Want to jump on a bandwagon? Consider these 6 teams
You might be one of those baseball fans who have a very specific favorite team -- a team that, because of your upbringing and allegiances, might as well be a religion in your home. That club is your club, 365 days a year, every year of your life. There is your team, and there is opponent. There is nothing wrong with this. It is the foundation of much fandom.
But, increasingly, there are more and more baseball followers who have declared a sort of fan free agency. They will not swear allegiance to one team, forever, no matter how good or exciting they are. They will just pick whatever club looks the most fun, has the most charismatic players, feels like it’s an up-and-comer you want to get on the ground floor of. They are … your bandwagon fans.
Being a bandwagon fan once had a negative connotation -- after all, if you weren’t there for the bad times, how could you truly enjoy the good times? But then again, what’s wrong with just enjoying the good times?
So, today, we posit six Bandwagon Fan teams -- six candidates for the unaffiliated enthusiast to latch onto. They are fun, sure, but they’re also not the obvious choices: There are no Yankees or Dodgers here. These are teams whose success you can claim as your own, the ones most likely to be a growth stock as the year goes along … or they're clubs that will at least maximize your enjoyment as a fan. And the best part about being a bandwagon fan? If the team you choose goes bust, you can always just move on to another.
Here are your best bandwagon candidates for 2023, listed in alphabetical order.
There are two obvious reasons for the Angels to be on this list: Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, two of the best, most thrilling talents in the game … talents who, it should be noted, don’t have a single playoff victory among them. But the Angels have a certain end-of-the-world drama to them this year as well.
It’s Ohtani’s final season under contract before reaching free agency, which has led to considerable urgency in Anaheim: They’ve brought in Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Drury, Tyler Anderson, Gio Urshela, (perpetual fan favorite) Brett Phillips and Carlos Estévez, all meant to emphasize just how important this specific year is. There’s also other talent here that you can dream on, from Anthony Rendon to Taylor Ward to Patrick Sandoval and even Jo Adell.
The Angels desperately -- desperately -- want to make the playoffs this year. Will it pay off? Or will it all implode? Joining this team as a bandwagon fan is the ultimate no-lose proposition: Either you get to cheer for Ohtani all year … or you can just hop to whatever team trades for him at the Deadline.
First off, it’s fun to be a Cubs fan even when the team isn't good. Wrigleyville, the bleachers, that stadium, the fact that you never know when Eddie Vedder or Bill Murray is going to show up.
The North Siders have had two losing seasons in a row, and it has still been quite pleasant to go to a Cubs game. But this year, Chicago may have a bit of that old plucky underdog in them. The team's got exciting young players like Christopher Morel and, soon, Brennen Davis. But they’re absolutely packed with intriguing veterans, from Trey Mancini to Eric Hosmer, as well as guys like Yan Gomes, Jameson Taillon and Cody Bellinger, the most fascinating bet of all. And they also have a big-ticket acquisition in Dansby Swanson.
Plus, the Cubs play in a division that is, fair to say, not particularly imposing.
Chicago may surprise some people this year. Bandwagon fans can be there for it … or they can just enjoy the bleachers if it doesn’t pay off.
One of the best parts of being a bandwagon fan is that you can stealthily cheer for a team that nobody’s talking about yet, though they probably should be. The D-backs might be the team that best meets that definition this year.
Led by Corbin Carroll, who was just named the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline, the D-backs are quietly competent everywhere, and with upside all over the place. They also have made some smart adds, including Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Evan Longoria, a veteran who is always enjoyable to root for.
This division is surely tough, but as of right now, the D-backs might be its third-best team, which is enough to get into a Wild Card spot. The point is: Very few people are talking about Arizona right now, which means you’ll look smart if everyone starts doing so come August.
It’s fair to say that it hasn’t been the ideal offseason for the Orioles, in a variety of ways both on and off the field. But this is still a franchise with a proud fanbase that has waited a long time to have a team that’s relevant again.
And while you might wish the Orioles had done a little bit more this offseason, there’s no question that they’re relevant again, with a smart, resourceful front office that has loaded the cupboard with thrilling young talent such as Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez, Colton Cowser and, wow, seriously, the Orioles have a lot of young talent. (Fun fact: The O’s have eight players on MLB Pipeline’s recently released list of Top 100 Prospects, which is the most of any club, and that doesn’t include Rutschman.)
If Baltimore makes the playoffs, its fanbase is going to go nuts. Wouldn’t it be a blast to do the same right alongside them?
The Mariners may have baseball’s most truly exciting young player in Julio Rodríguez , a talent so supernatural, with charisma to burn, that you feel like he has rescued this franchise and its fans from 20 years in the wilderness all by himself. Seattle is on the way up in every possible way.
You saw how loud this crowd got in the ALDS, right? Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? The Mariners are as close to an “it” franchise as baseball has right now, which is to say you can join many fellow bandwagoners on this journey.
You may have noticed that half the teams on this list are from the same division. This is what happens when you play in the same division as the defending champs: Bandwagoners always want to take out the established favorites.
The Rangers are the sort of team with big names and big dreams that’s fun to get behind: Rarely do people think of Jacob deGrom, Corey Seager or Marcus Semien as upstarts, but for a team eager to win now and even more eager to spend money to do so, those stars get to be a part of building something rather than just being a cog in a well-oiled machine.
Plus, the thing about adding talent to win now is that it becomes self-sustaining and self-justifying: The Rangers will just bring in more of that talent now. They’re all in, but bandwagon fans don’t have to be. They can see how this works, and just hop to someone else if it doesn’t pan out.
See? Being a bandwagon fan: It’s all upside!