How to choose an MLB playoff contender to root for when you hate every team
The MLB postseason is down to four teams now, and chances are your favorite one has already been eliminated. It doesn't really matter how that happened. Maybe they lost on a controversial check swing, maybe their clubhouse imploded amid a brutal second half or maybe they never really stood a chance in the first place. The result is the same: Your favorite team won't win a championship in 2021.
Problem is, your brain is too broken to completely ignore baseball. Your favorite team might be out, but you enjoy the game enough to keep watching the postseason. Some fans might latch on to one of the remaining teams, hoping they can vanquish a more hateable club.
That's a difficult task in 2021. The four teams left in the playoffs — the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers — are among the most loathed in the sport. Are they the four most hated franchises in baseball? No. The New York Yankees would need to be present for that to be the case. But are all four of the remaining teams in the top eight in the totally legit, very real, not just made up for this article Hateability Index? Absolutely.
If you're planning to hate-watch the rest of the MLB playoffs, we think we can help. We've compiled the most detestable aspects of the remaining playoff clubs below to help MLB fans make an informed decision about who they would like to support — or root against — the rest of the way.
Warning: The following contains graphic allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence and violence against women.
Reasons to hate the team: The racism. The team and its name have been — and continue to be — subject to protests from Native American groups. This is a team that employed a "mascot" named Chief Noc-A-Homa until 1985, and only stopped using that mascot due to a pay dispute. The Braves also tried to bring back the "screaming Indian" logo in 2013, but scrapped the idea after receiving backlash.
Following name changes by the Washington Football Team and the Cleveland baseball team, the Braves stood firm on keeping their name. They still haven't made a firm decision on the "Tomahawk Chop" — a racist gesture and chant — though they were supposed to look into the issue in 2020. The team did encourage fans to participate in the gesture on opening day, suggesting it doesn't really care.
One of the team's highest-paid players, outfielder Marcell Ozuna, was arrested for domestic violence in May. Ozuna was originally charged with aggravated assault strangulation and misdemeanor battery, though the more serious aggravated assault charge was later dropped. He also reportedly threatened to kill his wife during the encounter. Ozuna was injured at the time of the arrest and unable to play. MLB placed him on leave in September, and he hasn't played a game with the team since the arrest.
Former general manager John Coppolella was banned from baseball for life in 2017 for his actions with international free agents.
The Braves left downtown Atlanta to move to Cobb County in 2017. Taxpayers were left paying more than $400 million for the team's new stadium.
One small reason to support them: Ronald Acuña Jr. is one of the best — and most exciting — young players in game. He won't play the rest of the season due to a torn ACL, but it would be neat to see him get a ring.
Boston Red Sox
Reasons to hate the team: "The Red Sox somehow traded him away" better be a line on Mookie Betts' Hall of Fame plaque. By all accounts, the Red Sox should be one of the most profitable teams in baseball, but they cried poor when it came to signing a generational talent and one of the best players in the game. It should be an embarrassment that Betts isn't guaranteed to be wearing a Red Sox cap on his plaque when he gets to Cooperstown.
Alex Cora is an excellent manager, but what's with this gap year he took in 2020? Oh right, Cora was suspended the entire season for being at the center of a cheating scandal that led to the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2018. Cora was also a member of the 2017 Astros, who we'll get to in a minute. Despite that suspension, the Red Sox brought Cora back in 2021 because there are no consequences for bad behavior and MLB teams don't care about fan outrage.
The team refused to hit the 85 percent COVID-19 vaccination mark, and put the rest of baseball at risk after experiencing a significant outbreak near the end of the season.
Designated hitter J.D. Martinez once used an image to Adolf Hitler giving a Nazi salute to make a pro-gun argument on Instagram.
Almost every Red Sox fan is a New England Patriots fan, and they don't deserve to be happy.
One small reason to support them: Nothing comes to mind.
Reasons to hate the team: Where to start? The Astros were involved in one of the biggest cheating scandals the sport has experienced. The team mostly received a slap on the wrist for its transgressions, and the players annoyingly started getting defiant when fans dared to heckle the team.
Seeking to repeat in 2018, they acquired closer Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays. Osuna was suspended at the time after he was arrested and charged with domestic assault. Players on the team who previously spoke out harshly against domestic violence didn't respond as passionately when Osuna was acquired.
In 2019, the front office fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman after he loudly taunted three women reporters over the Osuna deal. The team initially tried to discredit the reporter who broke the story before apologizing. (Jeff Luhnow, the head of baseball operations at the time, was soon suspended and fired over the sign-stealing scandal.)
The Astros are largely responsible for the tanking model used around the game, which involves teams shedding as much payroll as possible, trading away every useful player, putting up 50-win seasons for multiple years and then turning things around with shrewd free agent acquisitions and draft picks. The only issue is that this is a nearly impossible formula to pull off, especially when multiple teams try to do it at the same time. Also, since the aforementioned cheating played a role in the Astros' success, maybe they shouldn't be the organization everyone tries to emulate?
One small reason to support them: Dusty Baker gets unfairly maligned for his stint with the Chicago Cubs. He's shown growth as a manager as the game has changed, and has proven himself a master of managing clubhouse personalities. Baker is already a Hall of Fame-worthy manager, but a World Series ring would make his induction undeniable.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Reasons to hate the team: They have more money than god and are determined to spend it every season. Though, to be fair, not all their players have been purchased. They do a fantastic job drafting elite talent and then locking those players up with extensions. The Dodgers' draft prowess also allows them to churn out coveted prospects they can send away for generational players like Betts. They always seem to have 29 excellent players even though they can only carry 26 at a time. There's no weakness when it comes to how they operate and that's incredibly frustrating and maddening and they deserve some hate for it.
That process has resulted in the Dodgers reaching the postseason for nine straight years and finally winning the World Series in 2020. They are the Patriots of the baseball world with far fewer championships. Congratulations!
As recently as 2018, the Dodgers were the target of a Department of Justice probe into how teams recruit international players. The team reportedly had an internal document that graded employees in Latin America based on their "level of criminal behavior." The document used a ranking system where players who received a 1 were considered an "innocent bystander" and players who received a 5 were deemed a "criminal."
In 2015, the team failed to report an alleged assault and an alleged sexual assault to MLB. Both incidents reportedly involved minor-league players in the organization. Pitcher Julio Urías, who closed out the 2020 World Series, received a 20-game suspension from MLB in 2019 after a domestic battery arrest.
Coming off their World Series win, the Dodgers signed pitcher Trevor Bauer despite his troubling Twitter history and general proclivity for being a jerk. Bauer was placed on administrative leave by MLB in July after allegedly assaulting a woman during a sexual encounter. The woman was denied a permanent restraining order, and a police investigation is still pending. Bauer has not been charged. A separate woman reportedly sought a protective order against Bauer in 2020. The second woman made similar accusations against Bauer.
Team president Stan Kasten drew criticism from fans and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred after Kasten made flippant comments about the accusations against Bauer.
If the Dodgers win the World Series, the term "dynasty" would be thrown around constantly. And opposing fans who root for dynasties are the type of people who put "Lakers, Duke, Yankees fan" in their Twitter bio.
One small reason to support them: The Dodgers are one of the few teams that actively try to win the World Series every offseason. You can hate on their seemingly endless amount of resources, but in a sport where the richest teams cry about payroll and worry about the luxury tax, at least the Dodgers make an effort.