Key factors and suggestions for choosing an MLB team to support…
Becoming a fan of a new sport is one of the most fun things you can do.
When I got into baseball, I became a Chicago Cubs fan (because I researched the recent history and thought their rebuild and 2016 success was an epic story) and on opening day in 2018, I was sat there ready to watch my first ever Cubs game.
It was day one of my first season and the Cubs were playing the Marlins in the first game of the season. On the very first pitch, Ian Happ hit a mammoth leadoff home run. I went crazy. I will never forget that moment, the first time I ever watched a baseball team I could call my own.
How to choose an MLB team to support
Safe to say, I think it’s really important to pick a team to root for to help you navigate a 162-game season. Baseball isn’t the easiest game to keep up with, so narrowing down to your favourite organisation is essential. So, let’s work out what you should do. Let’s talk about how to choose an MLB team to support when you live in the UK.
If you’re just getting into baseball, welcome. And congratulations!
We will look first at some ways to choose, then I will offer some suggestions that take those things into account.
1. Fun players to watch and to root for
This, in my opinion, is one of the most important things. If you’re going to spend hundreds of hours a year watching a sport, you have to enjoy yourself!
Not everybody is going to watch 100+ games, obviously, but whenever you tune into a game you have to have something to be excited about. As a Cubs fan, I have Javier Baez – one of the most exciting players in the infield and a great speed-power combo on offense – and Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo (literally all of them could be gone in a year, I realise).
The San Diego Padres have Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. The New York Mets have Jacob deGrom, and a continually improving lineup, now with Francisco Lindor. The Los Angeles Angels have the best player in all of baseball in Mike Trout, a perennial MVP candidate and superstar for years to come.
Having at least a couple of fun players who you’re excited to watch each night is really important and one of the easiest things to research yourself.
2. History or Future
This might seem confusing, but there is no one perfect team to support, that would be no fun. Here I’m talking about the way I chose my favourite team.
Do some research into where teams are at and see if there’s anything unique and cool about a team in their history, or look at a team who is on the way up to be exciting in the near future. The best example here aside from the Cubs for recent history is to look further back, or at the teams on their way up right now.
On the other side of Chicago, the White Sox are becoming a serious contender team and have some young superstars. The previously mentioned Padres have also gone into the most blatant win-now mode in the league, after Tatis’ breakout.
If you want to pick a team with a rich history, there are some obvious choices. The Boston Red Sox are one of the most famous teams in baseball and for good reason. Their history is deep and they are iconic.
Boston is also one of the teams with a really good history (both short term and longer) who you could start supporting in 2021 without feeling like a glory-hunter. They have been amazing for a long time, but they have disappointed the last two years and are looking to get back where they belong, playing in the later weeks of October. If you’re looking to choose with history in mind, I wouldn’t look any further.
A sneaky pick for a really fun team of the near future is the Seattle Mariners. They have struggled mightily since their transcendent period around the turn of the century – a little bit of history as well – but they’re locked and loaded for the future. Kyle Lewis broke out as a rookie last year Jarred Kelenic will be a full-time major leaguer by the end of 2021, as well as Julio Rodriguez.
All three of which could be superstars in the outfield. They have some good young pitchers inbound, too and there is some great upside with this young team. You might have to be more patient than if you were a Padres fan but it’ll be all the more satisfying when that lineup starts to click.
This takes a bit more effort than just finding superstar players to cheer for, but it can be fun to research and also helps you to know a bit more about the team you choose in the end.
3. Time zones
I think this is by far the most easily ignored thing to mention for fans in the UK. It’s very easy to tell someone that the Padres or the Angels are fun teams to support and hype up their stars, but will you be able to watch them?
America is huge, and supporting the New York Yankees places their time zone a full three hours closer to ours than the LA Dodgers. I have a crazy sleeping pattern and watch way more games than just the team I support, staying up late anyway, but even I wouldn’t necessarily like to support a team who starts all their home games at 3AM.
Unfortunately, this means that there are a handful of teams that can be harder to watch. The MLB teams on the West Coast are the San Diego Padres, LA Angels, LA Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners. Obviously, there are some very exciting teams here and I would never say you shouldn’t support them, but be prepared to miss a fair few weekday games if you have to wake up at 8AM for work.
The difference between the eastern and the more central teams isn’t anywhere near as notable, but if you have particularly early nights, some possible teams who are right on the East Coast: the New York Yankees and New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals.
