Which fanbases are most excited for '24?

March 6th, 2024

With the Dodgers and Padres playing the two-game Seoul Series in South Korea on March 20-21, the 2024 MLB regular season will be upon us before we know it. (Full Opening Day action is set for March 28). So today, we continue our weekly series of season previews, breaking down major storylines from the perspective of all six divisions.

Last week: Teams most likely to improve last season’s win total
Today: Teams with the most excited fanbases heading into 2024

No matter what your team looks like, no matter how good or bad they’re projected to be this upcoming season, no matter what happened last year, now -- right now -- is a time when everyone is excited. It’s beautiful in Arizona and Florida, the entire roster is in the best shape of its life, there isn’t a team that isn’t currently tied for first. If you can’t be optimistic now, if you can’t believe there’s a chance … then you never will.

But, obviously, certain fanbases have more empirical evidence supporting their fervor than others. Whether it’s because of last year’s success, a gaggle of young players ready to emerge or just a sense that this year’s version of their team is especially well positioned, some teams’ fans are particularly ready to run through a wall to start the year.

Here’s a look at the fans in each division that have the most to be excited about heading into 2024.

AL East: Orioles
All right, so the 2023 postseason didn’t quite turn out the way Orioles fans might have hoped. (Though they did at least lose to the eventual champs.) But it’s fair to say that 2023 served as some real proof of concept for this franchise and its fanbase, no? Two seasons after they lost 110 games -- and pleaded with their fans to be patient, because the good times were just around the corner -- they went out and won 101 games, the most the Orioles have won since before Cal Ripken Jr. had put on the uniform.

And those 101 wins came before they traded for the No. 1 starter they’ve been waiting for in Corbin Burnes, and also before MLB Pipeline's No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday -- who may be an even bigger superstar than all the superstars they currently have on the roster -- has played a game for them. Also, the Yankees and Red Sox are currently in states of complete desperation.

Look, if the Orioles don’t make it out of the ALDS again this year, then it’s fair if you hear some grumblings coming out of Camden Yards. But right now? Right now, this is as fun as being a fan of a team gets.

AL Central: Tigers
Remember when the 2021 Tigers finished strong in the second half and got everybody excited for 2022 … and then they lost 14 of their first 21 games, extinguishing all that excitement for a season that would end up with 96 losses? If you’re a Tigers fan and still a little shy about having too much enthusiasm two years later, that’s understandable. But don’t be scared to be hopeful this year.

Basically, the Tigers have done everything you’d want them to do to position themselves to contend, and maybe even win, the AL Central this year. The most important part has been what Tigers fans have been waiting for: The young hitters are finally hitting. In Riley Greene, Kerry Carpenter and (finally!) Spencer Torkelson, you have three lineup linchpins, right there in the middle of the order, all 26 years or younger. Even in that ballpark, balls are going to be flying out. The Tigers' brass has responded accordingly by addressing the primary need, rotation help, with the additions of Jack Flaherty and Kenta Maeda.

There are questions for this team, most urgently the bullpen, but this is hardly the most formidable division. The Tigers finished in second place last year, and they will probably be most people’s pick to finish second again this year. But they’ll be better. In that division, “better” might just be enough to win it. It’s OK to be excited, Tigers fans. The good times are almost here.

AL West: Rangers
This one is pretty simple, Rangers fans: You just won the World Series! While there is a certain melancholy that can creep into Spring Training after your team wins its first title -- it’s basically the realization that after the euphoria of the last few months, you do not in fact just get to be champions forever -- that is far overshadowed by all the great stuff that comes with winning it all.

There are a whole bunch of new pennants at the stadium. There will be a ring ceremony. Your team wears fancy, gold-trimmed jerseys on Opening Day. There isn’t a single player on your team last year that can’t call themselves “World Series champions” now, and for the rest of their lives. You can now cheer for your Rangers knowing that your years of dedication have, in fact, been rewarded. And best of all: Your team is very much good enough to go do it again this year.

There’s nothing like winning a title. It’ll carry you for a long time. Now -- and all season.

NL East: Phillies
Excitement can come with anxiety: You can only fear losing something if you care enough about it to want to hang onto it. It is still a little stunning that the Phillies, who were holding a 3-2 NLCS lead over the D-backs heading back home in front of one of the wildest, most joyous crowds baseball had seen in many a moon, did not make the World Series last year. The loss was a crusher, to say the least. But it only remains a crusher if the Phillies never make it back to the Series. If they do, it’s not pain -- it’s backstory.

The Phillies are not behaving like a team that is scared of Shohei Ohtani and the Dodgers, or the division-rival Braves for that matter. They are behaving like a team that feels their destiny was denied them last year and wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again. All the Phillies you loved in 2023 are back with a vengeance, and the two rotation mainstays, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, we now know will be here for years to come. Bryce Harper is settled in at first base; Trea Turner is no longer worried about performing for his new home fans; Bryson Stott is a signature piece rather than a surprising newcomer. If the Phillies fall short again this year, there will be, fairly, real frustration next offseason. But for now? Who wouldn’t want to see these guys rolling it back out again in 2024?

NL Central: Cubs
With the hiring of former Brewers manager Craig Counsell early in the offseason, the Cubs took a step toward putting a frustrating stretch of franchise history behind them. With that move, plus some young talent on the way, there was reason for excitement before they brought back Cody Bellinger. But now that he’s back? Giddy up, folks.

The Cubs have everything a fanbase could want. They have familiar faces in Bellinger, Seiya Suzuki, Christopher Morel and Justin Steele. They have new additions ready to fill in the gaps where they were lacking last year, in Shota Imanaga, Héctor Neris and Michael Busch. And they have electric young players on the cusp of the bigs in Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cade Horton and Kevin Alcántara. Oh, and they have a division that feels imminently winnable; they did, after all, take the manager of the only team that finished ahead of them last year.

The Cubs are probably the favorite in this division. It has been a while since they could say that.

NL West: Dodgers
I could write a whole long paragraph about the Dodgers’ desire to win a full-season World Series title for the first time since 1988, about trying to win a shocking 11th NL West title in 12 years, about how they’ve got Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman and Will Smith and Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow and Max Muncy and everything else this franchise has going for itself right now.

But the fact is: Shohei Ohtani has been the best show in baseball, the most exciting figure in the sport, for several years now despite playing for a not-so-hot team. Now he’s on the best team in the Majors. Who wants to miss a Dodgers game this year? Certainly not any Dodgers fans.