My how this rivalry has grown. The hate, the vitriol, the bad blood, the competition all getting more intense and sour as each year passes.
Orioles fans resent the Nationals’ very existence, angered by their so-called traitorous friends from northern Virginia, D.C., or southern Maryland that jumped ship when the new team came to town.
Nationals fans despise the uneven MASN television rights deal, lamenting the years they were forced to watch a mediocre team that they didn’t feel was truly their own.
The battle for the D.C.-Baltimore area continues to be fought at the box office, over the airwaves, and nearly in the courtroom, but this week, the two teams will take the fight between the lines for a highly anticipated four-game series.
The Orioles will visit Nationals Park on Monday and Tuesday, while the Birds will host the Nationals at Camden Yards on Wednesday and Thursday.
The annual clash between the O’s and Nats has become an important battle for bragging rights and the atmosphere at these games has been electric at both parks.
However, in the last few years, each team has emerged as contenders in their division, placing even more focus on the interleague series. This year, the Orioles (48-40) come into D.C. in first place in the AL East and the Nationals (48-39) trail the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves by a half game.
While most Orioles fans will argue that Baltimore’s biggest rivals remain in their own division in the form of Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, and Toronto, few of those games ever seem to carry the same intensity in the bleachers as Orioles vs. Nationals.
The complicated relationship between the two teams is unlike any other in baseball and is a major point of contention between each team’s ownership. Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos’ opposition to bringing a team to Washington and the deal struck to compensate the Orioles for the financial losses caused by the Nationals’ move to D.C. in 2006 seems to have trickled into the minds of the players and fans on each side.
Even the Orioles’ nasty series with Oakland that earned Manny Machado a five-game suspension or the bad blood between the O’s and Rays (specifically Dr. Koko Eaton and Grant Balfour) shouldn’t compare to the intensity of these upcoming games.
Games against division rivals may carry more weight in the standings, but sports has always been a venture that’s fueled by money. When two teams within 40 miles of each other compete for many of the same fans, the battle with a regional rival for the almighty dollar can mean more for the future of the franchise than other division games.
I’m not ready to place more importance on this game than a game against the second-place Blue Jays, for instance, but the Orioles maintaining a piece of the D.C. market is essential to their financial success.
Winning these games helps the Orioles do exactly that. Orioles pride needs to be alive and well in the D.C. market despite the growth of “Natitude” in the area.
If the Orioles continue to win, they have a good chance of remaining a force and continuing to connect with fans in the D.C. area, leading to more money and more potential for success in the future.
The biggest battles between the Orioles and Nationals have yet to be completely resolved, but this week’s series is yet another important skirmish in the war between two enemies living in all-too-close quarters.