The games and their outcomes are what matter most in the MLB postseason, of course. But even before it begins, every October matchup has some sort of attached storyline or stat or circumstance that makes it special.
With 10 teams playing four rounds, including the one-and-done round that begins with tonight's National League Wild Card Game between the Cubs and Rockies, there are 45 possible October pairings ahead. Here, we'll lay out each one and why it would be interesting.
• Gear up for postseason
And although nobody's smart enough to know how these series would actually play out, just for fun, let's (totally subjectively) rank them in order of narrative intrigue. We'll take the magnitude of the round into account (sorry, Wild Card pairings), but certain Division Series and League Championship Series possibilities seem to rise above even some World Series scenarios.
1. Brewers vs. Indians (WS)
What can I say? I dig me some drought drama. One of the two longest World Series title absences would come to an end, with the Indians currently at 70 years and counting and the Brewers having never won one in their 49 seasons (the Milwaukee Braves won more recently than Cleveland, in 1957). Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell is partially responsible for prolonging the Indians drought with the 1997 Marlins. Unfortunately, it's doubtful Bob Uecker would be willing to broadcast half of this Series as Harry Doyle.
2. Astros vs. Cubs (WS)
The last time the winners of the two previous World Series faced each other in a Fall Classic was 1958 (Yankees vs. Milwaukee Braves). The last time it happened when the two teams in question hadn't already faced each other in either of those two previous World Series was … never. So this would be a chance for two of the best clubs of the 2010s to add to their legacy.
3. Astros vs. Dodgers (WS)
This would be first World Series rematch since Yankees-Dodgers in 1977-78. If not for Game 7 being so anti-climactic, last year's Series legitimately could have had an argument for most entertaining of our time, if not all-time. So sure, we'd watch this again. But can we get Clayton Kershaw vs. Justin Verlander this time?
4. Cubs vs. Indians (WS)
They gave us a hallucinatory Game 7 in 2016, and the missed opportunities in the ninth still haunt the Tribe. Oh, and the Cubs were the first ones to trade Josh Donaldson, so there's that angle.
5. Red Sox vs. Cubs (WS)
Before Aaron Boone and Steve Bartman, this was the World Series that seemed to be on tap in 2003. Both clubs have since ended their epic droughts, so that eliminates a lot of the historical shine and pushes this down the ranks a tad. But still: A World Series situated in Fenway Park and Wrigley Field -- with the attached Theo Epstein and Jonathan Lester vs. Boston subplot? We could do a lot worse.
6. A's vs. Dodgers (WS)
What a way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Kirk Gibson homer. And Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, who got into baseball after being inspired by the "Moneyball" book, would be going up against his old mates in the Oakland front office.
7. Red Sox vs. Dodgers (WS)
The only people who can say they've seen this World Series matchup before are getting birthday shoutouts from Al Roker. It's been 102 years. And Magic Johnson technically going up against a Boston team is pretty cool, as is Dave Roberts going up against the Red Sox team for whom he once helped "steal" a big, big win.
8. Yankees vs. Dodgers (WS)
This would be the record 12th World Series meeting of these two iconic teams, but the first since 1981. After a warning from the league the last time Aaron Judge told Manny Machado he'd "look pretty good in pinstripes," the recruiting pitches would probably be kept to a minimum.
9. Yankees vs. Cubs (WS)
Did Babe Ruth really call his shot at Wrigley when these clubs first met on the Series stage in 1932 (they had another meeting in '38)? It's been a murky legend for decades. But how about, if the Yankees win what would clearly be a compelling clash of modern-day powers, we agree to definitively declare that he did? Cool?
10. Indians vs. Dodgers (WS)
A good amount of angst here, with the Indians having not won it all in 70 years and the Dodgers having not won it in 30. Terry Francona would be trying to end an outrageously long championship drought at the expense of the guy (Roberts) who once helped him end the "Curse of the Bambino."