Those are my three main inputs for how to pick your new favourite team, but there are so many different factors you can consider. Uniforms and logos are a perfectly reasonable way to choose if you’re new to the sport. Or, if you enjoy other sports in America, try grouping your teams, this is nowhere near as important when you live in the UK, but it can actually be really cool if you’re part of the culture of an area. If you’re a fan of the Lakers, it could make sense to decide you want to be a fan of the Angels or the Dodgers.
Combining all of the factors I’ve mentioned, I am now going to give a few possible recommendations for teams that could be fun to support for new baseball fans. I haven’t recommended the Yankees or Dodgers because they are two absolute dynasties of baseball and most people don’t want to support a team that feels like they’re jumping on when the team is already at the top.
Feel free to choose one of those teams but it’s not a very hard decision if you like watching winning!
Some recommended MLB teams to support
If you’re willing to either stay up late or miss out on a fair few of their games, there is no team that is more exciting and topical right now than the San Diego Padres. They have some really fun guys to watch in Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Trent Grisham, Tommy Pham and more.
The Padres have improved what was already a solid pitching staff to make it much better now with Yu Darvish, Chris Paddack, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove, all good starters. They also have a couple of young pitchers in Dinelson Lamet and MacKenzie Gore. The Padres are the number one team to go for if you’re all in on having fun.
The team is great now and will be great for a long time. They are on the rise and if you are going to buy in before it feels like chasing the glory, this is your last chance.
The closest thing to the Padres without playing on Pacific Time is the Chicago White Sox.
They also have veterans such as 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu and some guys right in the middle, like Tim Anderson. Their pitching staff is great and includes one of the best pitchers in baseball in Lucas Giolito, who will be fun to watch every five games.
They have added veterans Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn to bolster the rotation but they also have Dylan Cease, a fantastic young star, and Michael Kopech should soon be ready to earn his role, too. The Sox also have a good bullpen, now captained by star closer Liam Hendriks who they added this offseason.
If I was going to suggest one specific team that would be super fun, the White Sox might be that team.
I have a good friend from Georgia and he is Atlanta sports, through and through, and he’d tell me I shouldn’t recommend it. I’m going to ignore him, though, because this Atlanta Braves team is fun as hell.
Acuna is one of the best players in the world, combining power and speed. Cristian Pache and Austin Riley are two more young players with potential and who are fun to watch. They also have two incredibly talented veterans: 2020 MVP Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna.
Atlanta also has one of the premier pitching rotations in the league. Max Fried is a legit ace and behind him are veterans Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly as well as two young pitchers with unbelievable upside, 22-year-old Ian Anderson and 23-year-old Mike Soroka.
Atlanta is one of my favourites to watch and, while the Braves are serious contenders already, they are built to be really good for years to come.
Another team where I’m sure people who have been fans of them for a long time will try and warn you away, one of the most interesting teams for my money is the New York Mets.
They’ve had it tough, no arguments there, but right now they look really good.
The Mets have the best pitcher in all of baseball in Jacob deGrom, an absolute superstar ace who is still at the tail end of his prime.
They also have a couple of young stars in their offense, led by power bat Pete Alonso. There is also a nice group of solid starters who are in the middle of their careers with recently-acquired Francisco Lindor, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto and more. There’s some serious help behind deGrom in the rotation, with Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman, who both still have many years of good pitching in them.
These guys are as East Coast as a team can be, and so if you want a team who you can enjoy watching right away and won’t have to stay up until dawn to cheer for, the Mets should be a blast.
Another East Coast team, the Philadelphia Phillies have star power, great uniforms and a fanbase that followers of British sport will no doubt appreciate.
First things first, open a new tab and Google ‘Phillies Powder Blue’. If you’re still here and you haven’t already ordered one with your mind made up, I’ll continue.
The Phillies have a couple of legit superstars in Bryce Harper and the best catcher in MLB, J.T. Realmuto. They have a phenomenal ace in Aaron Nola, spearheading their rotation. The pitching behind Nola doesn’t quite have the potency of the Mets’ when healthy, but Zack Wheeler is good too. The Phillies also have one of the best prospects to reach the majors in the last couple of years in Alec Bohm.
Philadelphia is a team on the outside looking in right now, but they are one of the more dangerous teams who aren’t considered top contenders.
When you combine their roster with the ideal time zone, awesome uniforms and a great fanbase – loyal, but willing to boo their team at a moment’s notice – the Phillies could be an awesome team to support from the UK.
While I gave five recommendations, there are countless teams who are fun to watch or have a great history and I tried to mention a few different teams throughout the article who I wasn’t going to recommend but deserved a shoutout for various reasons.
If you are getting into baseball for the first time right now, congratulations. You’re becoming a fan of an incredible sport that doubles as both the best sport to watch passively and one of the most intense and captivating sports out there.