Looking for a bandwagon to climb aboard? Here are 6 options

January 18th, 2024

There are two types of sports fans.

The first type is so rabidly devoted to their team that the names on the other team’s jerseys should simply say OPPONENT. The entire sport is filtered through your team’s navigation of it; everything every other team is doing is simply background noise happening while you’re watching your team play. It’s your team against the world. Nothing else matters.

The second type of sports fan is far more flexible. They may have a team (or even a couple of teams) they prefer, but all told, they’re just looking for a fun team to cheer for, a team that’s exciting, enjoyable and, yeah, a little bit trendy. A team has to earn their eyeballs. They’re here for a good time, not a long time. They’re bandwagon fans.

If you’re a member of the second group, we are here for you. 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 six best bandwagon candidates for 2024, listed in alphabetical order.


In retrospect, the Giants’ shocking 107-win season in 2021 does feel like quite the anomaly. They haven’t finished above .500 since, and after placing fourth in the NL West last season, they have a new manager in Bob Melvin and some increased urgency. The problem with the Giants in recent years, at least for the casual bandwagon fan we’re talking about here, has been their generally non-descript rosters. While being able to wring production out of low-profile veterans is an important quality for an organization to have, well, Wilmer Flores, Thairo Estrada and J.D. Davis don’t exactly get the heart racing. (It’s another reason the Giants have been trying so hard to bring in a superstar, without much success.)

But that might change this year, if just because of Jung Hoo Lee. A team looking for a clear identity, a selling point, something that makes them them, might just have found it in the Korean center fielder, who hits for contact, gets on base, sprays the ball to all fields and basically looks for all the world like the sort of sparkplug that can stir a fan base. There haven’t been a lot of reasons to switch to a random Giants game late at night the last couple of years, but Lee is now one of them.

This is a smart front office, with a grizzled veteran manager, some new faces (Jordan Hicks … starter!) and a clear desire to win now. If that sounds like last year’s Rangers, that’s not an accident. It's a storied franchise, in a beautiful ballpark, in a great American city, that is in the rare position of “underdog” right now. Get on board!


This offseason, fair to say, has been a little frustrating for Mariners fans. Dreams of Shohei Ohtani, or really any big-time free agent, have not come to fruition, and they traded away one of their big signings from a couple of offseasons ago, Robbie Ray, to another of our bandwagon teams. Many expected more a year after the Mariners narrowly missed the playoffs and two years after they broke through and finally made it to October, a sign for fans that a new day was dawning for this franchise.

That might seem disheartening to some, but let’s not lose the big picture here. This is a team that still won 88 games last year -- that’s just two fewer than the team that won the 2023 World Series, and four more than the other team that reached the Fall Classic. The Mariners still bring back their core, particularly their young rotation that many thought they’d use as trade bait this winter. There are some risks with four starting pitchers under 27 years old, but there’s also a ton of growth there, and you’ve got Luis Castillo anchoring that group. Seattle also has added to its offense with the likes of Mitch Garver, Mitch Haniger and Luke Raley, and they have some flexibility to do more. (You know president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto will happily make whatever move he can.)

And -- and here’s the fun part -- doesn’t it feel like a Julio Rodríguez explosion year is on the horizon? That might be a strange thing to say a year after he finished fourth in AL MVP Award voting, but his numbers were actually down in 2023, slightly, from his Rookie of the Year season in 2022, thanks mostly to a slow start. (He was hitting .249 at the All-Star break!) We all saw what he did in the second half, particularly in August, where he put up a stunning .429/.474/.724 line. He’s our pick for stealth MVP favorite, and he might just carry this team. There’s nothing more exciting for a bandwagon fan than to watch a young, thrilling superstar ascend to the top of his sport. Get on board: It’s Julio’s year.


The Orioles were an absolute blast to watch from start to (almost) finish in 2023, a team of thrilling talents all emerging at once to blast past the lumbering AL East powers in the Bronx and Boston and make the division their own. There were so many great young players here in 2023 -- Adley Rutschman, who is 25, almost felt like a veteran by the end of the season -- that you couldn’t keep track of them all.

Well, they’re all back in 2024, which is fun enough. But this year, they’ll be joined by the No. 1 prospect in baseball, Jackson Holliday, who may end up being the best out of all of them. (He also only turned 20 years old but, honestly, still looks about 14.) Yep, this great young team is about to become greater and younger.

Now, this is the last season for this: You only get to be the plucky young upstart so many times. If the Orioles don’t win it all this year -- or at least a playoff series or two -- they’ll turn from “promising” to “underachieving,” and fast. But the talent here is overwhelming.


This would seem like an odd year to jump on the Padres bandwagon. After all, they just traded Juan Soto, and sure look likely to lose reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell through free agency. Now you get on board? With those guys gone?

But the Padres are back to being underdogs again, and when you remember how last year went, the year they were everyone’s favorite, maybe that’s exactly where the Padres want to be. Ask any Padres fan about last year, and they’ll tell you: It was a year that just felt off from the get-go. The team couldn’t win close games, it would blow leads, it couldn’t hit in the clutch, the vibes just were a mess throughout. But if we’ve learned anything about baseball, it’s that if you’re having bad luck, if the vibes aren’t working, just wait a little bit: The wind will start blowing the other direction soon. The Padres felt cursed in 2023, which means they’re due for some more positivity in 2024.

And if you add some better clutch hitting, sequencing and extra-inning success (or any extra-inning success) to a team that already has Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Xander Bogaerts, well, you’re probably going to win a lot more games. People are sleeping on the Padres. They’re fun to cheer for, particularly when they wear the throwback uniforms. Hopping on board when they’re about to rebound is the exact right time to do it.


The Reds, like the Orioles, were a fun bandwagon team last year, and, like the Orioles, they very much are one again this year. The difference, alas, is that the Reds ended up falling short of the playoffs last year. The team’s brass went about trying to rectify that this offseason, bringing in veteran reinforcements such as Jeimer Candelario, Frankie Montas and Nick Martinez.

But the real joy in this team is in the young players, from Noelvi Marte to Spencer Steer to, of course, Elly De La Cruz, who was must-see every time he stepped on the field in 2023, even if his overall numbers didn’t end up matching his aesthetic pleasures. It will be fascinating to see what steps forward he makes in 2024, if he can reach the superstar status that it sure looks like he is primed for. The NL Central is a very winnable division for the Reds, if their young stars emerge and their high-ceiling rotation clicks. And there’s not much more fun for the bandwagon fan than being part of a young team putting it all together.


Speaking of young teams making moves to take advantage of a potentially weak division … the Tigers! We all got way too excited about the Tigers heading into the 2022 season, and that 66-96 disaster was a splash of cold water. But there were real positive signs last year, from some steady improvement at last from Spencer Torkelson to the emergence of Kerry Carpenter, Riley Greene and Tarik Skubal. That’s what the Tigers have needed more than anything: their young would-be phenoms to start looking like they’re ready to take over.

The team has been aggressive this offseason addressing its major concerns: on-base percentage (Mark Canha) and rotation depth (Jack Flaherty and Kenta Maeda). If Torkelson, Carpenter and Greene keep progressing, and Skubal has the full-on breakout season he is capable of, the Tigers have a real chance to win this division in 2024. (When you look at what that football team is doing, well, these could be high times in Detroit.) They sure have earned it. And now the rest of us can take part.