The Washington Senators moved away after the 1971 season, and baseball of course didn’t return to Washington DC until 2005 in the form of the Nationals. Unequivocally and regardless of what efforts were made by the Baltimore Orioles to prevent an MLB team from returning to Washington in that span of time, I feel it was wrong that our national pasttime didn’t exist in our nation’s capital. Could one imagine Ottawa without hockey, or Rome without soccer? Probably not.
But the point of this piece is not to re-hash the past history between Baltimore and Washington. The question at hand is whether or not having a franchise directly down the road within a 50-mile or so radius makes things tougher for the O’s. And I don’t mean that in the sense that a lot of fans probably think I do. There are certain suburbs that “belong” to one city or the other; Columbia is obviously Baltimore’s for instance, whereas Beltsville or Silver Spring trends more towards Washington. (This is not to say that there aren’t people all over who root for one team or the other.) However there’s also lots of middle ground that one could argue is neutral.
Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
So in looking at the two franchise’s off seasons, one would be hard-pressed to say that Washington didn’t have a better one in terms of player acquisition than did the Orioles. Please bear in mind, this in no way means that the O’s aren’t committed to winning, or that Washington wants to win more. However if you’re judging the off seasons by player signings and acquisition, Washington certainly gets the nod.
The story of the 2014-15 off season won’t be written until after the regular season is over. However is the off season something to which the O’s should consider a bit more? Keep in mind that fans were underwhelmed by the Orioles’ off season last year – that is until Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz signed. Furthermore as great of a pitcher as Max Scherzer is, Washington also lost Adam LaRoche, who was a big source of their power. But the point here is whether or not the Birds should spend more time looking at how their acquisitions (or lack thereof) effect local fans. Might “fringe fans,” who might be likely to root for both teams, be swayed to pull primarily for Washington if the Orioles continue being “dull?” (And incidentally, keep in mind also that if this threat exists for the Orioles, it also exists for Washington as well.)
I would submit that fandom and excitement are mutually exclusive. If you’ve rooted for the Orioles for your entire life, I seriously doubt you’re about to switch allegiances. This is not to say that the Orioles shouldn’t consider this moving forward. They had a monopoly on local media for the better part of a generation; now they’re having to in essence fight for market share. So a bit of excitement here and there wouldn’t hurt. But at the end of the day, this is an Orioles team that was picked to finish last in 2014, as they have been again in 2015. And we all know how they finished last year.