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Who to root for in the playoffs this year, American League edition

The American League presents more palatable choices for Mets fans than the National League and the answer essentially boils down to “not the Yankees.”

Oakland Athletics Tampa Bay Rays Workout Photo by Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Ahead of tonight’s American League Wild Card game between the Oakland A’s and the Tampa Bay Rays, we present the American League edition of our guide for Mets fans on who to root for in the postseason.

Yesterday, we reviewed the National League postseason teams, among which are many irksome to downright detestable options for Mets fans. The American League picture is much less bothersome. It of course features Public Enemy Number One in the Yankees, but all of the other AL teams give Mets fans a reason to be invested and are likely preferable in a World Series matchup with any of the remaining National League squads.

Houston Astros

What’s to like: The Astros have very fun star players on their team. Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa are very easy to root for. The Mets are a fanbase that is used to watching dominant pitching and the Astros provide that in spades as well. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke are a lethal top three and watching them blow through the competition makes for entertaining baseball. Like the Mets, the Astros also have an emerging rookie phenom in Yordan Alvarez who is very good at hitting baseballs long distances. If you’re looking at things pragmatically, the Astros also probably represent the best chance of knocking the Yankees out in the ALCS, so maybe rooting for them to advance at least that far is a good thing.

What’s not to like: Most Mets fans are naturally inclined to root for the underdog and underdogs the Houston Astros certainly are not. They are quickly ascending to dynasty levels approaching the Yankees or Dodgers with no real end in sight, albeit in a much smaller market. Plus they continue to carry Roberto Osuna on their roster and benefit from his services, after trading for him despite knowing of the domestic assault charge against him—a charge that he was quite unrepentant about.

Rooting rating: 6.5/10

New York Yankees

What’s to like: They will try to paint themselves as plucky underdogs, despite the usual bloated payroll. And they have certainly overcome a lot this year when it comes to injuries; that is something you cannot take away from them. On an individual level, many of their players are likable, in contrast with Yankee teams of years past.

What’s not to like: They’re the Yankees. There’s not that much more to say. Hating them is embedded in the Mets fan DNA. Plus their fans are extra salty that Pete Alonso broke Aaron Judge’s rookie home run record record and haven’t been shy about sharing their usual immature and tacky takes about it.

Rooting rating: 1/10

Minnesota Twins

What’s to like: If you like dingers, the Twins are for you. Of course, every team is hitting more dingers these days thanks to the juiced ball, but the Twins have even surpassed the slugging Yankees this year, hitting 307 home runs, which shattered the major league record. Plus they draw the Yankees in the first round, so for the ALDS at least, Mets fans will probably be nearly universally Twins fans. The Twins are the team that nobody really saw coming and it makes them a pretty easy sell to fanbases without a dog in the fight, especially given their hard luck in the playoffs in years past.

What’s not to like: The Twins have fewer transcendent superstars to root for on their squad than many of the other postseason teams. Sure, this may be me grasping at straws a bit, but when you’re a fanbase whose team is not in the postseason, you often turn to individual players and performances as a source of entertainment. The allure of the likes of Cody Bellinger, Justin Verlander, Alex Bregman, Christian Yelich (if he were healthy), and Aaron Judge among others is stronger than that of Minnesota’s best players, as impressive as the team may be as a whole.

Rooting rating: 8/10

Oakland A’s

What’s to like: There is a certain amount of kinship between Mets fans and fanbases of other teams that are treated as second fiddle in their own markets. Although the A’s do not share a city with the other teams in Southern California, they are still treated as an afterthought compared to the Dodgers, Giants, and even the Angels. That gives them a boost over the other underdog teams, at least in my view. They have had a World Series drought of a similar length of time to the Mets and the 2019 A’s are a fun group of players to root for that includes the sluggers Khris Davis and Matt Olsen and the defensive whizzes Matt Chapman and Ramon Laureano. Plus, out of all the playoff teams, the A’s easily have the best uniform aesthetic. There’s something about the green and gold and that elephant that warms my heart.

What’s not to like: If you are indeed one of those Mets fans (like I am) that’s inclined toward fun pitching, the A’s don’t have much of that. Their best starting pitcher, Frankie Montas, is ineligible for the postseason due to a PED suspension. Behind him, Sean Manaea and Mike Fiers are Oakland’s best hope for success on the mound. For fans of a team that could have thrown Jacob deGrom out there in a winner-take-all game, those options do feel underwhelming. The A’s advancing would also mean having to look at more of the Coliseum on TV and that’s not ideal. These are nit-picky things, but I’m just trying to present a well-rounded view here.

Rooting rating: 9/10

Tampa Bay Rays

What’s to like: Much like the A’s, the Rays are certainly small market underdogs. Their Opening Day payroll was around $60 million and yet they managed to win 96 games anyway. And they’ve never won a World Series. Much like the Astros, they have a fun top three in their starting rotation featuring reigning Cy Young Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow. Former Met Travis d’Arnaud has thrived since being traded to Tampa, posting a solid .782 OPS with a 107 wRC+ as a Ray.

What’s not to like: Depending on how long you hold a grudge or how petty you choose to be, you could not be rooting for Travis d’Arnaud to get a ring with another team. Or you could be remembering the fact that the Rays lost to the Phillies in the 2008 World Series, which was not a pleasant situation for Mets fans. Plus there is the larger issue that teams like the A’s and Rays seeing success using Moneyball tactics to try to achieve the most with as little payroll as possible only feeds the troubling trend in baseball where fewer and fewer ownership groups are investing sufficiently in their teams to build sustained winners.

Rooting rating: 8/10