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Ranking all 25 potential 2016 World Series matchups

Is there a better combination than the Indians vs. the Cubs in the World Series? No, but we'll check anyway.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

What, fair readers, would really constitute the best World Series matchup? Would it truly be a matchup of teams that history has treated poorly? An Indians/Cubs series sounds grand until you realize that one of them would have to go home unhappy and disheveled, knowing the other team would have passed on a very, very sad torch. A very lonely torch.

(Yes, Indians/Cubs is the best possible World Series matchup. Please keep reading.)

Or would it be better for the Cubs to face, say, the Red Sox, where there’s a clear villain, a clear storyline? The potential matchup in 2003 was going to be the greatest in history. Now it’s just a case of some World Series bullies forgetting where they came from. The Red Sox date one cheerleader, and now they think they’re a little too cool for some Friday night D&D. The Cubs see how it is.

It depends on the outcome, which we don’t know, obviously. The Cubs beating the Red Sox would please those of us who enjoy watching long suffering franchises and cities win for the first time in a century. The Red Sox beating the Cubs would please those of us who enjoy watching an entire fan base getting their hearts ripped out of their chest like an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. There probably isn’t a huge overlap between the two outcomes.

So I’ll stick with historically bereft teams getting bonus points and recently successful teams getting demerits. Here, it’s in a formula that I used a couple years ago, which weights the following categories:

Legacy of sadness
Because the Giants are greedy jerks and the Cubs haven’t won anything in a century, you rank the Cubs higher. This should not be controversial. Even if it might amuse a hypothetical Giants fan greatly if the Giants were to advance to the NLDS and be greedy jerks again.

I can’t imagine what kind of person would actually live like that.

Star power
Because I want to watch players like Mike Trout. Which means we should all be very angry at the Angels. If the real Mike Trout can’t make it, though, let’s watch some of the best players that baseball has to offer.

Previous matchup bonus points/demerits
Not the easiest category to rank. But it counts. You’re not entirely excited to watch a Giants/Rangers World Series again, but a Red Sox/Mets rematch sure has a ring to it, right? The first rematch makes it a little boring. The second one is incredibly compelling.

Regional rivalry bonus points
Probably not an issue here, what with the A’s, Yankees, Angels, White Sox, and Padres not being involved. But if we find any, they should count.

Historical significance
This is a new category, one that weights the ranking in favor of the original 16 teams. No one wants to see the Giants and Red Sox in a World Series, necessarily, yet they haven’t met in the World Series since 1912. That’s kind of cool, right?

The Red Sox and Dodgers have never met in the World Series. That’s super cool. Even if both teams are trash. Edit: Okay, fine, the Brooklyn Robins are kind of the Dodgers, and they faced the Red Sox over a century ago. That counts. My bad.

We’ll rank each of the 25 matchups according to these five categories and see where we get.

Nos. 25-21

AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchup Regional rivalries Historical significance Total
Texas Rangers San Francisco Giants 9 16 -2 0 0 23
Toronto Blue Jays San Francisco Giants 8 16 0 0 0 24
Boston Red Sox Washington Nationals 8 17 0 0 0 25
Toronto Blue Jays New York Mets 13 16 0 0 0 29
Boston Red Sox San Francisco Giants 2 17 0 0 10 29

You'll notice the Giants occupy three of the five spots in the bottom tier because you are all sick of them. I don't blame you. They were the ones who weaponized Brian Wilson, and you'll never forgive them. And while the Rangers have a legacy of sadness that's easy to root for -- few teams have ever had the football yanked away quite like they did in 2011 -- any rematch of a World Series within the last decade is boring. There are 225 potential World Series matchups before every season. Pulling the same combination twice in 10 years is like getting the same in-flight movie on both legs of your trip.

The Red Sox/Giants matchup has felt somewhat inevitable for a few years now -- an arrogant-off between two franchises that threw off their cloak of sadness and strutted around like they were that successful the whole time. This feels like it would be an annoying year for it, so watch out for that one.

I'm surprised the Blue Jays/Mets is so low, too. That must mean the rest of the combinations are really good.

Nos. 20-16

AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchup Regional rivalries Historical significance Total
Baltimore Orioles San Francisco Giants 8 16 0 0 5 29
Baltimore Orioles New York Mets 13 16 1 0 0 29
Texas Rangers New York Mets 14 16 0 0 0 30
Toronto Blue Jays Los Angeles Dodgers 14 16 0 0 0 30
Toronto Blue Jays Washington Nationals 14 16 0 0 0 30

Lots of close calls, here, and it starts with a black-and-orange mess right as Halloween starts. The Orioles and Mets get a single bonus point for meeting in the '60s, which is out of the sweet spot of nostalgia that most fans can relate to.

The Rangers/Mets matchup feels like a proxy for a culture war, while the Blue Jays and Nationals are a meeting of two capital cities. Before you get mad, Ottawans, remember that I'm a dumb American and don't care.

