The evening desert air has a newfound crispness, coffee shops are overrun with pumpkin-flavored beverages and Game 1 of the fall classic between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros is less than 48 hours away. Baseball fans across the country are picking their sides. For many, that will be an easy choice.
For others, not so much.
The Astros, despite their past mistakes (more on that in a moment), have a plethora of exciting young players and a 73-year-old manager in Dusty Baker who is widely regarded as a baseball legend. Meanwhile, Justin Verlander has been pitching nearly as long as Baker has been managing and still looks as good as ever.
This Phillies team is lovable in many ways, though. After clawing their way into the Wild Card round with 87 wins in the regular season, the Phillies really have no business being where they are. Their presence in the fall classic is another indicator that even the most improbable of contenders can soar to the top in October. That is what makes playoff baseball so great.
Whether you like the Astros but are afraid to say it in public, or are already an avid Phillies supporter, here are five reasons to champion the city of brotherly love in the fall classic.
1. The historic, improbable nature of the Phillies’ World Series run
Many baseball fans follow a simple philosophy: If their team isn’t in the World Series, they root for the underdog. It probably comes easily for Diamondbacks fans, who root for a team that has been viewed as an underdog throughout most of its existence.
In some ways, the Phillies are as much of an underdog as they possibly could be. In the regular season, the Phillies had 87 wins compared to the Astros’ 106. That 19-win disparity between the two last teams standings is the largest Major League Baseball has seen since 1906, when the 116-win Cubs played the 93-win White Sox.
The fact that they made the playoffs to begin with was something of a miracle. In fact, as the first ever third Wild Card team in NL history, they would not have made the postseason in any MLB season prior to this one.
In 2022, the Phillies went 71-72 against all teams not named the Washington Nationals and finished third in the National League East. For Diamondbacks fans, that third-place finish is key. It is a sign of hope.
Diamondbacks fans root for a team that, even if a lot goes right, could struggle to compete with the two division powerhouses that tower over them. The Phillies had a pair of 100-win teams in the NL East in 2022. That did not stop them from winning the National League pennant.
If you want to believe the Diamondbacks can win a World Series in spite of the monstrosity that is the NL West, a Phillies championship in 2022 could go a long way.
2. The Houston Astros’ past mistakes are too big to forgive
This one is so obvious that it hardly bears mentioning, but yes, the Houston Astros devised a scheme involving a center field camera, a dugout smartphone and trash-can percussion to relay opposing pitchers’ signs to hitters. Maybe the Astros would have won the 2017 World Series regardless, but for a lot of fans, that doesn’t matter.
San Diego Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove was a member of that Astros championship team in 2017. During the Padres’ postseason run in 2022 — Musgrove’s first taste of the playoffs since winning that title with Houston — he acknowledged the asterisk that accompanied his ring.
“I still don’t feel great about wearing that ring around or telling people that I was a World Series champion on that team,” Musgrove told the Associated Press. “I want one that feels earned.”
Musgrove won’t get it this year. The Phillies, however, have a shot at winning a World Series in their first postseason appearance in more than a decade. They are the team no one saw coming, and millions of fans without a horse in the race will support them. In this case, following the crowd might be the only sensible thing to do.
3. Jean Segura, the only former Diamondback still standing in the MLB postseason
The Diamondbacks acquired Jean Segura from the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the 2016 season. Coming off arguably the worst season of his career, Segura’s only year with the D-backs was his best ever. He slashed .319/.368/.499 with 20 homers, 33 stolen bases and a league-leading 203 hits.
The D-backs flipped him to the Seattle Mariners the following winter as part of a trade to acquire Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker. Although he has never been able to repeat his breakout 2016 season, Segura has continued to be a productive big-leaguer after leaving Arizona.
For Diamondbacks fans who are convinced that players are only at their best before or after playing in Arizona, Segura is a counterexample. And for Diamondbacks fans looking to root for a familiar face in the World Series, he is the only one left.
4. The Phillie Phanatic is baseball’s best mascot
If you’re like a lot of baseball fans, you are familiar with the Phillie Phanatic but might not be able to name the Astros’ mascot. (It is Orbit, by the way.)
The Phanatic might not just be the best mascot in baseball, but the best in sports. He is green, fluffy and unafraid of dance parties.
During the NLCS, he hilariously impersonated FOX Sports sideline reporter Ken Rosenthal on live television.
And let’s not forget this incredible SportsCenter ad from back in the day.
According to the Phantic’s official bio on MLB.com, the he is 6-foot-6, weighs “300 pounds (mostly fat)” and hails from the Galapagos Islands. The Phanatic has been capturing the hearts of fans, young and old, for nearly 50 years.
5. Showing love for Suns forward Mikal Bridges
If you’re a Phoenix Suns fan, you probably love Mikal Bridges. Aside from being one of the best defensive players in the NBA, Bridges is a Philadelphia native and an avid Phillies fan.
In fact, after the D-backs caught eye of Bridges’ love for the Phillies on Twitter, a chain of events led to Bridges celebrating his birthday at Chase Field on what was officially dubbed “Mikal Bridges Day” at the ballpark. Fittingly, the D-backs played the Phillies that day.
Bridges was kind enough to don D-backs a jersey, but he had his Phillies garb underneath. He was honest about which team he was really there to support.
If you love Bridges, you should probably have a soft spot for the teams he roots for, too. Maybe the Suns’ strong start is a good omen for the Phillies, as they prepare for their most formidable opponent yet.
Top photo: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports