Braun again until 2020.

3. N.L. Division Series: Dodgers vs. Wild Card winner

This game is only higher than the Yankees game because it is possible that the Dodgers will be playing the Brewers. If the Dodgers are playing the Nationals, this game is basically a tie with the Astros vs. Wild Card winner. I’ve already covered the Nationals and Brewers, but let me explain why I just cannot really hate the Dodgers all that much.

Is it sort of annoying that the Dodgers built a machine that keeps winning the National League year in and year out? I guess so. Is it a little annoying that while the other teams in the NL Central decided to try and be better and win the Dodgers got to deal with a much weaker division in back to back years? Sure. But at the end of the day they haven’t actually won. The Dodgers have that 1990’s Braves thing going on where they definitely should have won a World Series by now and they just can’t put it together. I almost want to cheer for them to just get it over with. It seems weird that Clayton Kershaw doesn’t have a ring.

They just aren’t in the same category of hate as the Yankees, or even the Astros. But they also are far from a feel good story.

Who should you cheer for? This is conditional on the Wild Card game. If the Nationals are in this series I have to cheer for Davey Martinez and his guys, but if the Brewers are in this series, well what can I say other than “it is I, temporary, life-long Dodgers fan reporting for duty.”

4. A.L. Division Series: Yankees vs. Twins

If we were in any division except the NL Central this would be the game to unleash all of the hate. The Yankees are, after all, the original team all non-Yankees fans love to hate. But we are NL Central fans, so Yankees match ups currently come in at third on the most hateable list, and that will not change until and unless they are playing the Cardinals or the Brewers. (Aside - Dear Lord, please don’t let the World Series be the Yankees v. the Cardinals or the Brewers. Multiple cities might collapse from the mass of hate their baseball fans feel at that moment).

There are a slew of reasons to not like the Yankees. On the important side of things they employ, not one but two, players who have dealt with/are dealing with domestic violence suspensions. And while Domingo Germán will not pitch in the postseason, I still have a lot of questions about how the Yankees handled that situation. On the substantially less serious, but still hateable side of things they got Giancarlo Stanton for almost nothing. They were shattering home run records long before the ball changed because they designed their ball park with a ridiculously short porch in right field. The only good things about the Yankees are Gleyber Torres and this video of Aaron Boone getting ejected for knowing the strike zone:

The Twins, on the other hand, are nothing but likable. They were never supposed to be here. The AL Central is supposed to be the Indians’ division, and yet, here they are. They didn’t limp into the postseason, either. The Twins won 101 games with a run differential of 185. And while this stat really doesn’t mean anything predictive, I take a lot of joy in the fact that the 2019 Minnesota Twins are now the all-time home run leaders for a season with 307 and a ballpark with normal dimensions.

Who should you cheer for? The Twins. The Yankees are on the verge of another evil empire and I, for one, would like to nip that in the bud as quickly as possible.

5. A.L. Division Series: Astros vs. Wild Card winner

The AL Wild Card game is the least hateable match up in the entire post season as you’ll see in a moment, and really the only thing hateable about the Astros are Roberto Osuna who they signed in 2017 despite him being suspended for domestic violence at the time and the amount of winning they’ve done lately. In some ways this team is like the Cubs, a lot of guys who are great with one truly problematic figure in their midst. I mean, who doesn’t love Jose Altuve? Even Alex Bregman, who tries to lean into his troll side a bit generally uses those powers to fight off people like Trevor Bauer, so it’s hard to hate this team. So this ALDS match up is one where you should probably cheer for the As or the Rays on principle but there isn’t a lot of hate in this part of the bracket.

Who should you cheer for? Whichever team wins the Wild Card. It’s not that the Astros are the worst (far from it as you can see above) but the As and Rays are so much better.

6. A.L. Wild Card: Athletics vs. Rays

There is very little to hate here. The Oakland Athletics continue to be the team that excels on a shoestring budget, hopes and dreams. The Sean Manaea comeback story is incredible. And I like a bunch of these guys. Matt Chapman hits bombs, and that’s fun. Marcus Semien is one of the best defensive short stops in the game. I even like Stephen Piscotty now and am genuinely happy he didn’t succumb to the Cardinals Devilbird Magic “can only play in St. Louis” curse so many have suffered from.

Also, how do you dislike a Tampa Bay Rays team that does this to celebrate?

The answer? You don’t. You cheer for them to have something to celebrate again.

The Rays also have a bunch of guys I like a lot more now that they aren’t Cardinals and Pirates. Players like Austin Meadows, Tommy Pham (who left St. Louis in such a blaze of glory that he may hate the Cardinals more than you do) and pitcher Tyler Glasnow. What I’m saying is, this is a great group of guys before you get into the dancing.

Who should you cheer for? Honestly, I would love to see either of these teams take on the Astros. Just cheer for great baseball. This is the least hateable game of the first two rounds, by a lot.