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A’s fan guide to the 2021 MLB postseason

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Which former A’s are playing? Which teams rank on the Villain Index?

MLB: AUG 24 White Sox at Blue Jays
Our former HOF manager and our former star closer
Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 MLB postseason is here! And the Oakland A’s aren’t involved. Bummer.

However, it’s still playoff baseball, and as a fan of the sport you might be interested in watching it anyway. Here’s some info to help you out!

There are 10 teams involved, though two will be knocked out by the end of Wednesday in the Wild Card Games.

American League

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. Houston Astros
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Wild Card: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

National League

  1. San Francisco Giants
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

In the AL, the East division sends three teams, led by the top-seeded Rays. That trio will duke it out in the WCG and then the ALDS, and whoever comes out on top will face the winner of the Astros and White Sox for the league pennant.

In the NL, the Dodgers won 106 games but settled for a Wild Card, while the Cardinals went on a 17-game win streak in September just to get here. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the A’s missed the playoffs, the Giants stumbled into the best record in the majors. There’s a chance the two NL West rivals might face off in the Division Series, while the Brewers and Braves will compete in the other NLDS matchup.

The bracket looks like this.

Again, none of those teams are the A’s, so we’re going to have to come up with other rooting motivations.

Former A’s

One good place to start is to check the other clubs for former Oakland players.

  • Rays: IF Joey Wendle, our old prospect who got his chance elsewhere and made good
  • Astros: RHP Kendall Graveman, who spent four years in our rotation as a decent starter but is now a late-inning power reliever
  • White Sox: RHP Liam Hendriks, our former star closer who left as a free agent last winter
  • Red Sox: RHP Ryan Brasier, who never played for the A’s, but spent two years in our minors before finding a home elsewhere
  • Yankees: None
  • Giants: 2B Tommy La Stella, who was part of our playoff run last year but left as a free agent over the winter
  • Brewers: LHP Brett Anderson, our longtime former starter, who has now pitched for teams that made the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons
  • Braves: RHP Jesse Chavez, who put himself on the MLB map here nearly a decade ago, and has pitched for six teams since being traded away (for Hendriks!) after 2015
  • Dodgers: RHP Blake Treinen, our former star closer who back to star form on a new club; also our former prospect 1B Max Muncy if he recovers from injury in time
  • Cardinals: LHP Jon Lester, who didn’t find postseason success with us in 2014, but is back in October searching for his fourth ring; also LHP T.J. McFarland, who spent 2020 in our bullpen but had a career year this summer

Also, the White Sox are led by Tony La Russa, our own former championship manager.

No team is loaded with former A’s, and most of them have exactly one. Of course, not all of them garner as much support from Oakland fans as others do, and even some of the more popular ones are suited up for teams that are impossible for us to support. Hendriks, Wendle, Anderson, and Chavez are the four that rank highest in terms of rootability on this list. (Astros manager Dusty Baker played for the A’s in the 1980s, but no extra credit is awarded to Houston.)

Villain Index

Next up is a general villain index, in relation to the A’s specifically.

High

  • Giants: Nope nope nope
  • Astros: The current villains of MLB, plus they’re our bitter division rival, and they knocked us out of the playoffs in 2020
  • Yankees: Duh
  • Red Sox: Duh, though probably easier to root for in the WCG, plus they knocked us out less recently than New York (2003 BOS, vs. 2018 NYY)

Medium

  • Dodgers: They beat us in 1988, and they also won it all just last year, though they’ll be the lesser evil if they reach the NLDS
  • Cardinals: They already won twice in the last 15 years. And what are they even doing here? Weren’t we supposed to have someone fun and interesting like the Padres or Reds?

Low

  • Braves: No particular reason to care one way or other about them
  • White Sox: Newer contender on the rise who’ve earned their chance, and paid their dues last October losing to us in the Wild Card Series, plus easy to root for Hendriks and La Russa
  • Brewers: Fellow small-budget underdog, and they’ve never won a World Series
  • Rays: They’re the East A’s, winning on a small budget with innovative strategies and a constant turnstile, and having even more success with it but still haven’t quite won a World Series despite getting close last year; not even mad they knocked us out in 2019

As an A’s fan, most of the AL bracket is a no-brainer. The ideal outcome is the Rays and White Sox facing off in the ALCS, and either way the pennant goes to somebody palatable. The NL is a bit more subjective, with the only real priority being that we don’t go through the torture of watching the Giants waltz to another title. It might also be nice to not see the Dodgers buy another ring.

One more consideration to keep in mind is franchise championship totals. The A’s are third all-time (9), behind the Yankees (27) and Cardinals (11), but the Red Sox (9) are tied with Oakland, and the Giants (8) are only one back. Keeping our current place on that list is another reason to root against Boston and San Francisco. If you like rooting for teams that have never won before, then you want Rays vs. Brewers in the World Series.

How to watch

The action begins Tuesday with the AL Wild Card Game, and continues Wednesday with the NL Wild Card Game. On Thursday the ALDS gets going, and Friday the NLDS joins in. (All times listed are Pacific.)

  • Tuesday: AL Wild Card Game (5 p.m. PT, on ESPN)
  • Wednesday: NL Wild Card Game (5 p.m., on TBS)
  • Thursday: ALDS Game 1 (1 p.m. & 5 p.m., on FS1)
  • Friday: ALDS Game 2 (11 a.m. on MLB Network & 4 p.m. on FS1) and NLDS Game 1 (1:30 p.m. & 6:30 p.m., on TBS)
  • Saturday: NLDS Game 2 (2 p.m. & 6 p.m., TBS)
  • Sunday: ALDS Game 3 (1 p.m. on MLB Network & 5 p.m., FS1)

See the tweet below for all start times through Sunday.

A few recent injuries of note: Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez (ankle) is questionable for the WCG ... Yankees second baseman D.J. LeMahieu (sports hernia) is out for the WCG and ALDS ... Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw (forearm) went on the injured list Saturday, and slugger Max Muncy (elbow) is unlikely for the WCG ... Brewers setup reliever Devin Williams (hand) punched a wall and won’t return before the World Series at best ... Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (thumb) is questionable to return for the postseason ... Rays reliever Nick Anderson (back) missed most of the year but hopes to return for the ALDS.