Everybody has their favorite team, and no matter how hard you try you’ll never truly wash them off of you. One of my best friends is a Mariners fan, and that team has worn her down to a nub every year for 20 years now. Yet she doesn’t love them any less today than she did 20 years ago. And when they eventually do make the playoffs again, no one will be happier than her. And she will have earned it.
But when your team has lost that much for two decades -- or even if you just need a break from it every once in a while -- sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a backup team. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to hop on the bandwagon.
So, for those who might need a break from their team this year, or for those who may in fact be unaffiliated entirely, we present to you a list of seven nominees for Bandwagon Teams. These are teams that are a blast to root for, the sort of fun, exciting and up-and-coming teams you won’t regret hopping on board with for a season. And hey, it’s no risk. After all, if they lose ... you can just hop right back off. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
TL;DR: The game’s best player
First off, they have Mike Trout, and that should probably be enough right there. Trout isn’t just the best player in baseball, he’s good at everything. This is particularly compelling because, well, despite being the best baseball player in the world, he still has never won a postseason game, which is something that honestly could only happen in baseball. But it’s not just Trout! Shohei Ohtani is still trying to pitch and hit this year, and it’s worth watching every Angels game just to see if he can pull it off. And don’t forget that this is the final year in Anaheim (probably) for Albert Pujols, who is one of the greatest players of all time and still has his moments now. You want historic figures in the game? This team is packed with them.
TL;DR: Perennial underdogs
The Angels’ division rival is one of the most famous underdogs in sports, dramatized in the film and book Moneyball. If you are represented by Brad Pitt in cool-guy sunglasses, you’re doing all right. The A’s have another of their unlikely-hero teams in 2021, a defending division champ that still feels like it's sneaking up on everyone. They also play in one of baseball’s remaining relics, with an outfield bleacher section that’s reminiscent of a hockey game, or a wild college football atmosphere. They also have an elephant on their uniforms.
TL;DR: Nostalgia factor
The ultimate ‘90s baseball card team, the Blue Jays have Guerrero, Biggio and Bichette …except it’s all their kids. They’re like the Muppet Babies of baseball teams. They are also the only team to play in Canada, or at least they used to be, which is another reason to hop on board: They played in Buffalo last year, they’re starting in Dunedin this year, they may make it back to Toronto at some point this year but no one knows for sure. They’re vagabonds, roaming the earth like Caine in "Kung Fu," heroes without a home. They are, in 2021, simply fellow travelers.
TL;DR: Great mascot, announcer and pitching
Christian Yelich is an all-world player, but he’s also human, as last year showed: Watching him get back to form is enough reason to get on board. But also, the Brewers themselves are just inherently likable. They have a massive, incredibly underrated fanbase that routinely passed three million fans in attendance a year, back when such a thing was possible. They also have Bernie Brewer, a mascot with a massive mustache that slides down a massive beer slide when the Brewers hit a homer. They also have a segment at their games where large personifications of meat race each other around the stadium. And, most of all, they have Bob Uecker. How do you not root for a team with Bob Uecker? Oh, and between Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Josh Hader and Devin Williams, they have some nasty pitchers.
TL;DR: Mr. Smile + Polar Bear
First off, by definition, you have to feel a little bad for hardcore Mets fans: I mean, just look at them. Look at what they’ve been through! But this is the most likable Mets team since 2006, right? They’ve got walking smile Francisco Lindor, which right there is enough to cheer for them, even before he wore the Coming To America jacket. But this team is full of fun personalities from Marcus Stroman to Taijuan Walker laying homage to Turk Wendell to the larger-than-life Pete Alonso to the brilliance of Jacob deGrom to the eventual return of Thor (Noah Syndergaard) from Tommy John surgery. It’ll be so fun to cheer for this team until it inevitably all goes wrong, and when that happens, you can just leave real Mets fans alone with their pain.
TL;DR: Tatis, duh
The obvious pick here, the Padres are the most bandwagon-y bandwagon team of all time. The only pro sports team in a great American city, the weather, the uniforms, the perpetual underdog status, the offseason aggression and, of course, Fernando Tatis Jr., a guy who might just sell baseball better than baseball has ever been able to sell itself. In case you forgot:
TL;DR: A lot of young stars
Well, first you’ll have to get over the Tony La Russa thing: The polarizing Hall of Fame manager has supporters and detractors everywhere, and if you’re one of the latter, and you can’t get over it, obviously this team is not for you. But if you can get over it -- or even if, lo, you actually like rooting for the third-winningest manager of all time -- the White Sox are full of likeable characters. They’re stacked with young, brash, rippling talent, from home-run monster Eloy Jiménez to dance machine Yoán Moncada to the otherworldly sculpted Luis Robert. They have Tim Anderson, the sort of confident, constantly smiling presence that your kid has long considered to be their favorite player. And their uniforms are awesome, whether it’s the cool all-black ones or the throwback SOX ones. Plus: Playing in Chicago, they’ll always be the other team in town. And it’s always better to be the other team.