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A Cubs fan’s guide to the Wild Card round of the playoffs

There are lots of former fan favorites in the opening round of the playoffs

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals
Kyle Schwarber congratulates Nick Castellanos after he hits a home run against the Nationals
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild Card round of the playoffs begins Tuesday with both leagues seeing action today beginning at 2:08 p.m. CT when the Rays host the Rangers in Tampa Bay. The Cubs just barely missed the playoffs this season, so it’s totally understandable if your healing a bit and need a break from baseball. I cannot do that — baseball is always wonderful, even when it’s just broken my heart. So I’ll be watching everything and as a result decided it was a good time to reup on this guide that I’ve written each of the last two seasons — a Cubs fan’s guide to the postseason, beginning with the Wild Card round.

Rangers over Rays: The Spending vs. Spreadsheets Bracket

My general starting point for these guides is looking for former Cubs on the postseason roster or on the managerial staff. While there are some guys who were Cubs in the minors like Isaac Paredes, or Cubs for a hot minute without ever wearing the uniform like Harold Ramírez, unless you’re intent on cheering for Aroldis Chapman in this round, it’s generally a pretty clean slate. Let’s take a look at the rosters:

That has me pulling for the Rangers for one reason, and one reason only: They spent money to get here and I want players to get paid.

I’m so tired of juggernaut, multi-billion dollar franchises like the Cubs pretending they can’t afford to pay players. Don’t even get me started on Jed Hoyer’s comments last December about wanting to follow the Rays’ model of “not having a lot of stars” and winning. Ironically, that conversation was in comparison to, you guessed it, the Rangers. You can read up on the entire exchange between Jesse Rogers and Hoyer at the Cubs Insider link above, but in a battle between front offices who want to platoon pre-arbitration guys you’ve never heard of against a team that committed a half billion dollars to a premier middle infield in Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, I’ll always go with the team who’s paying players. Go Rangers.

Blue Jays over Twins: The Don’t Make Me Choose Bracket

This is another series where there just aren’t that many guys on either side of the ball who are going to get Cubs fans fired up because of past Cubs connections either way. And unlike the Rangers v. Rays matchup of money and stars vs. analytics and platoons, Toronto and Minnesota are much more similar franchises. The Blue Jays rank ninth in payroll, the Twins are 16th. They both have a combination of homegrown stars and guys they’ve paid in free agency. So the real question for me was which team do I personally care about more and why? Let’s take a look at the playoff rosters first:

There is a great argument for the Twins, who haven’t won a postseason series in over 20 years. Their last series win was in the 2002 ALDS. They haven’t won a game in the postseason since 2004. As a Cubs fan who is brimming with sympathy for (most) fanbases who are struggling through long playoff droughts, I can envision the joy and relief Twins fans would feel to win this series and I know I could get quite a bit of joy from that.

However, the Blue Jays stand in the way here and honestly, the Blue Jays have been high up on my radar of teams for a while now. Both teams are fun, but the Blue Jays just edge the Twins out here, for me. I want to see Vladito go off in the postseason, and I want to see the Rogers Centre get LOUD at some point this October. Since this first round is all in Minnesota, the Blue Jays have to win for me to see that, and this:

Slim edge to the Jays.

D-backs over Brewers: The Youth & Skill vs. Old Age and Treachery Bracket

Okay, so to be clear, the Brewers are not old — but the Diamondbacks have so much young talent, including probable National League Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll, that it seems like everyone is older than them. Plus, the Brewers have been in the playoffs five of the last six seasons and Arizona hasn’t been there since 2017.

As far as rosters go, I suppose if Victor Caratini is one of your all-time favorite players (and truly, I would understand this rationale) you might want to cheer for Milwaukee. However, most Cubs fans are probably going to want to root for...well, someone other than the team that has Wisconsin-resident only ticket sales solely to (unsuccessfully) keep Cubs fans from buying all the tickets for Cubs v. Brewers games. I love Caratini and William Contreras, but I’ll be cheering for the D-Backs. Let’s take a look at both rosters:

Phillies over Marlins: The Remember When They Were Cubs Bracket

The last game of the night will kick off at 7:08 p.m. CT and at least for me pings all of the “remember when...” nostalgia. This Marlins v. Phillies matchup has a ton of Cubs fan favorites along with a handful of guys who gave us all a heart attack at some point in time. But even if the Phillies weren’t my favorite team left in the postseason, I could just take a look at these two rosters and deduce that I should cheer for Philadelphia (no offense to 2016 World Series Champion Jorge Soler or 2022 Cubs closer David Robertson):

The Phillies’ leadoff hitter is Kyle Schwarber, a tank of a man who hits cloud-scraping home runs and is seemingly built for October. He already has 202 career plate appearances in the postseason. He’s hit .242/.371/.527 across those plate appearances with 15 home runs. He gets to play with Nick Castellanos, who you might remember from the most endearing two months in a Cubs uniform, maybe ever. He’s still that guy in Philadelphia, where he’s taken rookie Johan Rojas under his wing, and just, how do you not cheer for this?

In case you’re more of the visual type:

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies
Johan Rojas channeling his inner Nick Castellanos
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t get me wrong, the Marlins are also very fun. Jazz Chisholm Jr. is a bit of a wizard in the field who’s always capable of the big play. Jesús Sánchez is 25-years old and hits bombs. Kim Ng is the only woman GM in baseball and the Marlins are here at least partially based on some truly savvy trades on her part, including turning Starling Marte into Jesús Luzardo, who’s thrown 178⅓ innings to the tune of a 3.63 ERA and a 3.55 FIP.

But the Marlins are also a team that has had a knack for breaking Cubs fans hearts in their relatively short time in MLB and I just can’t imagine a world where anyone could make me cheer against the Great Schwarbino:

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Philadelphia Phillies
Kyle Schwarber rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Pirates
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports


Who are you cheering for between the Rangers and Rays?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    (69 votes)
  • 43%
    (53 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now


Who are you cheering for between the Blue Jays and Twins?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Blue Jays
    (44 votes)
  • 65%
    (85 votes)
129 votes total Vote Now


Who are you cheering for between the Brewers and Diamondbacks?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    (35 votes)
  • 73%
    (99 votes)
134 votes total Vote Now


Who are you cheering for between the Marlins and Phillies?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    (14 votes)
  • 89%
    (119 votes)
133 votes total Vote Now