Hey, Phillies fans! Just because your favorite team’s season ended almost a month ago, doesn’t mean the baseball world stopped turning. The MLB playoffs have been taking place, and from what I’ve heard, they’ve been semi-entertaining. We’re down to just two teams, as the champions of the National League and American League will square off in the World Series.
You might be a Phillies fan first, and a baseball fan second, but the start of the World Series should be enough to get any baseball fan excited. Especially since the 2021 edition of the Fall Classic will feature the...ugh...Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros.
I’m not going to sugarcoat this: This is one of the most unlikable combination of teams in World Series history. If this was a professional wrestling match, it would be referred to as a heel vs. heel matchup. I’ve done these World Series previews the past three seasons, and usually I give reasons why Phillies fans should root for each team. But this year, there’s very little redeeming about either team. It’s just a matter of figuring out which is the lesser evil.
Even though we may not want them to, one of these teams is going to win the World Series this year. So let’s try to learn more about them and figure out which one it will be.
How they got here
After spending much of the season muddling along with the rest of the disappointing National League East, the Braves were energized by some midseason trades, got their usual dose of good luck regarding young players and heretofore unheralded supporting players, and surged to a division title. They topped the Brewers in the NLDS, and then dethroned the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.
The Atlanta Braves have never won a World Series in a 162 season. Their only Atlanta title came in 1995 which was only 144 games long due to the players’ strike. Before that, the Braves’ World Series titles came while located in Milwaukee or Boston.
@obxleatherman Braves won WS in strike shortened season, only counts as 5/6 of a title.— phungo (@phungo2008) January 10, 2014
As it turns out, even if they win this year’s World Series, that will still be true. The Braves only played 161 games in the regular season due to a canceled game that was never made up.
Are there any Braves players I should know?
Despite what should be a deadly combination of being a good player and playing for the Braves, Freddie Freeman ranks surprisingly low on the unlikability scale. Aside from him, there are several players who are good, but they’re all kind of annoying, so I don’t want to spend too much time talking about them. I will say this though: Dansby Swanson remains a terrifically stupid name.
How’d they do against the Phillies?
One of the most frustrating things about the Braves recent run of division titles is that the Phillies have played them evenly. The Braves won the 2021 season series 10-9, which put the three-year record between them at 24-24. If you recall, the Phillies opened the season with a three-game sweep against the Braves, but sadly, unlike in the NFL, an 0-3 start to the season is not a death knell.
Are you worried about the ATLANTA BRAVES 0-3 start to begin the season?— Harry Douglas (@HDouglas83) April 4, 2021
Wait, don’t the Braves usually choke?
They do, which makes their success this year even more annoying. In this topsy-turvy world, its always nice to be able to depend on a few certainties: The sun rises in the East, Ben Simmons won’t shoot from the outside, and the Braves choke in the playoffs.
*THE BRAVES DIDN’T CHOKE!!!* pic.twitter.com/jzymlWtfXy— Jai Shields (@TheJShield) October 24, 2021
So are they actually going to win?
If they’ve gotten this far, it stands to reason they could win four more games. Or maybe they’re just saving up all that choking magic for a glorious choke job at the highest level?
What was that part about luck?
John Stolnis wrote an excellent comparison between the Phillies and Braves’ returns at the trade deadline. Basically, the Braves - partly because they didn’t insist on saving money with each transaction - traded for a bunch of guys who played a lot better after arriving in Atlanta, while the guys the Phillies acquired got worse.
And you know how every young player the Phillies call up seems to disappoint? The Braves don’t have that problem. Their top prospects turn into contributors like Ian Anderson and Austin Riley instead of Spencer Howard and Scott Kingery.
Why should we root for them?
Maybe some Phillies fans out there feel some sense of National League East pride, or maybe there are some older fans who still carry water for the NL in a long-forgotten rivalry between the leagues. Aside from that, I got nothing.
Why should we root against them?