11. Red Sox vs. Astros (ALCS)
Defending champs vs. the team with 2018's best record. The Astros swept the AL Division Series between these two clubs last year, but that was before Alex Cora switched sides. So how big is the Cora component? Also: Verlander vs. Chris Sale, anyone?
12. Dodgers vs. Cubs (NLCS)
Two words: Rubber match!
13. A's vs. Braves (WS)
Here's the deal: If any human being can cite evidence that he or she predicted an A's-Braves World Series at the start of the season and is proven correct, that person is named president and CEO of Earth. Who would object?
14. Astros vs. Rockies (WS)
Last year, the Astros shortened the list of teams to have never won a World Series to seven, and the Rox would have a chance to take it the next step. Also, given the Crawford Boxes, the Coors conditions and the lineups involved, there might be 3,192 combined dingers and lead changes in this Series, and what's not to like about that?
15. Red Sox vs. Brewers (WS)
Sure looks like Mookie Betts and Yelich are going to be the AL and NL MVP Award winners, respectively, so what better way to decide which one is the MMVP (that's Most Most Valuable Player, in case you're confused)?
16. Astros vs. Yankees (ALCS)
They went seven games on this exact stage a year ago, with the Astros marching back from a 3-2 deficit to win the final two games at home.
17. A's vs. Brewers (WS)
Viva small markets! The Revenge of Khris Davis? Or the Revenge of Giovany Gonzalez?
18. Indians vs. Braves (WS)
It would be like their 1995 meeting but in reverse -- the Indians in the role of the club with an inordinately stout starting staff and the Braves in the role of the club whose core has just begun to coalesce into something special.
19. Astros vs. Braves (WS)
Jose Altuve and Ozzie Albies are 134 combined inches of baseball awesomeness.
20. Yankees vs. Brewers (WS)
They last met in the postseason in 1981, when the Brewers were still in the AL and the season was split by a strike, necessitating a Division Series between the season's first-half winner (Yanks) and second-half winner (Brewers). This would also be a matchup featuring former Marlins teammates (and, potentially, successive NL MVPs) Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Oh, and welcome back to Milwaukee, Carsten Sabathia!
21. Brewers vs. Braves (NLCS)
The NL's two surprise division winners. The Braves left Milwaukee after 1965. The Brewers arrived in '70. The two clubs have yet to meet in October to help sort out the whole Hank Aaron custody issue.
22. Red Sox vs. Indians (ALCS)
These clubs have faced each other five times on the postseason stage in the Wild Card era (including "Terry Francona's Revenge" in the 2016 ALDS), but their only previous ALCS meeting was a seven-game classic. If the Indians don't rope Taylor Swift in for the national anthem this time, they're doing it wrong.
23. Astros vs. A's (ALCS)
The A's ultimately just didn't have the horses to hang with the Astros in the division race this year, but the last meeting between these clubs was a pretty enthralling late-August affair.
24. Yankees vs. Rockies (WS)
The biggest of dudes -- Judge and Stanton -- hitting in Coors Field in the biggest of ballgames? Seems pretty watchable.
25. Astros vs. Brewers (WS)
David Stearns was Jeff Luhnow's assistant with the Astros before taking on the Brewers gig. You could definitely say he's benefited from the Astros' decision to trade Josh Hader to Milwaukee in the Carlos Gomez/Mike Fiers deal just a couple months before he made his move.
26. Yankees vs. Braves (WS)
This rematch of the 1996 and '99 Series would allow the world at large to marvel at the fact that Ronald Acuna Jr., Albies and Gleyber Torres are all 21 and younger. Also, is Jim Leyritz available to throw out a ceremonial first pitch?
27. Red Sox vs. Braves (WS)
Think we could reconstruct old Braves Field on the Boston University campus for this one? More importantly, think we could get them to play games akin to what we saw on Sept. 5, when a crazy Boston comeback capped by a Brandon Phillips walk-off won it?
28. Red Sox vs. Yankees (ALDS)
We have had 14 years to collectively catch our breath after the craziness of back-to-back Red Sox-Yankees series in the ALCS in 2003 and '04. Both of these clubs have had ample time to totally refresh their rosters with new stars who put a new spin on the rivalry. In other words, we're due. And bonus points for Boone's involvement.
