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Ranking the 25 possible 2017 World Series matchups

Last year, the Cubs and Indians were an easy favorite. Which teams will take the top slot this year?

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game Seven Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Two-thirds of the teams in Major League Baseball were sent home to think about what they did wrong. The other 10 teams have a chance to win the danged World Series. Our job today is to rank which matchups are likely to be the most exciting.

We did this last year, and the choice was obvious: Everyone wanted to watch the Cubs and Indians have a sad-off, and it was miraculous that it actually happened. It’s never the best possible combination that makes it to the World Series. It’s always the Cardinals and Red Sox, even if it’s not the Cardinals and Red Sox. Somehow the Cubs and Indians made it through the gauntlet and gifted us with the best World Series matchup possible.

A rematch is possible, but is it desirable? For that, we’ll need to return to our proprietary ranking system, which focuses on the following categories:

Legacy of sadness

Last year, the Cubs became Ronald Miller from Can’t Buy Me Love, and they’re kind of insufferable now. The Indians are Ronald’s old friend, and you wouldn’t believe what they did to his house last year.

Both teams are back, but only one of them can claim the same legacy of sadness. Somehow, we’ve made it to a postseason in which not only are the Cubs not the saddest team of the group, but they aren’t even the second saddest team of the group. Amazing.

I like watching teams that haven’t won it before. You might have different tastes, but, well, I’m the one writing this article. That means the teams that haven’t won it before get bonus points.

Star power

Roughly translated, these are the players we want to watch. A team with nine Jose Altuves would get an 11 out of 10. The same could be said about Aaron Judge, Francisco Lindor, or Clayton Kershaw. Would a team of nine Clayton Kershaws beat a team of nine Aaron Judges? Dammit, we have a whole offseason to think about this, but now we’re off track.

Previous matchup bonus/demerits

This is a tricky one. Let’s take the Red Sox and Cardinals as an example. No one likes those teams. No one wants to watch them play another World Series against each other. We can go another century before a rematch, and absolutely no one will miss it.

At the same time, the Dodgers and Yankees? It was basically the matchup of every World Series in the ‘40s and ‘50s, to the point where my mom grew up thinking “World Series” was when the Dodgers and Yankees played. But it would feel fresh and historical at the same time today.

Just because teams played each other recently doesn’t mean that you don’t want to see them again. The Cubs and Indians, say. I’d watch that.

Whatever I feel like

This is a new category! Traditionally, this is a spot for regional rivalries, but there isn’t a chance for one of those this year. I guess you can take a commuter train from New York to Washington DC, but it still doesn’t count.

No, this is a spot where I get to rig the rankings. Because, dang it, a Red Sox/Cubs World Series still sounds cool to me, even if they’re both frat boys who forgot their friends from the AV club back home.

I put all of these numbers into a spreadsheet and rank them, every year. Here’s what the formula spits out for the 2017 MLB postseason:

#25 - #21

AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchups Whatever I feel like Total
AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchups Whatever I feel like Total
New York Yankees Arizona Diamondbacks 5 16 -1 0 20
Boston Red Sox Arizona Diamondbacks 5 15 0 0 20
Boston Red Sox Colorado Rockies 9 16 -1 0 24
New York Yankees Colorado Rockies 9 17 0 0 26
New York Yankees Washington Nationals 9 18 0 1 28

There are three combinations out of the 25 in which both of the teams have won a World Series since the turn of the millennium. Two of them pull up the rear in this exercise.

The Diamondbacks won about six seconds after becoming a franchise, and I’m not convinced that they’ve suffered enough since then. They have a karmic debt to pay back, and I’m not geeked on a 2001 rematch unless Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling travel through time to pitch.

It wasn’t until now that I realized that the 2001 and 2007 World Series were linked in my head. Both were matchups of classic East Coast teams and unfamiliar NL West expansion teams in their first and only World Series. Neither of them are particularly interesting to me as a rematch.

The biggest thing hurting Yankees/Nationals is the chance that the Yankees might win. Because, gross, we’ve seen that before. Otherwise, give me Max Scherzer vs. Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman vs. Bryce Harper. That sounds like a pip.

#20 - #16

AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchups Whatever I feel like Total
AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchups Whatever I feel like Total
Minnesota Twins Arizona Diamondbacks 11 14 0 3 28
Boston Red Sox Washington Nationals 9 17 0 2 28
Cleveland Indians Arizona Diamondbacks 14 15 0 0 29
Boston Red Sox Los Angeles Dodgers 9 17 0 4 30
Boston Red Sox Chicago Cubs 9 17 1 3 30

I guess I owe an explanation when it comes to the Twins. I find the idea of a Twins-Diamondbacks World Series very, very funny, so it gets bonus points. It’s one of the ones that keeps Fox executives up at night, which means we should probably root for it.

JOE BUCK: Welcome to the 2017 World Series, where the Minnesota Twins take on the Arizona ...