Where do I begin? They’re the Phillies’ division rivals, the fans are a bunch of thin-skinned simpletons, they still do the Tomahawk chop in the year 2021, and recently invited noted anti-vaxxer Travis Tritt to sing the National Anthem.
So the wing nut cancel culture tried to pressure the Atlanta Braves into forcing me not to sing the National Anthem at Game 6 of the NLCS. I’m so thankful that the @braves did not cave to this pressure and refused to be bullied. Thanks for allowing me to pay tribute to America.— Travis Tritt (@Travistritt) October 24, 2021
Oh, and if you take issue with teams that cheat, the Braves shouldn’t be your team of choice either.
Report: Braves will have to give up prospects as punishment for international signing scandal https://t.co/l9T7wUU0CT pic.twitter.com/WCyTVW8bI0— Deadspin (@Deadspin) November 16, 2017
How they got here
They won the American League West by five games, topped the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS, and then bested the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.
These guys again?
This is their third World Series appearance in the past five years after winning it in 2017 and losing - to the Washington Nationals of all teams - in 2019. Even if they weren’t rotten cheaters, I think we’d all be tired of them.
Why are we still talking about them cheating?
Because cheating your way to a World Series title seems like a pretty big deal. Especially since none of the players were actually punished, and none of them even bothered to admit any wrongdoing until much later. And some people suspect they’re still finding ways to cheat.
Braves have a chance of clinching a trip to the WS. Surely the crowd would be fired up & have people whistling right. No, only Astros fans whistle, but they’ll fire back with “but whistles happen at every stadium” listen & watch the game. Big difference from tonight & last night pic.twitter.com/icgkvTmbyU— HoustonAstrosWhistleBlower (@AstrosWhistlers) October 24, 2021
Is there anyone on the Astros I should care about?
They led the American League in runs scored, so it seems as if they have a bunch of guys worth caring about. Some of them, like Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez (Fresh off of winning the ALCS MVP award) weren’t even around for the ill-gained World Series title of 2017, so they’ve avoided that particular stink. They also have Carlos Correa, a two-time All-Star at shortstop, who is scheduled to become a free agent after this season. Just in case you happened to know of any teams in need of an upgrade at the shortstop position.
Can’t wait for Correa to hit one of these at Minute Maid on March 31 but as a member of the Phillies. pic.twitter.com/AmXsGX10L2— John Leuzzi (@JohnLeuzziMU) October 16, 2021
How did they do against the Phillies?
The Astros went 0-0 against the Phillies in 2021, the same record they put up in the 2020, 2019, and 2018 seasons. Like many fans, my first instinct is to think of the Astros as a National League team, so it feels weird that they rarely play the Phillies anymore.
Why should we root for them?
Because they’re not the Braves. And their manager is Dusty Baker, who seems like a nice enough guy. He’s had a long managerial career, but has yet to win the World Series. (His 2002 Giants lost.)
In 2002, Dusty Baker's Giants fell in Game 7 of the World Series. The next year with the Cubs, he fell short in Game 7 of the NLCS.— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 23, 2021
This year, at age 72, he is 1 win away from reaching the World Series and getting another shot at a ring. (@Ken_Rosenthal | #ForTheH) pic.twitter.com/DE9YwUYX68
I also don’t interact with many Astros fans either in real life or on social media, so if they win the World Series, I won’t have to deal with a lot of people being happy about it.
Why should we root against them?
Unless it is the team you personally root for, nobody wants to see any one particular team have this much success. Especially when some of that past success was the result of blatant cheating. And ESPECIALLY, when the owner acts like the cheating wasn’t actually a big deal.
Astros owner Jim Crane on the Astros' cheating scandal: "Our opinion is that this didn't impact the game."— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 13, 2020
Crane when asked again later in the news conference: "I didn't say it didn't impact the game." pic.twitter.com/An3ex7zbWV
If you make the playoffs enough times, even the biggest chokers will eventually find a way to win it all. So this may be the time that the blind squirrel known as the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs finally finds its nut. Considering how bad of a sports year 2021 has been for me personally, an Atlanta Braves championship would be fitting.