The 2023 MLB season is in full swing. April is in the rearview mirror and teams (along with the weather) are starting to heat up. This year, there aren’t a lot of teams that have separated themselves from the pack. Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays have a 32-11 record while the Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, and Los Angeles Dodgers all have great records but it’s hard to find the true contenders yet.
This leaves the field open for a lot of teams to step up and emerge as divisional champions. Additionally, there are a handful of teams that can meet up for a fun World Series matchup.
A fun matchup might seem unexpected but early on, there are some teams that have an avenue to the World Series. So, what would be a fun matchup? Why would some matchups be fun? Well, the first one on this list would be great because it would be a win for small-market baseball.
A Way-Too-Early Look at Some Fun 2023 World Series Matchups
Tampa Bay Rays vs Pittsburgh Pirates
The small market of all small market matchups. In a league where the New York Yankees, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies are spending in the half-billion range on their rosters, which teams have the best records? The Rays have the best in baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates have been the pleasant surprise of the 2023 season, starting out the year 23-20. Both the Rays and Pirates have spent minimally out of necessity but are fielding two of the best teams in baseball.
The Rays have been dominant in all facets of the game. They lead the league in runs scored with 6.23 runs per game and have the best lineup in the game highlighted by Randy Arozarena, Wander Franco, and Yandy Diaz. The pitching staff is also remarkable with Shane McClanahan picking up where he left off last year (he was a Cy Young Award nominee) and a rotation without a weakness. Likewise, the bullpen continues to be one of the best in the game with no star in the closing role but anyone that can step up and throw a scoreless inning. Needless to say, the Rays have been the team to beat a few weeks into the season.
The Pirates, meanwhile, have gotten off to a hot start with their pitching leading the way. Mitch Keller, with the help of three new pitches in his arsenal, has emerged as one of the best starters in the National League, allowing only 19 runs in 56.2 innings pitched while tossing 69 strikeouts. In the bullpen, David Bednar has established himself as a shutdown closer and has given the Pirates the luxury of locking down games early.
A matchup between these two teams would be a highlight for small markets. In addition, it would be a reminder that baseball is not only a sport where anyone can win but any market can be competitive if they spend wisely and make smart team-building decisions.
Baltimore Orioles vs Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have been the beacon of baseball success for the past decade, especially in the National League. They have a Hall of Fame pitcher at the end of his career and a well-built team and look poised to win another World Series. They run into the upstart Baltimore Orioles who subsequently become the team to beat in the American League for years to come.
Why does this sound familiar? Well, it happened in 1966. The Dodgers won two World Series titles in the decade and looked poised for a third. They not only lost to the Orioles but were swept by the team that would go on to win another title in 1970 and win the pennant two more times as well in the next five. This matchup would not only be a throwback but oddly enough mirror the era and the World Series matchup in 1966.
Aside from the nostalgia and throwbacks, this would also be an exciting World Series. The Orioles have built one of the best young teams in baseball and have an exciting, deep lineup that can overwhelm any pitching staff. The Dodgers have been the team of the decade and are on pace to win their division for the 10th time in 11 years. Would we get a repeat of 1966? Probably not. Would the matchup have many back-and-forth games with a plethora of excitement? Absolutely.
Minnesota Twins vs Milwaukee Brewers
Hope you like the cold weather. In October, Minnesota and Wisconsin can get cold, really cold. There have been playoff games with snow and player wishing they signed somewhere else to avoid these elements.
The Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers are off to strong starts and have the rosters to win their divisions. Both teams have their playoff demons but since curses aren’t real (right?) if these teams get into the postseason, they can make a run. They also happen to have teams built to win in the postseason with great lineups, dominant starting pitchers, and depth. If these two teams meet, it would be a good series but also one that runs the risk of being played in freezing temperatures.
Fortunately, the Brewers play in a ballpark with a retractable roof. The Twins don’t and are one of the few teams that built a ballpark in this century without the indoor option (making it one of the more questionable decisions in recent baseball history).
Aside from the weather, this matchup would be a validation for the central divisions and the Midwest altogether. Finally, the coastal elites can’t bask in championship glory and the World Series will be played in the middle of the country. The last time a team from one of the central divisions won the World Series was the Chicago Cubs in 2016 but this year, one of these teams can get it done.
Tampa Bay Rays vs Atlanta Braves
This would be a matchup of two of the best front offices in baseball. Both teams have not only been forward-thinking but analytical and well-aware of their markets. The Rays have been the team of innovation since their inception in 1998 and are always ahead of the curve. The Braves, well they’ve been an underrated team when it comes to their moves. Not only have the Braves made strong moves in the past few years but they have signed all their star young players to long-term deals and that core is here to stay.
This World Series matchup would be star power vs star power. The Braves and Rays are two of the best teams in baseball and are thriving across the board. As an added bonus, not many baseball fans hate the Rays. Even their division rivals don’t hate them as much as they are indifferent to them (and view them as an annoying team to play against). The Braves bring some divisional animosity with them but for the most part, the baseball world doesn’t have much of an opinion on them. So, this matchup would just be an enjoyable one for the baseball fan at large.
Other Fun World Series Matchup Possibilities
Texas Rangers vs Atlanta Braves
The Rangers haven’t been mentioned yet but their presence in a World Series would be fun. If they face the Braves, it would pit two of the best teams in the south against each other and two of the newest ballparks in a series. The matchup would also mean that Bruce Bochy would go up against Brian Snitker in a World Series, pitting two of the older but greatest managers in baseball against one another.
Texas Rangers vs Milwaukee Brewers
Another fun one involving the Rangers would be them against the Brewers. Yes, the matchup has two retractable roof ballparks but a lot of other fun storylines as well. Jacob DeGrom (if he’s healthy) would pitch against Corbin Burnes and fans would get two see two of the best pitchers in the game go at it. The Rangers and Brewers have also never won the World Series so this matchup by default gives one team their first title.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs Toronto Blue Jays
While not fun for small markets, the Dodgers against the Toronto Blue Jays would be both aesthetically pleasing (if you like the color blue) and pit two of the biggest cities in North America against each other.
There’s still plenty of baseball to be played. While it’s unlikely any of these teams will meet in the World Series, they would certainly provide some fun storylines and intriguing matchups.
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