Every NHL and MLB season I subscribe to the out-of-market packages and end up running into the same issue - when the team I’m a fan of isn’t playing, how do I prioritize who else to spend time watching? If you’re like me, hopefully this will help. Taking an idea I first saw from Zach Lowe in relation to the NBA, I’ve created tiers of which teams I would recommend watching on a nightly basis.
Teams were rated on a scale with a maximum of 50 points, based on the categories below:
Pitching (5 Points)
Hitting (5 Points)
Defense (5 Points)
This is clearly the most straightforward of the general categories, as it’s just my evaluation of the team’s strength in each area. The only place it potentially needs a little bit more explanation is on defense - for purposes of what I’d want to watch as a casual viewer, I evaluated defense with a bigger focus on the ability to make the spectacular play than the routine.
Star Power (10 Points)
Excitement (10 Points)
Playoff Race (5 Points)
I put the heaviest weighting here, since without an investment in either team I’m more interested in making sure I’m entertained.
Announcers (3 Points)
Production (4 Points)
Stadium (3 Points)
I put the lowest weighting here because it’s impact can be so limited. On Extra Innings you may be watching the other team’s broadcast half the time anyway, and on MLB.tv you can choose which broadcast you’re watching; the ability to choose radio announcers on MLB.tv is also why announcers were valued only 3 points. Production includes things like the pre and post-game shows, overall appearance of the broadcast, and camera angle.
Before I get started, one additional note specific to MLB.tv - if you’ve subscribed in the past but haven’t recently, I highly recommend checking out some of the documentaries they’ve added in the past couple years.
Tier 1: Must Watch
I don’t think many people would argue with the Dodgers and Padres ranking at the top of this, with a bonus of playing each other within the division and competing for first-place as well. Both teams rank highly across the board, and it’s worth any baseball fan’s time to watch Fernando Tatis Jr., Mookie Betts, Blake Snell, and Walker Buehler (among plenty of others).
A lot of those same positives could be said for the Braves and Yankees, as they do have exciting talent as well. In particular, the Braves combination of Acuña Jr., Albies, Ozuna, and Freeman. Where those two teams fall behind is in the broadcasts, particularly due to poor play-by-play. The Braves do get a bit of an advantage over the Yankees from having one of the better center field cameras in the league.
This group might be worth watching for the sake of volatility alone - almost every one of these teams could challenge for the division, but a majority could completely flame out as well.
There are varying things that keep these groups out of Tier 1, but the biggest thing that separates from the next tier down is the star power throughout. The White Sox are probably the most underrated team in the majors in terms of stars, with Tim Anderson, José Abreu, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez, and Luis Robert worth watching. Meanwhile the Mets have attempted to reload, the Angels have Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani, and the Nationals have Trea Turner, Juan Soto, and plenty of pitching.
In terms of the broadcasts, I highly recommend taking in the Blue Jays’ broadcast any time it’s possible. On the other hand, I’d avoid the Nationals broadcasts whenever I could; the announcers have consistently been among the worst in the league, and the rest of the broadcast doesn’t make up for it.
This tier has three teams that are past the peak of their contention windows, which has limited the star power available watching most of their games. Meanwhile, the Phillies should just be getting into their contention window but have plenty of volatility - they’re brought down further by a generally poor viewing experience.
The best viewing option out of these choices is likely the Brewers - the starting rotation is underrated, Christian Yelich is one of the best hitters in baseball, and they’re capable of putting out the most exciting outfield defense of anyone.
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This tier includes some contenders, but is largely brought down by a lack of excitement. The Rays are coming off a great year, but then offloaded and may not even be able to contend for the division. Meanwhile the Marlins are a more exciting team with young talent, but the broadcast and announcers are some of the worst in the league. The Giants might be the most interesting team to watch here - they aren’t going to contend in that division, but they are underrated and the home games will provide the backdrop of Oracle Park.
Getting close to the bottom, and at this point it’s harder to find reasons to go out of the way to watch these teams. The Royals are probably the most interesting, with some dynamic talent even without Bobby Witt Jr. - Whit Merrifield in particular is still undervalued and worth watching.
The Red Sox are the team that stands out and should be higher, but they’re clearly not trying to contend at this point and have lost most of the dynamic talent that made them an interesting watch. Visually, they also have one of the worst broadcasts in the league.
There’s not much to recommend watching on these teams other than being able to PNC Park, and the Mariners have essentially admitted you won’t be seeing their young talent any time soon. On the other hand - all of these are still baseball, so it’s hard to complain too much.