2023 MLB Opening Day: Which World Series matchups do we most want to see?

Baseball season starts Thursday, so why not cut right to the chase and talk about the World Series?

In this week’s episode of The Bandwagon, Hannah and Zach break down the World Series matchups they want to see at the end of the 2023 season.

Pick No. 1: Mariners-Padres

Hannah: My 2023 World Series matchup that I am rooting for is the Seattle Mariners vs. the San Diego Padres. These two teams share spring training facilities, so perhaps this was in my mind because I frequently saw them together while I was in Arizona. But also I found myself going back to their camps a lot because both of these teams are very fun, very interesting — and in a very specific position.

Basically, this is the “no bad outcomes” World Series matchup. Neither of these teams has ever won a world championship. The Mariners have played for 47 seasons; it will be their 48th. The Padres have played for 55 seasons; this will be their 56th. And in all of those years, neither of those teams has won a World Series. And if they each win the pennant — which for the Mariners would also be the first time they win the pennant — then we could be like, “Wow, this is amazing.” We'd know ahead of time that there is a massive, nearly half-century (if not more) drought about to be broken. That's very cool.

Also, these are teams I think neutral fans will have a lot of fun rooting for. Of course, every fan wants to see their team in the World Series, but I think this would be a fun matchup for fans who only ever pay attention to their teams and thus don't necessarily know about guys such Julio Rodríguez or Manny Machado or Juan Soto.

Plus, it's just interesting. I mean, the Padres are an easy pick because it's like, “Wow, they got all the really good players. They're really going for it.” There's also presumably pressure on the people at the top to deliver after spending all that money on a thing that cannot be guaranteed, which is a World Series. So we'll see how that works out.

As for the Mariners, prior to last season, they hadn’t been to the postseason in a really long time. But their fans haven't lost hope. And they're really excited to see them have any level of success whatsoever. They appreciate it. And rather than get bitter, it feels like they have gotten more appreciative of the success that they get to see. And that's a fan base that I would like to reward.

Also, I did not not pick this matchup because spending October in San Diego and Seattle sounds very fun for me, as a person who does not enjoy the cold weather that often accompanies the World Series.

But do we need a villain?

Zach: I don't hate it. I think I would very much enjoy it. Because these are two really fun teams. The Mariners have a boatload of young guys who have not been on the big stage very much or haven't been in the majors for very long. Luis Castillo is one of my favorite pitchers to watch. I think George Kirby is very good. All of it's very appealing.

But here’s the thing: Neutral fans would obviously watch Seattle-San Diego, but that's true of any matchup you put together, except for maybe, like, the Rays. That is going to be there. What you need to draw in the whole country to a World Series matchup is a villain. You need the Astros, you need the Dodgers, you need the Yankees — you need someone that everyone who isn't a fan of that team hates or doesn't want to see. You need a contrast in styles.

When the Mariners play the Padres, it's like two teddy bears in a fight. No one wants either one to lose, and that saps some of the drama. Ideally, my World Series matchups would be the Padres win it this year, and the Mariners win it next year, and each one of them slays a huge dragon. You know, the Mariners take down the Braves, and the Padres beat the Yankees.

Pick No. 2: Mets-Yankees

Zach: I came up with a matchup that accentuates the villainy that I think really draws people into the World Series, and that is a Subway Series, the Mets and the Yankees. Now, these might both be villains to a lot of people. I get that Steve Cohen, the Mets’ owner, is spending a world-record level of money on this year's Mets, and to some people, that makes him a villain.

And then there are the Yankees, who have been baseball's most disliked villain for pretty much 80 years. That adds an element of conflict to the mix. Plus, the Yankees are actually, I think, the team under the most pressure to win the World Series right now, since the Dodgers got theirs, even if you don't think it counts as much because it was 2020. The Yankees haven't won since 2009.

So the Yankees have that, and then the Mets have the new kid in school who just, you know, struck oil in his backyard feel, where it's like, “Oh, we have Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer at the same time, and we are probably going to be really good indefinitely by virtue of pure largess.” Maybe they won't be because they're the Mets, but they have that.

I think the clash there, when you combine it with the dynamics of New York — Yankees fans would be especially on edge if they made it all the way there and then lost to the Mets. I think that might be worse than the Yankees missing the playoffs — getting all the way to the World Series and then getting stomped by the Mets. I think that would be the most Schadenfreude you can get in a World Series.

So I am in it for the narrative stress it puts on everyone. And I think neutral fans would tune in — not to see a glorious championship for the very rich Mets or the literal Yankees but to see whoever lost melt down. Fortunately or unfortunately, I think that is what draws eyes that don't have a rooting interest to the World Series.

What about the Astros?

Hannah: I think you are right that the content potential would be quite fun. Last year, when the Mets were very good because Steve Cohen had spent all this money and signed all the stars, the Yankees were still the Yankees. The teams had two Subway Series at home and home, and I wrote about families divided between Mets and Yankees, and that was such a fun story to report because everything they said was gold.

I actually think at the outset of this exercise, thinking about potential World Series matchups, the first question we had to move past was: Do you want to see the Astros again? Because on the one hand, no, they've been in the postseason a lot, and that would be kind of a boring pick. On the other hand, not only are they good villains for the obvious reason, but they're also good villains for having been there a lot.

Zach: I think whenever we talk about scripting out a baseball season like this, the natural next thing to say is obviously it's not going to happen how we want it to, but the World Baseball Classic just did the thing that everyone wanted before it started and had Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout match up with the tournament on the line.

Let's just root for good baseball

Zach: Ultimately, I actually want to see the best teams play in the World Series. I am really interested in seeing the best teams square off and decide who the winner is, even though it takes away some of the chaos potential.

Hannah: The best teams facing off just is good baseball. And so that is compelling.

Then again, really any World Series matchup is a fun World Series matchup because by the time they make the World Series, all of the players have had very interesting storylines, so whatever happens, we will enjoy it. We will write about it.

And that is a surprisingly positive note to end on.