The baseball season is long. You might have heard! Sometimes, though, the seemingly endless stretch of sunflower spitting and jockstrap adjusting can be a beautiful gift, and this is one of those moments. We’re halfway through the 2016 regular season, but that means the heretofore uninvested among you still have nearly 80 chances to fall in love, or at least lust, with the squad that’s right for you. But choose wisely! Because — spoiler alert — three months of Braves baseball is a lot to stomach, even (especially?) if you’re actually on the Braves.
If you love the prospect of an ejection: adopt the Angels. Yunel Escobar has never been shy about expressing his displeasure, and as such has never been slow to earn the boot. He’s already gotten the hook three times this season, but it’s not just about volume for the Halos third baseman. It’s about art — specifically the art of mocking the umps by sketching home plate in the infield dirt:
Impassioned balls-and-strikes arguments and arts and crafts? What a bargain.
If you’ve never believed in curses: adopt the Astros. The Sports Illustrated cover jinx has a long and storied history, so Houston fans were right to worry when last season’s surprise sensation looked like hot garbage to start the 2016 campaign. The ’Stros have gone 31–13 since late May, however, and may be on pace to actually prove SI right. MVP candidate José Altuve doesn’t seem to need any help, but he’s about to get some: Alex Bregman, baseball’s top prospect and the man currently “making a mockery of the minor leagues,” is on the verge of getting the call.
If you like mustaches: adopt the Athletics. The A’s are in fourth place in the AL West, at the center of numerous trade deadline rumors, and potentially not long for Oakland. When you gaze upon the hair atop pitcher Daniel Mengden’s lip, however, those worries melt away. The 23-year-old got the call on June 11 and instantly earned raves for his distinct facial ‘do, and holding his handlebars will be a source of great comfort when Billy Beane’s shit fails to work again this year.
If you were bummed about what Zack Snyder did to You Know Who: adopt the Blue Jays. Toronto center fielder Kevin Pillar shocked the world last season with his “I am Superman” reveal, and to his credit, baseball’s Clark Kent has continued to perform otherworldly feats in broad daylight in 2016. He ranks second among MLB outfielders in FanGraphs’ defensive runs saved, with 13, and while his teammates earn a lot of ink for their prolific pop, Pillar might be the one who helps the Jays leap into the playoffs in a single bound.
If you want to play ball: adopt the Braves. Atlanta has the worst record in baseball (31–58) and, amazingly, could sink lower in the second half once general manager John Coppolella stops lying and finally sells off Julio Teheran and the team’s other trade assets. The good news? The Braves will have to replace those bodies, and they’re about to hold open tryouts! It’s not Dansby Swanson’s time yet, folks! But it could be yours!
If you used to dig Magic Eye: adopt the Brewers. Credit Milwaukee for knowing its 2016 squad was going to blow and deciding to throw fans a bone: The team reintroduced the beloved ball-and-glove logo in January, “correcting the worst decision in Brewers history” in the process. Watching Jeremy Jeffress morph from fantasy baseball flyer into a breakout closer in the span of three months has been mesmerizing, but nothing, literally nothing, is as entrancing as this logo, which is a ball in a glove, but also an m and a b. Your hair is merely human; cover it with a cap that’s fit for a god:
If you’re super boring: adopt the Cardinals. St. Louis currently sits just one game back of the NL’s second wild-card spot. The teams ahead? The Mets and the Marlins, whom, as you’ll discover in a few mouse scrolls, are either too injured or too inept to look like realistic playoff threats. Which means that even in an uncharacteristically down year, and even while stuck behind a historic force in their own division, the Red Birds are still probably going to fly into the postseason for the sixth year in a row and the 13th time in 17 seasons. It’s easy to be the best fans in baseball (yawn) when you’re constantly cheering for a winner, but there’s comfort in routine, so no one (read: everyone) will blame you for jumping aboard.
If you’re really into astronomy: adopt the Cubs.
If you hate your eyeballs: adopt the Diamondbacks. When Arizona unveiled its new uniforms last December, it used the hashtag #DbacksEvolution. Hopefully that means the team and its fans have evolved into beings who no longer rely on sight as a core human sense, because having to look at these truly monstrous creations 162 times is even more offensive than having to watch Shelby Miller pitch. (Which you can now do in Triple-A!)