29. Astros vs. Indians (ALDS)
So much starpower and intrigue in this battle of AL powers, especially in their loaded rotations. But c'mon, we're really here for the Trevor Bauer vs. the 'Stros (and specifically former UCLA teammate Gerrit Cole, even though they're not lined up to face each other) narratives.
30. Brewers vs. Cubs (NLDS)
Sorry, Cole Hamels, but this sure seems like a pretty good rivalry right now, especially after the Brewers dethroned the Cubs in Monday's NL Central tiebreaker.
31. Indians vs. Yankees (ALCS)
A rematch of last year's excellent ALDS, in which the Indians prevailed in a 13-inning epic in Game 2, only to see the Yanks storm back to win Games 3, 4 and 5.
32. Dodgers vs. Rockies (NLCS)
The Rockies came agonizingly close to winning their first NL West title and snapping the Dodgers' streak (which now stands at six straight). But this would be their chance to render Monday's tiebreaker result moot.
33. Brewers vs. Dodgers (NLCS)
The Brew Crew came up short in the Machado sweepstakes, which stung at the time. Then again, remember how we used to generally assume Los Angeles-area natives Ryan Braun and/or Yelich would wind up with the Dodgers?
34. A's vs. Rockies (WS)
It's absolutely bonkers to think Nolan Arenado and Matt Chapman, two of the finest third basemen in the game, were on the same high school team -- at El Toro High in Lake Forest, Calif.
35. A's vs. Cubs (WS)
Billy Beane and Epstein are two of the most famous general managers in baseball history. Had Beane taken the Boston GM job 16 years ago, what do you think the future would have held for Theo?
36. Red Sox vs. A's (ALDS)
The A's began the season with the lowest payroll in MLB. The Red Sox have the highest payroll in MLB. Again, flash back 16 years ago. Beane knew in his heart that this day was coming!
37. Indians vs. Rockies (WS)
Did you know Terry Francona and Bud Black were on the same terrible 1988 Indians team? Back then, the only way you could imagine anybody associated with that team going to the Series is if they purchased tickets.
38. Brewers vs. Rockies (NLDS)
Beyond any interpersonal narrative we could invent here, there's just the very simple fact that these were the hottest teams in the NL in the second half and, particularly, in the month of September.
39. Red Sox vs. Rockies (WS)
Yeah, the 2007 World Series between these clubs was a dud, but hopefully the Rockies wouldn't have to wait around eight days before Game 1 again.
40. Yankees vs. A's (AL Wild Card)
Not the first time these franchises have met in a do-or-die scenario, as they had decisive Game 5s in both the 2000 and '01 ALDS rounds (with the Yankees prevailing each time). You've also got NorCal native Judge facing the team that had the foresight to draft him in the 31st round in 2010 but, alas, wasn't able to sway him to skip his commitment to Fresno State.
41. Dodgers vs. Braves (NLDS)
Sure, Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos, who spent the last two years working with Andrew Friedman in L.A., would have loved to get this kind of production from Matt Kemp. But trading him to the Dodgers also opened outfield opportunity for Acuna Jr. So let's call it a draw.
42. Indians vs. A's (ALCS)
It would be their most meaningful interaction with each other since the Ricardo Rincon trade.
43. Braves vs. Cubs (NLCS)
Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman were drafted 64 slots apart in the 2007 Draft and both finished second in the Rookie of the Year Award voting in successive seasons ('10 and '11) for the Braves. So it would be cool to see them reunited in this realm.
44. Braves vs. Rockies (NLCS)
Hotlanta and a cold Coors. Two pleasant surprises (the Rockies made the playoffs last year but were under .500 at the start of July). And in case you care, former Rockies manager Walt Weiss is the Braves' bench coach.
45. Cubs vs. Rockies (NL Wild Card)
Here's Wade Davis' opportunity to make the Cubs regret not re-signing him.