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A Cubs fan’s guide to the MLB Wild Card Series

There are lots of things to cheer for in this playoff picture

Kyle Schwarber celebrates after the Phillies clinched their first playoff berth since 2011
Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images

Obviously it’s less than ideal that it’s been two years since the Cubs were last in the playoffs, but many of us who love baseball will still be watching the games and our fandom will inform who we cheer for in those contests. This year the bracket is set and full of intriguing match-ups that feature rivals, former beloved players and more. So, as I’ve done in year’s past, I took all of the angst of the last couple of trade deadlines, years of hating the Cardinals and Yankees, and channeled it all into this Cubs fan guide to the Wild Card series. I’ll have separate posts once the Division series opens. But first, let’s take a look at the bracket:

2022 MLB playoff bracket

Guardians over Rays: The Jed Hoyer aspirational bracket

Neither team in this corner of the bracket paid their players more than $100 million in 2022 according to Spotrac and both of them made it to the playoffs anyway. It’s every venture capitalist and aspiring consultant’s dream of the most successful season possible.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the shortstop and payroll situation on both of these teams. Despite signing Wander Franco to the largest contract extension in the history of the Tampa Bay franchise, the Rays are 25th in MLB payroll at $99,517,029. Meanwhile, the Guardians traded shortstop Francisco Lindor and his escalating payroll to the Mets. They replaced him with Andrés Giménez, who had a 6 fWAR season for the league minimum and doesn’t hit arbitration until 2024. The Guardians came in 28th in total payroll at $82,057,492 according to Spotrac. Like I said. This corner of the bracket is a consultant’s dream.

I honestly hate that either of these teams gets rewarded for spreadsheet expertise, but since someone has to win this series my heart is with Cleveland, who has the longest active World Series win drought. They last won the title 72 seasons ago in 1949. We all know what happened the last time they made it to the World Series in 2016. Very few established fanbases would be as overjoyed at winning it all, and I am here for ending long championship droughts when all other factors are equal.

Blue Jays over Mariners: The how dare you make me choose bracket

Speaking of long championship droughts with all else being equal, I love this Mariners team. They are the only team in MLB that has never even appeared in a World Series. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2001. They signed rookie sensation Julio Rodríguez to an extension that may be my favorite contract extension in the history of baseball. It guarantees him live-altering money for playing baseball, and has escalators and clauses that could make him the highest paid player in the history of the game if he earns it.

The problem is that I adopted the Blue Jays a few weeks ago because Alek Manoah is an incredible human being who took to Twitter to defend his teammate, Alejandro Kirk, after a Canadian radio host made some unfortunate comments about Kirk. Manoah won $100,000 for being a good dude and promptly donated that to charity. Amazing.

The Blue Jays also rake. They have Vladito, Bo Bichette and Matt Chapman. They have a literal home run jacket that they pass around when someone hits a bomb. I was smitten with them on Opening Day and honestly, just look at this. The Orioles tried to push their wall back to contain long balls and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is having none of it:

To be clear, if the Mariners defeat my beloved Blue Jays, I’ll jump on the Seattle bandwagon really fast. But until that happens I am dreaming of a Phillies vs. Blue Jays World Series, and the real question is, why aren’t you?

Phillies vs. Blue Jays 18-11

Phillies over Cardinals: The Kyle Schwarber hits bombs bracket

There have been some really great postseason Kyle Schwarber moments, but the granddaddy of them all is this 2015 home run he walloped off Kevin Siegrist as the Cubs laid waste to the Cardinals in the NLDS:

That ball landed on top of the video board in right field. It is an impressive home run all in its own right, but as a dagger to the heart of Cardinals fans in the playoffs it is truly perfection.

The Cubs are silly, so Kyle Schwarber has played for three other teams between 2015 and now, but the team who currently employs his baseball mashing skills is the Philadelphia Philles. The Phillies are lined up to face my most hated team in any sport, the St. Louis Cardinals and honestly this story just writes itself.

Padres over Mets: The money bracket

If the Guardians and Rays are the frugal bracket of smug consultants the Padres and Mets are the opposite bracket of partying billionaires. They are trying to buy a championship and they are not shy about it. The Mets blew passed the luxury tax as if it didn’t exist. They boast an MLB leading payroll of $281,559,066 according to Spotrac — almost $50 million more than the MLB 5th place Padres and their $236,176,566 tally.

In a league where it seems like fully half the teams aren’t even interested in trying the Padres have done everything possible to try and win. They added Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury at the trade deadline. Former Cub Yu Darvish has had an amazing year with a 3.10 ERA over 194⅓ innings pitched. After him the Padres have lots of great options like Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove and, pre-season trade acquisition, Sean Manaea.

The Mets are going to open a three-game series with Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom starting. They are going to dare the Padres to hit the baseball. Two weeks ago that looked like a surefire way to win the NL East. However, Scherzer and deGrom both looked mortal in the last couple of weeks and now the Mets will need to hope their pitching prowess will win them a Wild Card Series if they want their season to continue.

It’s going to be incredible to watch these two giants payrolls, loaded with talent and angst face off for a shot at the Division Series. It’s going to be agonizing for their fanbases to have all of those plans and paychecks come down to this. As a neutral party, it’s going to be tremendous sports TV. I have to return to the spirit of making (most of) these choices based on championship droughts, so I hope the Padres, who have never won a World Series in the history of the franchise emerge victorious.


Who will win the Guardians/Rays series?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    (131 votes)
  • 34%
    (70 votes)
201 votes total Vote Now


Who will win the Blue Jays/Mariners series?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Blue Jays
    (115 votes)
  • 42%
    (86 votes)
201 votes total Vote Now


Who will win the Cardinals/Phillies series?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    (86 votes)
  • 59%
    (125 votes)
211 votes total Vote Now


Who will win the Mets/Padres series?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    (110 votes)
  • 48%
    (102 votes)
212 votes total Vote Now