If you have Time Warner Cable: adopt the Dodgers. No one else in L.A. can watch them, so you might as well! Jackpot-level bonus: You’ll get to enjoy the final season of Vin Scully’s brilliant broadcast career, and maybe learn a thing or two about Vinnie from Brooklyn while you’re at it.
If you want to join America’s most lovable bandwagon: adopt the Indians. Cleveland got a taste of glory when LeBron and the Cavs shocked the Warriors in the NBA Finals, and now J.R. Smith is perpetually shirtless and “Never Trump” has set up shop in the city ahead of next week’s Republican National Convention. It’s a happening place, and the Tribe are doing their part, posting the second-best record in the AL (52–36) while revealing some startling math: The city now has “more NBA championships than bad starting pitchers.” Go for the Danny Salazar strikeouts, stay for the Francisco Lindor power-speed combo, kindly avoid reinjuring Michael Brantley for the 47th time, and watch a sports powerhouse be born.
If you’re the less-cool brother: adopt the Mariners. Kyle Seager is a $100 million man on his way to setting career highs in homers, on-base percentage, and WAR, and yet the masses act like he’s a dirty diaper compared to the fresh, clean perfection that is his younger brother, Dodgers rookie shortstop sensation Corey Seager. Kyle’s situation isn’t as bad as being the third Hemsworth, but it can’t be fun, either, so swing by Pike Place and then settle in at Safeco to support the less fortunate among us.
If you’re a cheap date: adopt the Marlins.
If you’ve lost the capacity to experience disappointment: adopt the Mets. The worst part, of course, is that Mets fans allowed themselves to believe: that last season’s World Series appearance was the beginning and not the end; that Yoenis Céspedes’s spring training autoshow signaled health and vigor; and that the mistakes that sunk Generation K would never again be made. Worshipping at the church of bone spurs, arm fatigue (or regular fatigue), and thoracic outlet syndrome may not be the type of conversion you were craving, but as any Flushing folk will tell you, there’s purpose in that kind of blind faith.
If you wish your boss would get off your jock: adopt the Nationals. Manager Dusty Baker, who thinks Bryce Harper’s name is Royce Harper and has never seen a lineup he didn’t know how to compromise, has long been the object of sabermetricians’ scorn. But Brian Kenny, one of Baker’s staunchest critics, had to eat crow recently when numerous Nats jumped at the prospect of gushing about the 67-year-old’s remarkable managerial qualities, which, as far as I can tell, is one: “He just lets us play.” It’s hard to know if the Nats are in first place in the NL East because that tactic is working or because the rest of the division was hexed by a demon, but it doesn’t matter. There’s something undeniably refreshing about watching the head honcho kick it while the guys playing the game get to, you know, actually play the game.
If you miss the days when players used to fess up to peeing on their own hands: adopt the Padres. Wil Myers has 19 home runs and 15 stolen bases this season, finally rediscovering, and surpassing, the Rookie-of-the-Year form that made him a baseball sensation in 2013 and positioned him to appear on our television screens looking like this. Better still, he’s done so sans batting gloves, giving nostalgic hardball fans a great excuse to turn to each other and say, “Hey, remember how notorious bare-handed batters Jorge Posada and Moises Alou admitted to urinating on themselves to improve their grip?” Myers isn’t a known offender, but that’s beside the point: He’s inadvertently keeping their sterile legend alive, and as such deserves your support.
If you don’t actually want to adopt a team for the second half of 2016, but would be interested in getting ahead on your emotional investments for 2017: adopt the Phillies. Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Maikel Franco, and Odubel Herrera are beautiful baseball players who probably aren’t going to be able to get the Phillies back above .500 this year, but who definitely are going to forge the nucleus of a perennial contender in short order. Get in with Philly before that happens, but after Ryan Howard leaves town. It’s a Process.
If you commit fully to everything you do: adopt the Pirates. It’s one thing to join the Pirates. It’s another entirely to actually become a pirate:
If you’re an amateur cage fighter (or just really hate José Bautista): adopt the Rangers.
