New York’s Aaron Judge (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Cleveland Guardians vs. New York Yankees: Can David Topple Goliath?
Not only is New York’s 2022 payroll (approx. $265 million) more than triple that of Cleveland’s (approx. $82 million), but there’s actually a height-based David/Goliath thing going on here between the respective star players: 6’7″. Aaron Judge and 5’9″ José Ramírez.
It’s not quite the same as the legendary photoshoot of 5’3″ Muggsy Bogues and 7’7″ Manute Bol, or even the same as comparing Judge to Houston’s 5’6″ Jose Altuve. However, it is a fitting manifestation of the divide. between these two franchises, both in terms of current finances and all-time greatness: The Yankees are going for World Series No. 28 while the Guardians are after their first since 1948 and just their third overall.
Seattle Mariners vs. Houston Astros: The Start of an AL West Changing of the Guard?
It has been 21 long years since the Mariners last played in the postseason, and this is no “flash in the pan, back to the basement next year” situation for Seattle. The M’s have gone all-in for the long haul, locking up Julio Rodríguez, Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Eugenio Suárez, JP Crawford and Marco Gonzales through at least the 2024 season. (Crawford through 2026. Castillo through 2028. Rodríguez through 2034.)
But the AL West still runs through Houston, and the Astros are surely relishing the opportunity to prove how much of a gap remains between the plucky underdog from the Pacific Northwest and the juggernaut that has participated in each of the past five ALCS.
Oddly enough, these division rivals haven’t met since July, so this will be Seattle’s first chance to unleash its big-time trade deadline acquisition (Castillo) against the Astros. Presumably lined up to pitch Game 2 on Thursday and potentially some of Game 5 on Monday if the series lasts that long, we’ll see if he proves to be a difference-maker.
San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: The Start of an NL West Changing of the Guard?
Heading into the 2020 NLDS, San Diego was feeling good about itself for the first time in a long time. The big Manny Machado signing worked out. Fernando Tatis Jr. was just as great in Year 2 as he was in 2019. Even Wil Myers had a career year as the Padres made the postseason for the first time since 2006.
But then they ran into their big brothers from Los Angeles and got swept right out of the postseason.
They added Yu Darvish and Blake Snell that offseason. And trying to seize an opportunity to make a move to the forefront of the NL West, they went all-in at the trade deadline this year, gutting the farm system to bring in Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Brandon Drury and Josh Hader.
Will it finally be enough, or will the 111-win Dodgers assert their dominance once again?
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves: First Step to a Repeat?
It’s a broken record situation at this point, but the last team to repeat as World Series champions was the New York Yankees from 1998-2000. Plenty of recent reigning champions have made it back to the playoffs and were good enough to pull off the repeat feat, but it’s just hard to be the hottest team at the right time in back-to-back Octobers.
Atlanta’s first step comes against a division foe against whom it was quite evenly matched this season. The Braves won the series 11-8, but they were separated by just three total runs with 12 of the 19 games coming right down to the wire.
And after going more than a decade between postseason appearances and watching Atlanta win the division in each of the past five years, the Phillies have got to be champing at the bit for a “to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best” “Opportunity to shine.