We all know the age-old adage that millions of baseball fans across the globe abide by when Opening Day rolls around: hope springs eternal. But unfortunately, by the quarter pole of any given baseball season, that hope has often already dried up for at least a few fan bases.
This is, of course, understandable. Baseball seasons are long and if a team isn’t giving its fans much of a reason to be invested, tuning the team out is often a viable way to avoid heartache and frustration. But I’m here to tell you today is not the day to become apathetic.
The harsh reality of any professional sport is that at the end of the season, every team but one suffers the same fate. Sure, some feel better about their futures than others, but at the end of the day, there are no consolation prizes. But the mere fact that your team falls short should not dictate your enjoyment of the season as a fan.
That’s why today, I’m here to prove to you that every fan can and should find a source of positivity surrounding their baseball team. Whether your team has blown away the opposition (hello, Rays fans!) or attempted to destroy everything you love (*looks with empathy towards Oakland*), let us all focus on the good, just for one magical day.
Here, then, in order of current standing:
There are many options to choose from, but how about the fact that their most talented superstar is playing like the MVP you’ve always known he could be? Ronald Acuña Jr. is proving that he belongs among the upper echelon of baseball’s elites. In an era with increasingly few of them, he's a clear-cut five-tool player, with the highlights to back it up. And to top it off, his contract through 2027 is that of a sturdy veteran rather than one of the five best players in the sport.
To be two games over .500 with a -52 run differential is truly an impressive feat, although it also likely portends that the win-loss record is bound for regression. That run differential mark is the worst in the National League and fourth-worst in all of baseball. But the Fish are 14-1 in one-run games, which makes for a fantastic viewing experience. And at the very least, it means the team is developing some clutch chops for when the young core hopefully can contend for playoff position in years to come.
Look, it hasn’t been a fun season for Mets faithful when cast against the lofty expectations the team set for itself. But Pete Alonso’s walk-off homer Wednesday night was proof that these Amazin’s won’t take disappointment lying down. If they’re going to be the league’s most expensive failure this season, it won’t be because the players aren’t invested. And hey, the last three teams to win the NL pennant in 162-game seasons (2019 Nationals, 2021 Braves, 2022 Phillies) all got off to sluggish starts too!
Being swept by the Giants was an untimely buzzkill after the Phils had spent much of May gathering momentum. But Bryce Harper is back in the lineup and posting a 141 OPS+ despite wearing a lobster cage on his right arm. And his main supporting actors, Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner, have nearly identical disappointing stat lines that are bound for course correction. This team still has all the talent to contend come autumn.
Knew they were likely bound for a last place finish, but they aren’t just lying down and accepting defeat! Young arms Josiah Gray and MacKenzie Gore (acquired in the Turner/Scherzer and Soto deals, respectively) have both looked like long-term fixtures in a big-league rotation. And C.J. Abrams (another Soto acquisition!), though the overall results have been a mixed bag, has proven to be a Mets killer early in his career, which could be a terrific character trait to have if this team is contending for division titles in years to come.
First and foremost, the Brew Crew should be thanking their lucky stars that the Cardinals did everything they could in April and early May to hand them the division on a silver platter. They've suffered self-inflicted damage with a 6-9 start to this month, but a six-game lead over the most-vaunted challenger in the division is a nice place to land when they really haven't played their best baseball yet. They’ve also built a team full of potential Gold Glovers, which has to give every pitcher on the lineup confidence when they know they have a high margin for error when they take the mound.
Still clinging to an above-.500 record in spite of a 4-11 start to the month of May, the Buccos appear to be returning to their losing ways. But that early season surge allowed them to lock down star center fielder Bryan Reynolds for an additional eight years. And if they’re smart, Mitch Keller, who threw a 13-strikeout shutout against the heavy-hitting Orioles in his last outing, should be next.
Losers of five straight, the Cubbies are starting to face the strong possibility that they don’t have the horses to contend in even one of the weakest divisions in baseball. But the lineup has performed well outside of floundering veteran signings Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini. They know they'll have continuity up the middle, with Ian Happ, Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner all signed through 2026. And if the team can find any pitching production outside their trio of solid starters, they may still be able to right the ship.
If you’d told Reds fans three months ago that on May 19, their team would be only five games out of first place, I’d wager the vast majority of them would have been thrilled. When the team is deep in rebuilding mode, all you can ask is for the games to be watchable and the Redlegs are mostly delivering. Young and old bats alike have been performing better than most could have reasonably expected. And although the young starting pitching trio of Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft have all taken their lumps of late, there’s still time to turn it around.