If you have a crush on Kris Bryant but think it’s too cliché to admit it: adopt the Rays. Kevin Kiermaier will see you now. (With his beautiful blue eyes.) (Once he gets off the disabled list.)
If you’ve been meaning to show your elders more respect: adopt the Red Sox. Sure, Boston fields some of the most exciting youngsters in the game in Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr., but it also boasts baseball’s grandpapi, Big Papi. David Ortiz’s season-long retirement tour could have been exhausting and infuriating, yet in a genuine upset, it’s been sort of sweet. So pull up your Depends, grab a cold Ensure, and help toast the old fella as he preps for his second career as a professional lunch enthusiast.
If you like awkward courtships: adopt the Reds. Cincinnati is bad at baseball. However, the Reds hope to convince other clubs that a few of their overpriced vets are kind of, sort of good at it. Outfielder Jay Bruce is clearly on the block, and he’s doing his part to facilitate a trade by reminding clubs that he’s “not so young anymore” and that he’d have to waive his no-trade clause to be dealt to certain contenders. Bruce has 18 homers but a -1.7 dWAR, making his ability to undermine his own value while attempting to sell himself more transfixing than anything that’s actually happening at the Great American Ball Park.
If you’ve ever had to contact your doctor regarding an erection lasting more than four hours: adopt the Rockies. It’s thrilling to watch Nolan Arenado play third base. It’s exhilarating to see Carlos González crush dingers. It’s invigorating to witness Trevor Story make history. It’s painful to perennially suffer through a team this tantalizing missing the playoffs, but if you’re used to a lot of foreplay and very little payoff, let the boys in purple make your balls blue.
If you’re an asshole: adopt the Royals. C’mon. The Royals won the World Series last season. They’re all set. Also, Yordano Ventura clearly doesn’t want new friends:
If you believe that you can come home again: adopt the Tigers. Cameron Maybin has done great things for my AL-only keeper-league team this year, and he can do great things for your soul if you’ll let him. Maybin, who started his career in Detroit but left town in 2007 as the centerpiece of the trade to land Miguel Cabrera, spent the better part of a decade flashing blinding potential and crippling frailty in equal measure. Now, stunningly, he’s staying healthy and productive after returning to Detroit as a 29-year-old who was supposed to be well past the point of being able to put it all together. Maybin’s .341/.402/.413 slash line and 10 steals in 49 games have helped keep the Tigers within a talon’s reach of the scorching Indians, and, as Maybin would be the first to say: “What do we have to complain about?”
If Bachelorette Party is your favorite Channel 33 podcast: adopt the Twins. There’s nothing fun about watching Minnesota plod its way to the third-worst winning percentage in the majors as Korean slugger Byung-ho Park hits .191 in his first MLB (now MiLB) season. There’s a ton that’s fun, however, about Phil Hughes and Co. welcoming Park to the Twin Cities with a Bachelor viewing party:
The baseball season can be punishing and painful, but it’s never as painful as watching a man and woman with zero chemistry make out over a hypnotized horse. Will you accept the Twinkies’ rose?
If you’re into defying logic (and gravity): adopt the White Sox. The South Siders are surprisingly north of .500 thanks to Adam Eaton’s astonishing defense, José Quintana’s unheralded dominance, and Chris Sale’s relentless wizardry. Sale is going to contend for the AL Cy Young, and his MLB-best 14 wins are notable even in a post-W-L era. Save your raves, however, because you’re going to need them for the moments when the human rubber band strikes out dudes while hitting them in the knees:
If you’ve ever passionately kissed your own reflection: adopt the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers and BoSox must be diametrically opposed in all things, and so it’s fitting that as Ortiz exits gracefully amid cheers and tears, Alex Rodriguez is floundering amid sneers and jeers. A .220/.260/.382 first-half slash line might convince a normal man to hang ’em up (presumably next to the centaur portraits), but no one has ever accused A-Rod of being normal. And so in a truly inspired effort to embarrass himself in newfound ways, he reportedly spent his All-Star break learning to play first base. Rodriguez played defense in six games last season; he’s played it in zero (0) games so far this year. This experiment is doomed to result in failure, injury, or both, so oil up your glove, give Alex a kiss, and remind him that, at the end of the day, 43 isn’t that much older than 40.