The Major League Baseball playoffs begin this week, and it is going to be different for obvious reasons. Expanded seeding along with future neutral site locations are some of the few major changes. With more teams throughout October baseball, that means America’s past time is becoming more and more like the loser NBA. Meaningless games at the start and watering down the significant performances of teams that have a legitimate shot at winning a championship by playing a team that is .500 and should have no business being in the playoff picture. Now with that, here is a list of every team in the tournament and whether they are a contender or pretender and why.

American League:

Tampa Bay Rays: Contender

St. Pete has the best shot to make it back to the fall classic in their franchise history since they challenged the Phillies in 2008. Young talent like Tyler Glasnow and Brandon Lowe combined with the veteran presence of a guy like Charlie Morton, the Rays must be a favorite in a crowded American League. The biggest question mark, team does not hit well for average. With pitching getting tougher as the playoffs continue, that could be their kryptonite.

Oakland Athletics: Contender

The team by the Bay is another tough out no matter who they play. “Money Ball” year in year out consistently plays quality ball while not getting enough attention. While the team won’t shock you with their bats, mainly because in almost every offensive category they place in the bottom half of baseball. But what wins championships? Defense. Pitching is top 5 in every major category. Look out for the A’s.

Minnesota Twins: Contender

The Twin Cities will smack you in the mouth. Massive bats in the middle of the lineup and four guys who have hit double digit home runs. Matching an offense is three quality starters with huge experience in big games including Kenta Meada and Rich Hill, both former Dodgers who have seen playoff baseball a lot. The reason they lose, top 5 in home runs, but 18th in total runs scored. Cannot manufacture runs. Look out for that in the early rounds.

New York Yankees: Pretender

The Bronx Bombers always seem to find themselves in the conversation but have not put on the finishing touch. Hit a lot homer and always get hurt. That’s the Yanks every year. There are too many good teams in the AL for them to make a run. Bullpen doesn’t hold up with some nervous chickens back there.

Cleveland Indians: Contender

I would argue that the Indians are always a pretender because, well, they play in Cleveland, but much like in 2016, this team has a shot getting back to the series. For one reason and one reason only, pitching. Defense wins championships. I have said it before, and I will continue to say it. Best ERA in the AL.

Houston Astros: Pretender

They are cheaters, what else is there to say.

Chicago White Sox: Contender

The South Side has fire power on both sides that makes this 7th seed a sleeper in these playoffs. Young talent along with a veteran presence that have been there before, making them very scary. Dallas Keuchel likes along with must watch Timmy Anderson. Right now, the only thing that could derail the Sox is lack of momentum. Going just 2-8 in their last 10.

Toronto Blue Jays: Pretender

Sure, the Blue Jays are a cool story. Not allowed to play in Canada, forced to live at a minor league ballpark in Buffalo. This team is built for the future and should contend for playoff spots for the next five years, but really the only reason they are in the dance is because its expanded. Guerrero, Bichette, and Biggio have huge upside so these playoffs could be valuable for the young talent to get their feet wet. Will they win? No. Probably going to get tossed around. I will say they have nothing to lose and can swing for the fences like they have done all season long.

National League:

Dodgers: Contender

There is not much to like about the Dodgers this year for me. Yes, they had the best record in baseball and smacked around a lot of teams using the long ball and the usual suspects played well enough. Mookie Betts is why they get back to the World Series. Other than that, what? Beat up on bad teams and was never tested. Bullpen has shown it can be shaky so unless they score 7 or 8 runs every night, I would not be surprised to see them bow out in a wide-open National League. After all that, yes, they are contenders because they are LA.

Atlanta Braves: Contender

The ATL has been overlooked in my opinion this season. They are solid. Listen to this stat line. The Braves finished 1st or 2nd in runs, batting average, hits, home runs, on base, slugging, and OPS. Someone tell me why this isnt being talked about. Best offense in baseball? In a huge ballpark? Sure, there division was not all that great but finishing with that line? Obviously makes them a contender. The Braves haven’t done much in October of late, but I can see them making a big push to the Pennant.

Chicago Cubs: Pretender

I think the Cubs best days are behind them. Yes, they had a good year with some great pitching performances like a no hitter. To me this is the same old Cubs with the same guys that had a great year in 2016 breaking the curse. Chicago will win some games, but make a push, I just don’t see it.

San Diego Padres: Pretender

America’s finest city has a team in the playoffs for the first time in a long time. Caught everyone’s attention with young talent and Grand Slams. Are they as good as their record shows? Absolutely not. Beat one winning team this season, showed they can beat their big brother in the Dodgers, and labored to the finish line. Pump the breaks and relax and tell me one thing that makes them so special that other teams don’t have. I’m sorry I just don’t buy it. The Padres are the Cowboys of baseball.

St Louis Cardinals: Contender

You must give the Cards credit. Didn’t play baseball for two weeks because of Covid and had to make up game after game with double headers. This team is above water under the worst circumstances thanks to solid pitching and timely hitting. They don’t blow up the box score, but what they do well is not shoot themselves in the foot. St. Louis is like the uncle you could always count on to sneak you a beer or two at the family reunion.

Miami Marlins: Pretender

South Beach hasn’t seen the Marlins in the playoffs since my balls dropped. They also faced some adversity with Covid and even were the best team in baseball at one point but let’s be honest. They can’t compete. Much like Toronto I see them getting off the bus and immediately getting back on.

Cincinnati Reds: Pretender

America’s oldest team is a funny bunch. Misfits everywhere, but they got solid players like Trevor Bauer who could single handedly get them a victory and Joey Votto is a king at the plate. They ranked 27th in runs! In a hitter’s ballpark! They do not have the fire power to make a run in the NL. I hate the Reds. I do, so if you think I am being biased you are probably right. Oh, and I don’t care.

Milwaukee Brewers: Pretenders

The Brew Crew probably had one of the more disappointing seasons and if everything were normal, they wouldn’t have sniffed the playoffs. Star players like Yelich and Braun just never got it going. Pitching wasn’t all that bad with no clear ace for much of the season. No respect for Milwaukee this year.