Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Phillies-Nationals: The Rivalry of the Future

Every sports fan loves a good rivalry.  In baseball, the Red Sox-Yankees conflict is generally viewed as the most intense in the sport.  Some may argue for Giants-Dodgers or Cubs-Cardinals, but when it comes down to it most will agree that the feud in the Northeast is the best of them all.   Baseball fans from around the country can remember the Pedro “I call the Yankees my daddy” quote, the Aaron Boone homer in Game 7, the Varitek and ARod fight in Fenway, and the Red Sox comeback in the 2004 ALCS.  That’s the stuff out of a storybook.  These legendary tales will be told from generation to generation. 

As someone not from New York or Boston, I’m honestly very tired of all the focus on this rivalry.  I would love to see two other teams rise to the spotlight and so we can a new brand of epic conflict.  I believe we saw the opening salvo to such a rivalry this weekend:


The next big baseball rivalry is going to be between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals.  After Cole Hamels plunked Bryce Harper and then had the favor returned by Jordan Zimmerman, these two teams have all the makings to develop into serious rivals.  Lets examine the facts:
  • They both play in the same division so they are guaranteed 15 more games against each other this season.  That equates to approximately 12 more Hamels v. Harper at bats (barring injury for either one or demotion for Harper).  Each AB will absolutely be must-see television.
  • The next matchup will be only 2 weeks away in Philly.  Do you honestly think the fans from the City of Brotherly Love are going to forget about this incident that quickly?  Think Harper will back down or his teammates will fail to rally around the young phenom?  All I can say is please let that game be on Monday Night Baseball.
  • Even beyond this season, the storylines are there for a lasting hatred.  The Phillies are the establishment.  They are consistent winners and all pretty likable guys.  Their window for success is closing as household names like Halladay, Lee, Utley, and Howard are only getting older.  The Nationals are the up and comers.  After many lost years struggling with the tundra of Montreal and the bad attitudes of the likes of Nyjer Morgan and Elijah Dukes, this franchise finally has the talent and the leadership to contend.  They have the cocky swagger and us-against-the-world confidence that is inherent to any beloved underdog.  The stage for David-vs-Goliath drama is set.
  • Finally, both teams have shown in recent years that they have a strong desire to win at whatever financial cost.  As with the Yankees and Red Sox, this rivalry will continue year-round as both will be competing to sign top-dollar free agents.
A final note: These two teams end the season with a three game series in DC.  Will they be playing to decide the winner of the NL East?  If that is the case, it will propel this rivalry to legendary status in a heartbeat.

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