Just pretend the 10-24 start never even happened, Cards fans. Wipe it from your memories completely. You’re right back in the thick of the division hunt and with three Wild Card spots seeming hard to fill in this year’s National League, that’s an avenue that should remain open as well. You've got the best roster in the division on paper, assuming you get quality outings from starting pitchers at even a semi-reasonable rate. Lars Nootbaar is suddenly an international superstar and might even be able to help lure Shohei Ohtani to the Lou in 2024. Oh, and Nolan Arenado is hitting bombs again, too.
"You can take away our Trea Turners, our Andrew Heaneys and Tyler Andersons. Heck, you can even shelf our Walker Buehlers and our Gavin Luxes for the year. We're still the mf'ing Los Angeles Dodgers, and we'll be winning 100 games and the NL West title every year from now until Chavez Ravine is swallowed up into the Pacific Ocean by the irreversible effects of climate change—unless Mookie Betts can find a way to solve that problem for us too."
--Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts, probably
One of the more fun stories of the season, the D-Backs have a wide-open path to October in a season where the AL has many more playoff-viable teams than the NL. Zac Gallen will look to continue building his Cy Young case against the Pirates on Friday, while a seemingly bottomless trough of young hitters will continue to produce and replenish itself for many seasons to come. And don't forget lefty specialist Kyle Nelson, who has a 1.59 ERA and who I'm totally not just mentioning because I was teammates with him for several years in NorCal Travel Ball.
Honestly, the Giants should have a better record than they do. They've been victim to injuries and inconsistency in the starting rotation but with Alex Wood's return, they're set up for better results moving forward. LaMonte Wade Jr., Thairo Estrada and J.D. Davis have all been excellent in the box and Casey Schmitt looks like prime A-Rod through nine games. They're another team that dug themselves an early hole and the division is still tough, but the talent is there to contend for a Wild Card spot.
If any team could press the reset button on the season based on where they are now, it might be San Diego. The vibes are at an all-time low after losing a series to the hapless Royals. But guess what? There's still over 70-percent of a season left to play! And the Padres still have the same absurd collection of talent with which they started the season. Even if they don't catch the Dodgers, the Friars still have to be considered more likely than not to make a playoff appearance.
You might still be in last place, Colorado, but you've won four series out of five! Rookie center fielder Brenton Doyle is having a superhuman week on both sides of the ball, plus he's great for entertainment value because the team's broadcasters can exlaim "Doyle rules!" every time he does something positive. Pitching will continue to be a problem, as it is for most teams that inhabit Coors Field, but they'll cobble some hot streaks together. At minimum, they should be able to avoid the first 100-loss season in franchise history, which was a distinct possibility after the putrid start the team endured.
A series loss to the Mets, especially given the choke job that happened Wednesday night, wasn't what Tampa had in mind as a finish to their weeklong stay in New York. But this has been the best team in baseball all season and for all the holes the naysayers can try to poke in their strength of schedule, they're 14-9 against teams with winning records. The Rays have an .854 team OPS, 52 points higher than any other team (which is the same as the gap between second and tenth). Shane McClanahan could easily win the Cy Young Award, too.
The Birdbath. The Homer Hose. The everlasting joy of the "I can't escape him" Cedric Mullins meme. The O's may be the most fun team in baseball this season as they chase down their first playoff berth since 2016. Adley Rutschman is having an excellent week and Gunnar Henderson finally broke the .700 mark in OPS. The back end of the bullpen looks dominant as well, with Felix Bautista striking out 17.1 batters per nine and Yennier Cano sporting a ridiculous 0.19 WHIP
Bo Bichette might be the best offensive shortstop in the world right now. Matt Chapman has cooled off, but he's still a lock for an All-Star spot unless he gets hurt or strikes out four times a game between now and July. Plus, they still have that guy named Guerrero who can mash with the best in the game as well. Alek Manoah's awful season has been one of the more puzzling developments of 2023, but there's every chance he could still turn it around, and if that happens, the already-scary Jays will get even scarier.
Aaron Judge. More Aaron Judge. And before I forget, gotta make sure we talk about Aaron Judge. With No. 99 in the fold, this is a completely different team from the mess we witnessed for a couple weeks this spring. Judge’s four homers in the series win in Toronto were a boldfaced statement that no one smears his good name and lives to tell the tale. And although I would contend that this exact iteration of the Yankees isn't a championship-worthy team, they may be within a few trade deadline moves of becoming so.
The last place Red Sox would be first in the AL Central. They've scored the third-most runs in baseball, with the second-highest team batting average. The Masataka Yoshida signing, weirdly maligned by anonymous opposing execs, looks like an outright bargain. Brayan Bello's electric stuff has translated to back-to-back good starts. And perhaps most importantly of all, Chris Sale looks like a big-league ace once again. Even if this team finishes in fifth place, they could do so with a winning record and become one of the most attractive free agent destinations this offseason, with their luxury tax fully reset.
The first place Twins, meanwhile, would be last in the AL East! But fortunately for them, they play in a division where no one else is even .500, so they're sitting pretty. The starting pitching has been tremendous—second to only Tampa Bay in ERA and first among all rotations in fWAR. If the team's offense ticks up a bit, they might even have a chance to win their first playoff games since 2004.
The Guardians are simply not hitting enough to replicate their 2022 success right now. But there's plenty of time for players not named Jose Ramirez to turn it around, even if regression was fairly predictable for Steven Kwan, Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez. The pitching is still strong and the Guards have the clear-cut best manager in the division, which matters more than the casual viewer would probably ever think it does.
Detroit’s brief foray into second place was a pleasant surprise, even if it was mostly due to Cleveland’s woes. Eduardo Rodriguez led all starting pitchers in rWAR before his Wednesday start, in which he was also brutally screwed over by the official scorer, who refused to charge Matt Vierling with an error on a dropped fly ball that scored two runs. And we'll just ignore the offense, which has been led by just-above-mediocre performances from *checks notes*... Riley Greene and Zach McKinstry? Really? Okay then!
So, I won't lie to you, White Sox fans... this section may have been the hardest to write. A 16-29 record after what was supposed to be an offseason of pressing reboot on the positive vibes machine has to feel downright rotten. My best advice is to become invested in individual players' successes. Cheer on Luis Robert as he bids for an All-Star start. Pray that Dylan Cease's six shutout innings against Houston were a harbinger of a return to 2022 form. And if you're a dreamer, imagine a world where your team someday spends more money on a contract than the $75 million they dropped for Andrew Benintendi to never, ever hit home runs.
For a terrible team, the Royals have a surprisingly decent bullpen! Aroldis Chapman is back to throwing 104, and combines with Taylor Clarke and Scott Barlow to make up a more-than-respectable 7-8-9 combo. That's how they took down the Padres at Petco Park on back-to-back occasions, with some help from the man who shall henceforth be known only as "Pasquatch." Also, Kauffman Stadium is at the top of my list of ballparks to visit, especially considering it might be replaced in the next few years.
Of all the non-contending teams from a year ago, the Rangers are probably the happiest to be where they are today. Their +87 run differential is second to only the Rays in all of baseball. Adolis Garcia leads the world in RBI. Nathan Eovaldi is pitching like an ace and Jon Gray is enjoying the best season of his still-young career. Heck, if Jacob deGrom can even be 75% of his best, healthy self, this team will be terrifying for anyone that has to see them down the stretch.
Not a single soul, as far as I am aware, made the mistake of doubting the Astros in spite of their somewhat lackluster start. Winners of four straight and hosting the A's for a weekend set, the 'Stros could be on the verge of a mid-May inferno. Kyle Tucker's walk-off Wednesday capped off what may have been the comeback of the season thus far and proved this team has the championship moxie that's been a fixture in Houston for six-plus years now. And most encouragingly of all, Jose Altuve is said to be less than a week away from returning to the lineup.
As unlikely as it may be come next April, Shohei Ohtani currently plays baseball for the Angels. So treasure every second of it, because there may well never be another player like Ohtani. In any sport, frankly. Plus, that Mike Trout fellow is still pretty darn good as well. Just ignore the ugly 8-15 mark against teams with winning records and you'll definitely have some fun watching the Angels do their Angels-y thing for a little while longer.
2021 Cy Young winner Robbie Ray is out for the season and the Mariners still might have the deepest, scariest starting rotation in all of baseball. Bryce Miller is a certified stud and he's only just joined the party. They've also got a catcher named Big Dumper who hits home runs from both sides of the dish. No one in their right mind would be excited to see the Mariners in the first round of the playoffs... but they've got some work to do if they want to be there.
Let's just pretend, for a moment, that the A's don't have the worst record in baseball. That it didn't take them until May 16 to win their tenth game of the season. That they don't have the worst roster in the sport with one of the most futile pitching staffs ever assembled. And most of all, that their own ownership isn't actively pulling off the plot of Major League with the full support of the commissioner's office.
If we accomplish all that, we can focus on the amazing season Brent Rooker is having! Or Esteury Ruiz's quest to lead MLB in stolen bases during his rookie campaign! And if A's fans can find a reason to be positive, no other fan base has any excuse to feel glum. That's how we'll know this article has truly done its job.