BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 20: Felix Pie #18 of the Baltimore Orioles gets caught in a run down by Jason Marquis #21 of the Washington Nationals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
The Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles play a good game against each other, but the "Battle of the Beltways" has yet to live up to the rivalry it is meant to be.
I don't have much to say about MLB interleague play, other than it is a cute way to make a couple extra bucks and get a couple thousand more viewers. The idea is to pit a National League team against a rival American League team, and every season the Major Leagues go through two or three periods of doing so. It is a period of baseball for the fan boys and those young dreamers that always fantasize about Team A crossing leagues, divisions and the baseball universe to face Team B. The matchups usually contain teams that play cross town from each other or in the same area of the country. The only reason they never meet is due to being in different leagues, but interleague play offers a cross-dimensional time rift that allows them to finally do so. One would think that a lot of hoopla would follow about rivalries and teams proving whose house this really is.
The Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles finished a three-game interleague series dubbed "The Battle of the Beltways" on Sunday. The Nationals started the series with a blistering offense that went as cold as ice by the end of game three. The Orioles ended up taking the series two games to one and have moved to 17-15 in the Beltway Battle since baseball returned to Washington.
And I just didn't care.
Well, I cared in the sense the Nationals lost. I cared in the sense that the Nationals are making themselves a little too cozy in the NL East cellar. I cared in the sense it was my team's mind-boggling play that has caused them to lose two games straight. I cared because I see a lot of problems. But I just didn't care that it was at the hands of the Orioles.
The Nats and O's have been dubbed "rivals" since baseball returned to D.C. Their contests were given the name "The Battle of the Beltways" and even had a logo made up for it. It was to be the meeting of the DMV's most heated rivals and a much sought-after affair. Six seasons later, the Beltway Battle has still yet to strike that spark that would officially launch it into true rivalry status. When the two teams meet, it feels just like it is just two teams meeting. There is no fire nor meat on the bone. These teams are told they are rivals and they need to play each other to the death. The fan bases are told in so many words on so many forums that they should not like each other. But everyone looks at each other and asks, why?
Is there much excitement behind watching two teams who are stuck in their own personal hellish limbos in their respective league divisions beat each other up knowing the game hardly is as exciting or standings-changing than maybe playing a team in their own division? How much heated rivalry and venom can be created in the six games they meet in each year? Who brings up that feeling in Natstown of "I want to beat these guys so bad" more: the Philadelphia Phillies or Baltimore Orioles?
There just hasn't been a catalyst yet that really sets this rivalry on fire. There needs to be some event or situation that happens that pushes these teams onto a new level of competition with each other. It has to be something a little more than just getting a win. It has to be something like Ryan Zimmerman shunning the Nats in extension talks and then signs with the Orioles, or Jim RIggleman slamming Buck Showalter right in the face after the Orioles' manager was seen saying "OOOO" during the National Anthem. Those type of things.
To be fair, Vladimir Guerrero hitting a two-run home run off Jordan Zimmermann to win the game on Sunday has a small storyline to it. Is a start, considering Guerrero was once of the Nationals franchise in its Expos capacity. But Guerrero never stepped foot to play baseball in D.C., and while Washington has great respect for this man, Guerrero doesn't have much of a connection with the Nationals' fan base.
Whatever that rivalry-defining event might be, it has yet to come for the Nationals and Orioles. Until it does, we'll just have to continue to enjoy just watching baseball, even if it lacks some intensity and the true meaning of rivalry.
Of course, there might be some off-field Beltways battles that might generate a little more interest. It would be great if the Lerners get the grapefruits to go to battle over the Nationals' TV rights, which are currently owned by Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Now there is a true battle for supremacy.
I am not trying to instigate anything here. Just trying to spice it up a bit.