This series takes a look at all 10 MLB teams to qualify for the postseason. We'll give them a ranking on a scale of 1-to-10 (1 being the Yankees, 10 being the Mets) to determine who best deserves Mets fans' casual support in the playoffs this year.
The Case: Not one Mets fan, not a solitary one, feels badly for the Cubs anymore. After an early-decade rebuild, they arrived on the scene in 2015 earlier than they expected, won the Wild Card game and swept the Cardinals, before being ousted in the 2015 NLCS by the Mets.
One year later? World Series champions.
And the route the took to snap their 108-year championship drought – their ninth inning rally in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Giants, their flirtation with disaster after falling behind 2-1 to the Dodgers, and their comeback from down 3-to-1 against the Indians to win one of the wildest Game 7s of all time – will be remembered forever.
Still, the reigning champs have serious likeability. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are equal parts superstar and role model. Ben Zobrist, though I curse the very day he was born, is a delight. His wife shows her adorable pride on Twitter, and he’s literally the son of a pastor. Joe Maddon is a master motivator, and just seems chill as hell. Even Addison Russell replaces a Cardinals fan’s nachos when he accidentally kicks their cheesy goodness to the ground.
The bullpen is really into performance art, too.
Also, fun fact: The 2017 Cubs are just the fourth team since the year 2000 to win their division the season after they won the World Series.
So as much as we learn to loath teams who win with consistency, it’s a pretty admirable feat.
Why to Hate Them: There is absolutely nothing worse than lovable losers becoming insufferable champions.
I touched on it briefly in the Boston piece, but the evolution of Red Sox/Patriots fans post-2004 changed the national sports scene forever. Boston was this land of haunts, where the legends like Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Fred Lynn all shared that wistful commonality of never finishing the job, with the whole area hoping one day, someone, somewhere in that city would.
Then Mo Lewis jacked up Drew Bledsoe, and some sixth round pick from Michigan took over at Foxboro. And the Sox traded for Pedro and Schilling, Manny signed, and Papi was plucked off the scrap pile. And suddenly, Bill Simmons went from this relatable guy who wrote about his team’s tough beats with honesty and passion, to the human embodiment sports fans’ first world problems.
One of multiple ESPN employees used by the NFL to leak anti-Brady info during this saga decides to weigh in. https://t.co/g7rejeMaRZ— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) July 14, 2016
The Cubs are practically synonymous with charm. Wrigley (even post-renovation) has an unrivaled quaintness, with Waveland and Sheffield, day games, and Bill freakin’ Murray.
So if there’s a reason to root against the Cubs, it’s really just so that they don’t turn into Red Sox Nation 2.0; a collection of fans that have forgotten what it’s like to endure those long stretches of ineptitude, becoming the very empire they hated in the first place.
Oh and also, Jon Lester is such a crank, man.
Mets Connections: Rene Rivera was part of the August mass exodus in Queens, and he has settled into his part-time role with the Cubbies quite nicely. In 17 games on the North side, Rivera is slashing .325/.400/.525.
Keep in mind that Rivera is 33-years-old and a nine-year Major League veteran, but his start in the 2016 Wild Card game last year was his only playoff appearance. He also completely bailed the Mets out in 2016 when he became a stabilizing presence behind the plate, and Noah Syndergaard’s personal catcher.
With Willson Contreras healthy, and Alex Avila acquired at the trade deadline, Rivera might be on the playoff roster bubble. But here’s hoping he gets a crack at a long, productive October.
Rating: 5/10. Everyone was eager to see the Cubs finally win the big one. Now that they have, they can move back to the end of the line. But there are certainly worse options in the playoff pool than a repeat champ this year.