Heading into last night’s series opener in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles held a 39-32 edge in the regional “rivalry” with the Washington Nationals.
It was Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker’s first experience of the Interleague matchup.
He talked before the game about what a legitimate rivalry could mean for baseball in D.C. and Baltimore.
“It’s great for a region, because it inspires instruction in families, it inspires arguments in families,” Baker said.
“One kid loves the Orioles and the other kids loves the Nationals and what it does, I think it — especially when the two teams are good teams — I think it’s great for baseball. It’s great for discussion.”
“Quite frankly, when I first got here I said — I was just kidding, but I was half-heartedly kidding, I said it would be great to have a — I didn’t know what they were going to call it, I didn’t know it was called ‘the Beltway’, it would be great to have a Beltway Series. World Series.”
Baker mentioned the World Series matchup he experienced between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants as a Hitting Coach with the Giants in 1989 and the New York vs New York Series in 2000 of examples of how it can energize a region’s fans and take the rivalry to another level.
O’s skipper Buck Showalter talked after last night’s game about there being a different atmosphere in Oriole Park for the series opener with the Nationals, where 31,660 fans cheered on the Orioles’ win.
“It was an energy that we needed,” Showalter said.
“You’re always kind of leaning on your fans sometimes. You come off a long trip in August and whatever and it’s a pick-me-up. We’re having to make a lot of adjustments with batting practice and work schedules, trying to keep our legs under us like every other club is with how demanding the schedules are, but that’s why it’s nice to come be in an atmosphere like it was tonight.”
Mark Trumbo, who hit one of the Orioles’ two home runs, talked after the game about experiencing the “rivalry” for the first time.
“It was exciting,” Trumbo said, as quoted by BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Dan Connolly.
“I don’t know all the history, but obviously it seemed like there was a lot of energy at the stadium today. I’m sure there is a lot of bragging rights on the line. Glad to get that win.”
Most of the drama between the two teams (outside of that whole Jonathan Papelbon hitting Manny Machado thing last season and other exciting stuff we’re surely forgetting like that time... yeah, I’ve got nothing) has taken place off the field before baseball returned to the nation’s capital and in court where the whole MASN TV rights dispute continues.
Maybe one day it will start to feel like a real rivalry... one day... as Ryan Zimmerman said in 2012, however, it certainly helps that both teams are more competitive these days.
“It's one of those kind of dueling fanbases [situations] where I wouldn't say it's very hostile, it's more of a — I don't know — it's friendly rivalry I guess you could say. But it's fun, it definitely makes it interesting now that we're both good."
So even if there isn’t really a “rivalry” per se, at least there’s some good baseball.