Top 5 Reasons O’s/Nats Is Almost A Rivalry
We know the drill by now. Each year during interleague play, the local media shoves a contrived “Beltway Rivalry” down our throats. And each year, it’s a lackluster series between two losing ball clubs that just happen to share a cable sports network.
Well, this year the script has officially flipped. While I’m still not ready to rank this up there with O’s/Yankees, we finally have compelling, meaningful games between the two MASN mates, and here’s why:
5. Stephen Strasburg – He’s back and he’s no joke. The Nats’ rotation is instantly legitimate with him in it, even without any other quality additions like Gio Gonzalez. Strasburg will provide a compelling challenge year in and year out for the O’s, and there are bragging rights to be had.
4. Bryce Harper – The Nationals phenom is, in my opinion, an instantly unlikeable kid. He’s unquestionably good for the game, but he already rubs fans and players the wrong way. He hasn’t been much of a factor in this series yet, and he may not be until next year, but it’s only going to take an exaggerated fist pump or a walk-off homer for him to really get on your nerves.
3. Davey Johnson – It’s one thing to share a cable network with a team 40 minutes away, but it’s another when that team employs the manager of the last winning Orioles club. You can be damn sure he wants to beat the O’s, despite a recent half-assed mutual mea culpa from Peter Angelos and Johnson. I also think it’s fair to mention that Davey pulled out the old, “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin'” on whether or not Jake Arrieta was throwing spitballs on Friday. Sounds like sour grapes to me, DJ.
2. The Fans – There will always be a healthy back-and-forth between O’s and Nats fans and it’s about much more than baseball. However, until recently these two teams shared too many mutual fans and too much mutual respect. But with some of the recent additions to the Nats (see items 1-3), I’m sensing a growing confidence in Nats fans, and some on-the-fencers are now likely going all in. Factor in that it’s easy for either team’s fans to make the trip to the opposing stadium, and you have a recipe for some healthy chant battles in the stands.
1. Winning – Ah yes, the missing ingredient. No one was ever going to buy into a rivalry between these two teams without at least one of them being good. Suddenly, both teams are not only good, but in first place in their respective divisions. And wouldn’t you know it, this has been without a doubt the most interesting Battle of the Beltway (no snicker needed, for once) to date.
That said, it’s not quite there yet. It has to percolate. The teams have to keep winning, and there has to be an event that sparks a dislike for the other team. For now, though, fans of both teams are just happy to be finally witnessing winning baseball.