With the MLB playoffs right around the corner, it’s time to look ahead to the game’s greatest stage, the World Series. With a number of teams still contending, the 2017 World Series has many possible potential matchups. So what are the best of the bunch?
The big-market, glamour franchises are of course too good to pass up. Like it or not, a World Series involving New York and Los Angeles, or New York and Chicago, is pretty darn inviting. Still, they’re not the only ones. The small markets have their appeal as well. We just need to find ideal opponents to max out their potential.
The only note here is that we’re only dealing with contenders. So, if you’re wondering why your favorite team isn’t featured, a look at the standings will probably answer that question.
These are the 18 most appealing, realistic potential matchups for the 2017 World Series.
18. Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Minnesota Twins
This series would serve as a solid reminder of something. While MLB is the only major American sports league with no semblance of a salary cap, anything can happen in baseball.
In 2016, these two teams combined for 196 losses. With less than a month to go in 2017, both are in playoff position and could conceivably meet in a World Series. Meanwhile, playoff teams from a season ago like the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets have long been booking tee times in October. So, if you cheer for a bad team in 2017, look at the Diamondbacks and Twins as a reason to not give up hope for a bright 2018.
17. Miami Marlins vs. New York Yankees
In the interest of fairness, we have to note that this World Series is barely possible. The Yankees are looking good for a Wild Card spot, but the Marlins have no chance at the National League East and are hanging on by a thread in the Wild Card race. With that said, this series has two major storylines that just can’t be ignored.
One is the team that Derek Jeter is buying going against the one he became an MLB legend playing for.
Two, could you turn away from a series matching Giancarlo Stanton vs. Aaron Judge? Heck, could anyone? Even if this series ends up as a non-competitive sweep, watching those two beasts going at it on the game’s biggest stage would be a lot of fun.
16. Milwaukee Brewers vs. Houston Astros
While Houston’s great season has been predictable enough, Milwaukee’s has come out of nowhere. There’s always something fun about a David vs. Goliath matchup. But this series would also offer something for the Bar Trivia nerds out there.
The Brewers used to play in the American League, while the Astros used to be a National League team. Not only did each team once play in the opposite league, but each represented the opposite league in the World Series once. That’s certainly a unique bit of history shared by only these two teams.
15. Colorado Rockies vs. Boston Red Sox
More of a traditional David. vs. Goliath matchup than the Brewers and Astros. Even good Rockies teams tend to fall under the MLB radar, while even the worst Red Sox teams are are always front and center.
The players have changed, but these two have a World Series history, as well. They opposed each other in 2007, which ended with a four-game sweep in Boston’s favor. History, even fairly limited history, always adds to the flare of a series.
It would also give us a lot of offense. Guys like Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Charlie Blackmon don’t need a lot of help. But Fenway Park and the notoriously live Coors Field would certainly aid these hitters, too.
14. St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Yankees
Here’s one for the old-time fans. The Yankees have more World Series wins than any team in baseball. The Cardinals are No. 2. It’s a distant No. 2 (27-12) but we have to point out that St. Louis is the only team that’s faced the Yankees in more than one World Series and have a winning record in the Fall Classic against the Bombers.
It’s certainly not the most likely matchup. Both teams would have to get in as a Wild Card, and the Cardinals are presently not in the playoffs. But if you’re a fan of the old guard and historical franchises, World Series matchups won’t get any better than this one.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks vs. New York Yankees
If these two teams were to meet in the World Series, fans would be treated to one of two things.
It could be a good, competitive series. If you’re a neutral fan, a good six or seven-game series is all that you can ask for.
But if it’s not a great series, we could at least get constant reminders of what happened the last time these two teams played in the World Series. The 2001 World Series was one of the best, most memorable Fall Classics in history. If we get a quick, non-competitive series, a handful of flashbacks and “remember when” vignettes about those unforgettable seven games in the Fall of 2001 would certainly make for an adequate consolation prize.
12. Washington Nationals vs. Minnesota Twins
More history for you Bar Trivia nerds out there. Before the Nationals, Washington had two other MLB teams. One of those teams was the Washington Senators, who were in D.C. from 1961-1971 before moving and becoming the Texas Rangers. The other was also the Washington Senators, who played in Washington from 1901-1960, when they moved West and became these Twins. As we’ve already detailed, history, no matter how old, is never a bad thing with these matchups.
In addition to the history, this series would also offer another David vs. Goliath matchup. The Nationals being in the World Series wouldn’t surprise anyone. Minnesota, however, would be a much different story. Additionally, the Twins were sent packing in the ALDS five times between 2004-2010. Washington has lost three NLDS’ since 2012. Minnesota is playing with house money in 2017. But as we’ll soon get in to, a shared rocky history makes for a lot of drama.
11. Chicago Cubs vs. New York Yankees
If you like star power, how do Aaron Judge, Kris Bryant, Gary Sanchez and Anthony Rizzo grab you? If you’re a fan of big markets, Chicago and New York should be plenty sufficient. Heck, while it’s been a while, there’s even a World Series history between these two. The Yankees have defeated the Cubs twice in the World Series, including the 1932 World Series, which featured Babe Ruth’s famed “Called Shot.”
Prior to 2016, this would have been essentially impossible to top. Baseball’s most tortured team against its most decorated.
But even with the Cubs getting over the hump a season ago, it would still be a pretty special matchup.
10. Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros
The great season being enjoyed by the Dodgers has put these two on the back burner. That’s unfortunate, because they should be recognized for the great seasons they’re having.
Both teams are on pace to win close to 100 games. The last time a World Series matched up two teams that win 100 or more games was 1970. Also, imagine the potential matchups. Dallas Keuchel against Max Scherzer. Justin Verlander against Stephen Strasburg. Those pitchers would not only be facing each other, but they would also be facing opposing hitters like Jose Altuve, Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa, Ryan Zimmerman, George Springer and Anthony Rendon.
It’s a unique year that makes this only the ninth-most intriguing World Series matchup. Still, there would be a lot of appeal in these two teams squaring off.
9. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Cleveland Indians
If you’re up for a little cross-sport tension, we can’t ignore that this is LeBron James’ current city vs. the one he’s rumored to be going to after this season. But if that doesn’t grab you, don’t worry. There’s more than enough tension with these two teams.
If we get this World Series, one fanbase will be left absolutely devastated. The Dodgers have had four consecutive disappointing postseason performances and are in the midst of one of the greatest seasons in MLB history. The Indians, meanwhile, came about as close to winning a World Series as a team could possibly come without actually winning it in 2016.
Neither team wants to be the bridesmaid again. Getting one “win or bust” team is intense enough in a World Series. We haven’t had two squaring off in a while. It would be something special.
8. Washington Nationals vs. Cleveland Indians
This matchup would give us a similar feeling like what we’d get with the Dodgers vs. Indians. Washington isn’t having quite the year that Los Angeles is, but a near 100-win pace is pretty extraordinary. And really, the average Nationals fan might even be more on the edge than the average Dodgers fan would be.
Washington has suffered through its own playoff failures this decade. Additionally, the Nats have never won a World Series. Heck, the city of Washington hasn’t won a World Series since 1924 and hasn’t claimed a “Big 4” championship of any kind since 1991. Los Angeles, meanwhile, won a World Series in 1988 (it’s worth noting that the Angels won in 2002), has won an NBA title as recently as 2010 and a Stanley Cup as recently as 2014. Comparing the two cities, Washington fans are certainly more on edge.
The tension level would be off the charts in this series, with two fan bases breathing into brown paper bags. That makes for great drama.
7. Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros
While they haven’t always shown it in 2017, the Cubs remain one of baseball’s most talented overall teams. After a disappointing season in 2016, the Astros have shown since Day 1 of 2017 that they also have one of baseball’s most talented teams. It’s hard to go wrong with a World Series like that.
This series would also go a long way in showing the value of a good rebuild. In 2012 — only five years ago — these teams finished the year with the worst records in baseball. Chicago dropped 101 games while Houston lost 107. It would be quite a story for these teams to meet for the game’s greatest prize only five years after such dismal seasons.
It may not give quite the same “anything can happen” feel that an aforementioned Diamondbacks vs. Twins series would. But for fans of teams stuck in a rebuilding project, these teams would serve as a reminder that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Boston Red Sox
This series is appealing for a few reasons. One, it would be fun to see if these two could borrow from NBA’s Los Angeles and Boston franchises, who have always put on riveting finals series’ when they’ve met. The two cities make for a great contrast.
But it’s also intriguing because these teams are intertwined in so many ways. It was Los Angeles which took a handful of bad salaries off of Boston’s hands in 2012, including Adrian Gonzalez — who remains with the team. It was the Red Sox who signed Hanley Ramirez away from the Dodgers after the 2014 season.
If familiarity breeds contempt, this series will be about as intense as it gets.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Yankees
No two teams have met in the World Series more than the Dodgers and Yankees, who have opposed each other 11 times. In fact, in the four major American sports leagues, only the NBA’s Lakers and Celtics have squared off more times in a finals series/game (12 times).
A series between these teams would also match up the United States’ two biggest cities. Even better is that the two play on opposite coasts. While Cody Bellinger vs. Aaron Judge would be incredible, the overall series would not likely be ideal from a fan perspective. The Dodgers would be expected to make short work of the Yankees.
But while nobody in MLB’s front office would never admit it, this is the World Series it is pulling for.
4. Washington Nationals vs. Los Angeles Angels
Most other matchups are appealing because of the teams and/or cities. This one has an NBA feel in that its appeal would be about two marquee players.
It’s been obvious for a long time that Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were baseball’s future. Something that we’ve lacked from both is a good, extended postseason runs. Harper has been sent packing in the NLDS three times, while Trout has only reached the playoffs once, and the Angels lost in an ALDS sweep that year. If nothing else, a World Series matchup between the two would mean a lengthy playoff run for both.
Both have been around for so long, but it’s important to remember they are still very young. Come World Series time, they’ll be 25 (Harper) and 26 (Trout), respectively. There’s still time for this to be a fantastic rivalry.
3. Chicago Cubs vs. Boston Red Sox
Prior to 2004, this would have been an easy No. 1 in any season where both teams were contending. While the recent World Series wins of both teams takes some of the mystique off of this matchup, there’s still a lot to love.
Theo Epstein’s old team vs. his current one. Jon Lester pitching against his old team. While not what it was before 2004 and certainly not 2016, these two fan bases went a long time expecting something bad to happen in big spots. Those feelings don’t go away that easy.
If none of that grabs you, remember that stadiums add to the experience in baseball more than in any other sport. It doesn’t get much better than Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.
2. Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians
It would be the first World Series rematch since 1977 and 1978 when the Dodgers and Yankees met up in consecutive Fall Classics.
This really comes down to a simple question: Did anyone come away from Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and say to themselves, “Boy, I hope we never get another World Series like that again?” Even if you weren’t cheering for the Cubs, it’s hard to deny that the series was a classic and that it might have been the greatest Game 7 ever played.
It would be hard to complain about another one of those.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Houston Astros
When it boils down to it, these have been baseball’s best teams all year. They’ll likely enter the playoffs with the best records in their respective leagues, and there’s always something extra special about that.
With people like Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and many others, the star power would be off of the charts. Additionally, with the young talent each team has, a World Series matchup could be the beginning of an excellent, cross-league rivalry.
While it may not have the historical storylines of other potential World Series matchups, the appeal of this one is overwhelming.