JOE BUCK: look, i just can’t

JOE BUCK: [plays Minesweeper for four hours]

While I’m not excited about another Red Sox World Series, I can admit to being interested in some potential fresh and classic matchup combos. The Dodgers/Red Sox isn’t one we’ve seen a lot of. Same goes with Red Sox and Cubs, the World Series we were robbed of in 2003.

#15 - #11

AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchups Whatever I feel like Total
AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchups Whatever I feel like Total
New York Yankees Chicago Cubs 9 18 1 3 31
Minnesota Twins Washington Nationals 15 16 0 0 31
Minnesota Twins Chicago Cubs 15 16 0 0 31
Houston Astros Arizona Diamondbacks 13 16 0 2 31
Minnesota Twins Los Angeles Dodgers 15 16 1 0 32

The Twins keep showing up because they haven’t won since before Bryce Harper was born, and that tickles my fancy. If we’re going to spend a week with two teams, at least make them two teams that can make you feel happy for them.

The Twins also rank the lowest in star power, because while I’m giddy about Miguel Sano and love watching Byron Buxton play center, I’m pretty sure Joe Mays would be the scheduled Game 2 starter.

Also, the Astros get bonus points just because of everything the region has gone through, and like heck am I apologizing for that.

Boy, this sure is a lot of Twins.

Maybe I need to rejigger the formula.

On the other hand, the Twins winning the pennant this year would be hilarious, so I’m keeping it all.

#10 - #6

AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchups Whatever I feel like
AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchups Whatever I feel like
Minnesota Twins Colorado Rockies 15 15 0 3
New York Yankees Los Angeles Dodgers 9 18 3 3
Cleveland Indians Colorado Rockies 18 16 0 0
Cleveland Indians Washington Nationals 18 17 0 1
Houston Astros Colorado Rockies 17 17 0 2

Here be Rockies, and they’re faring so well because a) they’ve never won before and b) they would annoy the heck out of Fox. Part of me doesn’t really want to see the Rockies face the Twins. Another, larger part of me wants that to be the matchup because it would be a perfect example of baseball mooning us.

Indians/Nationals should probably be higher, now that I see it. Those are two excellent teams, and it would be a fresh matchup.

The Yankees/Dodgers would not be a fresh matchup, but it’s not like anyone remembers what happened before 1992. I’m a sucker for classic, original franchises meeting in the Fall Classic.

#5 - #1

AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchups Whatever I feel like Total
AL team NL team Legacy of sadness Star power Previous matchups Whatever I feel like Total
Houston Astros Washington Nationals 17 18 0 3 38
Houston Astros Los Angeles Dodgers 17 18 0 3 38
Houston Astros Chicago Cubs 17 18 0 3 38
Cleveland Indians Los Angeles Dodgers 18 17 1 3 39
Cleveland Indians Chicago Cubs 18 17 3 3 41

GIVE ME THE REMATCH. If the Cubs lose, it’s the beginning of a cosmic grudge match that might not be resolved for 100 years. If the Indians lose, it’s the building of a deeper loser mythology, the one team that went underground when the Red Sox, White Sox, Giants, and Cubs started winning.

It’s more than that, though. I want to see the Indians at (relatively) full strength, with Carlos Carrasco and an improved Trevor Bauer against a Cubs lineup that isn’t quite as dominant as they were last year. I want to watch Jose Ramirez, MVP candidate, against Jon Lester, not Cy Young candidate. There’s so much potential in a rematch, and I’m all for it.

If not, the runner-up is Indians/Dodgers, which is a classic matchup that hasn’t happened since the Dodgers were the Brooklyn Robins and the World Series was a best-of-9 series. This would be the Momentum Bowl, with the Dodgers drawing comparisons to the ‘27 Yankees in the first half of the season and the Indians drawing comparisons over the last month.

The Astros pick up three spots in the final tier for a couple of reasons. The first is the franchise has been around for over 50 years, and they’ve never won a World Series game, which seems important. The second is, jeez, we’re all pulling for you, Houston. They’re the sentimental favorites, and they just so happen to be a secret baseball sad sack.

Eyeballing this, I’m seeing some matchups that the formula kind of whiffed on. Yankees/Nationals would be a combination of stars and talent that would definitely go down smooth, and the same would go for Red Sox/Nationals. The Red Sox and Cubs should probably be closer to the top, even if that’s only because there’s a little Fox executive inside us all, and I’m just not sure about all the Twins and Rockies. That’s an awful lot of Twins and Rockies.

At the same time, I’m comfortable with the top five slots. An Indians/Cubs rematch would be a treat, an absolute treat, and while I always want to try new things, I’m also the kind of guy who can watch Rounders 47 times because it’s always on basic cable. I’m also not tired of the Indians or Cubs yet. Not quite yet. Give me one more October, and I’ll rail against them next season.

For the second straight year, I’m proclaiming an Indians/Cubs World Series as the best possible matchup. Your mileage may vary. But I’m pretty sure I’m right on this, and you’ll just have to come around.