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Yes, Virginia, there are rivalries beyond Red Sox-Yankees

May 8, 2014, 8:56 AM EDT

Ryan Zimmerman, Andrelton Simmons, Alex Wood Ryan Zimmerman, Andrelton Simmons, Alex Wood

Marc Normandin has a fun column up at Sports On Earth today, talking about the rivalries in baseball beyond Yankees-Red Sox. He hits the Cardinals-Reds, Dbacks-Dodgers, Rays-Red Sox and Nationals-Braves. Yours truly is quoted in the Nats-Braves section.

For what it’s worth, my view is that while Nats-Braves is a rivalry now, the Braves have never really had a sustained rival. Partially because the Braves have moved from city to city and then switched divisions in the mid-90s. Partially because there has never been a sustained head-to-head thing between them and other teams. They stunk pretty bad for a long time, then when they were good their challengers were always different. The Dodgers for a bit, the Giants for one awesome year, and aborted Expos thing that could’ve been amazing if the team hadn’t been dismantled. A more recent cycle of Mets-Phillies-Nats. Throw in the notion that, yes, there is some truth to how passionate Braves fans can be and you get a lot of rivalries of opportunity as opposed to rivalries that really run deep.

Anyway, a fun article. I’m sure everyone has their own notion of what a rivalry is and what teams they truly loathe.

  1. cktai - May 8, 2014 at 9:13 AM

    Interesting that he chooses the Dodgers-Diamondback rivalry, which really is just the D’backs complaining about the Dodgers, over what is quite possibly the oldest rivalry in baseball: the Dodgers-Giants rivalry.

    • paperlions - May 8, 2014 at 9:27 AM

      Most interesting rivalries don’t exist because the teams are competing for the same prize, but because the team’s don’t like each other. I think AZ-LA qualifies, even if it is AZ that essentially has fabricated the entire thing….that is often how it is. The Cards-Reds rivalry really heated up when Phillips said he hated the Cardinals and said that every one of them were whiney bitches. The Braves-Nats rivalry is mostly the Nats continuing to claim they are better than the Braves while the Braves kick their ass year-in and year-out.

      • emdash01 - May 8, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        That’s really only true of last year, for Nats-Braves.

    • yahmule - May 8, 2014 at 10:08 AM

      Nobody in the NL West likes the Dodgers. The DBacks have gone out of their way to annoy people recently, but the Dodgers image and perceived attitude really runs other teams the wrong way.

      • Bob - May 8, 2014 at 10:19 AM

        It’s been that way since the NL West was created. The Dodgers have always had an arrogant attitude. Always thought they were the best (in a lot of cases, that was true), refused to be gracious in defeat, always made excuses when they lost, etc.

      • Bob - May 8, 2014 at 10:20 AM

        And I mean since the original NL West was created in 1969.

      • jkcalhoun - May 8, 2014 at 10:42 AM

        Good thing they’ve been able to back that up by overtaking the Reds as the team that has won that division most often, and it only took them 15 years after the Reds moved to the NL Central.

  2. doctorofsmuganomics - May 8, 2014 at 9:15 AM

  3. Kevin S. - May 8, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Unpossible!

    But seriously, I didn’t even care that the Red Sox won the World Series last year. It was more of a “eh, good for them” than the kind of bitterness I felt in ’04 or even ’07. I think even we’re sick of having The Rivalry (TM) shoved down our throats.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - May 8, 2014 at 9:34 AM

      What’s odd is it’s far more of a rivalry now, than it ever was before. It’s one of the few ways I agree with Bill Simmons. If you and your big brother get into a fight, and he beats you up 99 times out of 100, is it really a rivalry?

      Now that the Sox have won a title (and now multiple), it’s more of a rivalry. And yet less people seem to care. Funny…

      • Kevin S. - May 8, 2014 at 9:58 AM

        As always, it has to do with narratives. Back in ’03-’04, there was a bit of a power vacuum. The Orioles hadn’t been relevant in five years, the Blue Jays in twice that. The Devil Rays had never been relevant period. The Central had a really good Twins team that was seen more as cute than contenders, and the only other real competition was all on the left coast. Factor in Ruth, the drought, ’78 and the superiority-inferiority complexes of the two fan bases, along with the teams going 26-26 against each other in those two years with each one taking a seven-game ALCS, and you had a media monster.

        Now, it’s a scrum. I don’t see the Red Sox as the Yankees’ rival because it doesn’t make much sense to single out a particular divisional foe for rivalry. Yeah, I enjoyed my schadenfreude during the ’11 collapse (hey Eric Ortiz, what team was the greatest ever, again?), and it’s always fun to point and laugh at Bobby Valentine dysfunction, but right now, they’re just another divisional opponent to me.

      • Old Gator - May 8, 2014 at 10:17 AM

        There are times when I think you’re entirely too rational to be a baseball fan.

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - May 8, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        I think it was also fun when they were competing for the same free agents. Now that doesn’t even happen, although it’s been awhile since there was a “big name” free agent out there. Boston seems far more likely to dump the farm system for Stanton than drop a lot of money on someone like Tanaka.

      • Kevin S. - May 8, 2014 at 10:54 AM

        Aw, that’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever said to me!

        Citation, who was the last free agency bidding war both teams got into, Teixeira? Red Sox haven’t needed to go big on bidding for FA because they’ve had the farm system to either promote or acquire players still on the good side of the aging curve.

        *cries*

      • tellyspop - May 8, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        Again with the “Devil Rays?” (Heavy Al Gore Sigh) Do you refer to these other teams as the NY Highlanders, Boston Pilgrims, Cleveland Spiders, Los Angeles Trolley Dodgers? Noooooooo! The team is the Conch Republic Rays my fellow Seamhead! The devil was taken out of the name and Satan went on to play hockey in the NHL. Tu Capisci?

      • Kevin S. - May 8, 2014 at 11:08 AM

        In ’03-’04, they were the Devil Rays. I actually typed “Rays” out of habit and went back to add the Devil part to it. If I was discussing Jack Chesbro’s 41-win season in 1904, I’d certainly refer to him as a Highlander. Do you want me to talk about the Nationals exciting pennant run that was aborted by the ’94 strike? How about Walter Johnson’s lone World Series with the Twins? What an asinine complaint.

      • Kevin S. - May 8, 2014 at 11:12 AM

        Or maybe you were mocking people who get huffy about calling the team the Devil Rays? Now I can’t tell. Is that still a thing?

      • [citation needed] fka COPO - May 8, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        Well yeah, stocking the farm system helps. I wonder what that feels like?

    • tellyspop - May 8, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      So you’re one of the Hoofnagle crankmagnetics not really concerned how citizens of Freedonia feel about the Rays?

      • tellyspop - May 8, 2014 at 1:20 PM

        Crank magnetism may be considered to operate wherever a single person propounds a number of unrelated denialist conjectures, poorly supported conspiracy theories, or pseudoscientific claims.

        ” If I was discussing Jack Chesbro’s 41-win season in 1904, I’d certainly refer to him as a Highlander. Do you want me to talk about the Nationals exciting pennant run that was aborted by the ’94 strike? How about Walter Johnson’s lone World Series with the Twins?”

      • Kevin S. - May 8, 2014 at 1:33 PM

        I’m thoroughly confused.

    • tellyspop - May 8, 2014 at 2:24 PM

      No worries mate! It’s all in fun. Always enjoy your comments.

  4. sdelmonte - May 8, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    Braves-Mets didn’t last long, but it was glorious. Even without John Rocker involved. Mets-Phils never quite got to rivalry, though the bad blood is there. And Mets-Cards and Mets-Cubs are long gone (maybe along with Cubs-Cards) but in the 80s those meetings were special.

  5. rpb1234 - May 8, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    Passionate Braves fans… I remember back in the heyday of the 90’s, the braves could not even sell out their playoff games. I think that Atlanta is (and will remain) more of a football city.

  6. scoutsaysweitersisabust - May 8, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    But what about all the “Natural Rivalries” that MLB keep pushing down our throats? Orioles/Nats, Yankees/Mets, Athletics/Giants, Astros/Rangers, Cubs/Whitesox, Angels/Dodgers, Phillies/AL East, etc. People CARE about these rivalries! We MUST play them every SINGLE year, because passion!

    • Bob - May 8, 2014 at 10:16 AM

      Yeah, TV showed the Cell was really packed for Cubs-White Sox last night. Saw a lot of people come disguised as green seats, especially in the upper deck. Love how for years MLB gamed the attendance numbers for interleague, especially the “rivalry” series, by placing them all on the weekend. When you get two teams that suck and put them on a weeknight when it’s still cold, you’re not packing the park.

      Rivalries are usually fleeting and center around two teams fighting for a playoff spot or just fighting. Once certain players responsible for hard feelings leave a team, bad feelings usually dissipate. The best rivalries in the ’70s were Dodgers-Reds, Pirates-Reds, Pirates-Phillies and Yankees-Royals. None of them mean a thing today. Cards-Mets might have been the best rivalry of the ’80s and it means nothing now.

      Players fraternize too much and have the same agents in a lot of cases, so it’s hard for their to be a lot of bad feelings short of beanballs, hard slides or the stress of a playoff race or postseason series.

    • aiede - May 8, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      Don’t get me started on the Tigers-Pirates interleague rivalry thing that MLB’s trying to push. Outside of a bit of hockey history, those just aren’t two cities that consider each other to be rivals.

    • voteforno6 - May 8, 2014 at 12:03 PM

      Actually, I think the Orioles/Nats rivalry is more between their ownership groups. The teams and fans, not so much.

  7. brandotho - May 8, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Let’s face it. Other than Yankees-Red Sox, Cardinals-Cubs, and Dodgers-Giants, there’s barely any rivalries that last past a few years. Yeah, you’ll have moments like the Mets and Braves had when Piazza and Chipper were in the prime and Yankees-Royals in the 70s and 80s, but what else? Every other major pro sport in North America has numerous long-lasting rivalries. Could be because of the history of MLB’s postseason format compared to the NHL, NBA, and NFL, but other than the first three rivalries mentioned, barely any of them last

  8. Francisco (FC) - May 8, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    Reading my history the Phillies-Pirates was a thing in the mid to late 70s. But then both teams cratered at the same time in the 80s, both had a brief resurgence in the early 90s and then Pittsburgh moved to the Central.

  9. yahmule - May 8, 2014 at 10:54 AM

    Baseball rivalries tend to be different than rivalries in other sports in that they’re primarily a function of familiarity breeding contempt. The most bitter feuds in football or hockey are generally precipitated by some act of physical mayhem. George Atkinson of the Raiders clotheslining Lynn Swann 40 yards away from the football in the 70’s or the Red Wings and Avs slamming each other face first into the dashers in the 90’s.

    • brandotho - May 8, 2014 at 11:28 AM

      Football and hockey rivalries mostly stem from constant playoff meetings. The Canadiens and Bruins are meeting for the 34th (!) time. The most common non-World Series matchups are the Reds and Pirates and the Red Sox and Angels (5 times). Playoff battles breed hate. Those Royals and Yankees teams HATED each other, but the Royals irrelevance since 1985 has all but killed the rivalry.

  10. ejheim62 - May 8, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    there are? You couldn’t convince ESPN of that, not for one minute.

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