This is something I like doing every year – ranking the 16 (or 20, when I’m motivated enough to get this article done the Monday after the regular season ends) potential World Series matchups. This isn’t a ranking based on how good the teams are, or how much I personally like them – it’s a ranking based on marketability, storylines, talking points, and so on and so forth.
You’ll probably end up disagreeing with my rankings, because this is the internet and any ranked list of things is created to cause debate. But when all is said and done for me, the World Series matchup doesn’t matter – I’m going to watch it anyway. However, if we get an Astros-Nationals series, the TV ratings probably wouldn’t be so hot.
16. Astros vs Diamondbacks.
This is probably baseball’s nightmare matchup, even though it would be entertaining. Two warm weather, expansion markets with limited history? I can already see Rob Manfred talking about how great this is for the game while wistfully thinking about the missed possibility of a Yankees-Dodgers World Series.
15. Red Sox vs Diamondbacks.
RED SOX! DIAMONDBACKS! IT’S THE BATTLE FOR WADE MILEY (who is currently a member of the Orioles, but I digress)! But really, the link between these two teams is Curt Schilling, who helped the Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Championship and the Red Sox to the 2004 and 2007 World Championships. It would be cool to relive some of his playoff dominance while also marveling at Chris Sale and Zack Greinke.
14. Indians vs Diamondbacks.
I promise you, I’m not biased against the Diamondbacks. They’re just not an interesting matchup for many casual MLB fans. Paul Goldschmidt and JD Martinez going up against Cleveland’s incredible pitching staff would definitely be a sight to see, though.
13. Astros vs Nationals.
This just doesn’t do much for me off the field. Two awesome teams that dominated their divisions all season, laden with standout young players…and that’s about it. No robust history between the teams. Minimal playoff history for each team. On the field, it would be a fantastic series, but it would be a tough sell for the casual fan.
12. Astros vs Cubs.
Houston and Chicago actually had a nice rivalry in the old NL Central, but they never met in the Postseason. Two teams that tore everything down and rebuilt in full meeting in the World Series would be a good narrative, and Houston beating the defending champions would be pretty fun. I’m sure they’d also like to forget the Kerry Wood 20 strikeout game ever happened.
11. Astros vs Dodgers.
This is probably the best of the four Astros matchups, if only because the possibility of Justin Verlander vs Clayton Kershaw is awesome. There’s little World Series history for the Astros (one pennant, and a sweep at the hands of the White Sox in 2005), so this is uncharted territory for them. Knocking off the most decorated National League team in this year’s field would do a lot to shake the monkey off of their back.
10. Indians vs Nationals.
It’s the matchup of the two teams involved in the Bartolo Colon trade, 15 years later! Yeah, that’s about all I’ve got here. Each of these teams is fun to watch, but it’s not like there’s some sort of compelling storyline aside from “both of these teams would really like to win because historically, they have not won”.
9. Red Sox vs Nationals.
Hey look, it’s two teams that are quite good, and…well, that’s about it. There’s no baseball history between Boston and Washington, and no history between the Red Sox and the Nationals franchise. Doug Fister and Sandy Leon are the only notable members of either team that spent significant time with the other. They haven’t made a significant trade since the Nationals moved to DC from Montreal. Maybe we can beat home the fact that the Nationals were essentially the runner-up to the Red Sox in the Chris Sale sweepstakes this offseason.
8. Red Sox vs Dodgers.
I want to say that it’s incredible we never have gotten a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series, but given that both teams weren’t really “good” at the same time, I guess it makes some sense. Boston-LA is a legendary rivalry on the basketball court, but not so much in other sports. Given that Magic Johnson is part of the Dodgers ownership group, it would be pretty easy for the Red Sox to roll out Larry Bird in an effort to increase some tensions between the two teams.
7. Red Sox vs Cubs.
Theo Epstein and Jon Lester against their former organization. It’s a layup of a narrative. This would also be a matchup of two franchises, once tormented for decades, now on solid footing with the monkey off of their backs. The result would be a fun, historic series without any of the curse-shattering narrative we would have dealt with prior to 2004 (Red Sox) or 2016 (Cubs).
6. Yankees vs Nationals.
Bryce Harper’s current team against the team Bryce Harper is widely believed to end up signing with following the 2018 season? Sure, sign me up. The Nationals franchise has never won a pennant, and the city of Washington, DC has been to just three World Series – all before World War II. What better way to end decades of misery by knocking off the most successful franchise in baseball history? Plus, there’s nothing wrong with putting Harper in the national spotlight even more.
5. Yankees vs Diamondbacks.
The 2001 Yankees-Diamondbacks World Series is one of the best of the last 20 years or so, and while all of the players from that series have moved on, a rematch would probably bring plenty of intrigue and eyeballs. Since losing that series in seven games, the Yankees have still won two pennants and one World Championship, but beating Arizona would have given them four titles in a row and five in six seasons. Who knows where baseball would have gone in the 2000s had New York captured another world title in 2001?
4. Indians vs Cubs.
Rematches often suck, but not this one. Last year’s series between Cleveland and Chicago was a nailbiter, coming down to literally the final at bat of the season. If the Indians met the Cubs again in the World Series, what better story could be written than the Indians winning the World Series against the same team they came agonizingly close to beating last year?
3. Indians vs Dodgers.
An Indians-Dodgers matchup would be a battle of two franchises with World Championship droughts, one far more lengthy than the other. Following last year’s Indians-Cubs matchup, Fox is well-aware of how fanbases starved championships will tune in and rabidly cheer for their favorite franchise. Also of note – Cleveland has met the Dodgers franchise in the World Series before, but not the Dodgers (and certainly not the Los Angeles Dodgers). Back in 1920, the Tribe defeated the Brooklyn Robins in seven games, more than a decade before they became the Brooklyn Dodgers.
2. Yankees vs Cubs.
Had the Cubs not won the World Series last year, this matchup would be #1. But alas. These two teams have met just twice in World Series history (1932 and 1938, both won by the Yankees), and Fox could definitely work with Babe Ruth’s alleged 1932 called shot against the Cubs. There’s also the Red Sox factor with the Cubs through Theo Epstein and Jon Lester, and that could be a great talking point.
1. Yankees vs Dodgers.
This is an easy call. It’s the two largest markets in the country and a rematch of many classic World Series matchups in the past (including the iconic 1978 series). The prospect of one of the AL MVP favorites in Aaron Judge facing one of the best pitchers in baseball in Clayton Kershaw with the World Championship on the line would be tantalizing for nearly every baseball fan in the world. Plus, imagine the Dodgers attempting to break their 29 year stretch without a championship against the team that tormented them in the Fall Classic for years – the storylines would write themselves.