Nos. 15-11

AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchup Regional rivalries Historical significance Total
Texas Rangers Los Angeles Dodgers 15 16 0 0 0 31
Texas Rangers Washington Nationals 15 16 0 0 0 31
Cleveland Indians New York Mets 16 16 0 0 0 32
Toronto Blue Jays Chicago Cubs 17 16 0 0 0 33
Cleveland Indians Washington Nationals 17 16 0 0 0 33

Lots of fun, here. I do enjoy matchups like the Blue Jays and Cubs.

Blue Jays fan: Can you believe we haven't won since 1993? My word, that's so long ago.

Cubs fan: (step one: tear down, making sure the action is kept intact)

Blue Jays fan: I mean, think about all that's happened. Babies are adults now. Kids have kids of their own.

Cubs fan: (step two: de-grease the barrel and choke tubes)

Blue Jays fan: Seems unfair, really. To have to wait so long.

Cubs fan: (steps three through eight: scrub the choke tubes, lube the action, spot clean, reassemble, get ammunition, see if he's still talking, load ammunition, pray that he's not still talking, fire a warning shot ...)

In a way, the Blue Jays fan isn't wrong! Twenty-three years is a long time. That's a lot of baseball between World Series championships, and that's before you get to the part where they had an extended postseason drought without anything exciting between. It's not their fault that there are other teams with a sadder legacy.

And yet there are teams with a sadder legacy. Like, oh, the Cubs.

Nos. 10-6

AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchup Regional rivalries Historical significance Total
Texas Rangers Chicago Cubs 18 16 0 0 0 34
Boston Red Sox Los Angeles Dodgers 8 17 1 0 10 36
Baltimore Orioles Chicago Cubs 17 16 0 0 5 38
Boston Red Sox Chicago Cubs 11 17 0 0 10 38
Cleveland Indians San Francisco Giants 11 16 1 0 10 38

The Red Sox/Dodgers is another classic that's never happened, even if it feels like it should have. You don't remember the famous battle between Sandy Koufax and Ted Williams? No? It was great. Ten straight foul balls, a blown call on a double down the line, and then a called third strike that we'll argue about forever. Don't give me any noise about Koufax's brilliant years not overlapping with Williams' brilliant years. We've already established that we're creating our own reality, here.

(Edit: Looks like I missed the 1916 World Series, when the Dodgers were named the Brooklyn Robins. They'll get a point. Apologies to the family of Wheezer Dell.)

Remember 2003, when the Red Sox and Cubs were both in LCS, and we had a 25 percent chance of seeing them with a guarantee of one of them breaking the curse? Oh, we were so innocent then. Instead, Yankees/Marlins. Feh. There's so much to a Red Sox/Cubs matchup that still makes sense, but we were robbed of so much when the Red Sox won, won, and won again.

It would still be a fantastic, classic matchup.

Nos. 5-1

AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchup Regional rivalries Historical significance Total
Boston Red Sox New York Mets 7 17 10 1 5 40
Baltimore Orioles Washington Nationals 14 16 0 10 0 40
Baltimore Orioles Los Angeles Dodgers 14 16 1 0 10 41
Cleveland Indians Los Angeles Dodgers 17 16 0 0 10 43
Cleveland Indians Chicago Cubs 20 16 0 0 10 46

Guess I should explain the star power here. It turns out that all of these teams have stars and good players. Imagine that. They all have players you're thrilled to watch on the national stage, from Manny Machado to Max Scherzer to Clayton Kershaw to Corey Kluber to Kris Bryant to Madison Bumgarner to Yu Darvish to Josh Donaldson to Noah Syndergaard. Maybe the Cubs have more name talent than the Indians, but we're all nerds here, and we can get excited for every team here.

Except, I gave an extra point for David Ortiz.

defended the tongue bath for Ortiz after the All-Star Game, so you'll better believe I'll do it for a World Series. He's been a part of some of the most brilliant postseason moments of the past quarter-century, and now he's leaving. That's worth a bonus point.

The Orioles and Dodgers haven't won since the '80s. They're original, classic teams. They have a World Series history (even if it was kind of a boring four games). The Orioles hit dingers; the Dodgers prevent dingers. And yet, the Indians and Dodgers are even just a little better, with the Indians' legacy of sadness tipping the scales. Imagine that pitching matchup, assuming everyone gets healthy at just the right time.

But nothing is better than Indians and Cubs. This is everything that the Red Sox/Cubs matchup was supposed to be back in 2003, so we get another chance. And we'll have the same regrets when the Indians win three times over the next decade, and we're left with, I don't know, a Cubs/Mariners series as the best possible matchup of tortured teams. Which is fine, just lacking the zip of Indians/Cubs.

So, appreciate this possibility, and remember that it would be a great baseball combination, too. All of these would be, really. Turns out these are all pretty good teams again, and there really isn't a bad permutation. One of these years they should let a 100-loss team in the postseason, just so we can complain if they finagle their way to a pennant.

Not sure about this Twins/Cubs matchup, everyone. Think the Cubs have the edge.

It would be fun, but good baseball is probably even more fun. Even though there are some baseball matchups that are better than others, know that all 25 possible matchups should be pretty fun, and we don't even have to worry about a Red Sox/Cardinals series again. Happy postseasoning, everyone, and remember to call a doctor if it's been longer than four hours.