BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles begin their four-game “Battle of the Beltway,” or “Beltway Series,” tonight.
(Now, whether “beltway” refers to I-495 or I-695 is still a mystery. Shouldn’t it be Battle of the BeltwayS, plural?)
The teams will split the series as a home-and-home set, playing two games at Camden Yards and two games at Nats Park.
You would think this would be an opportunity for some neighborly interleague play. And an especially appreciated one for the Orioles this year, after the bitterness that’s been brewing early in the season with one of the team’s ACTUAL rivals, the Boston Red Sox. And we bet most fans probably see it that way, too.
But some people seem dead set on making the D.C./Baltimore relationship an unpleasant one.
The latest example is a promo running this week on the CBS-owned 106.7 The Fan’s airwaves. Here’s a transcript:
“This week, two of the hottest teams in baseball meet in the Beltway series.
First, the Nats travel to Baltimore to face Manny Machado and the Orioles.
**Side note, Natty Boh is brewed in Georgia, and 50 percent of crabs served in Maryland are actually from Japan.**
Then, Baltimore brings its massive inferiority complex to D.C., a city with more jobs, a lower crime rate, and a better baseball team.
Hear it all on the flagship home of the Washington Nationals.”
First of all, someone needs to remind the writer of this promo that the teams have met 60 times since they first played each other in May 2006, and the Orioles have won 36 of those games. The Nationals have won 24.
That being said…
There is no denying that the Nationals are a good ball club. They are leading their division by a mile this year. Bryce Harper is a beast. Nationals pitchers have thrown three no-hitters in the past three years — Jordan Zimmerman in September 2014 and Max Scherzer in both June and October 2015. The last time the Orioles had a no-hitter, for those wondering, was in 1991, and four different pitchers came to the mound.
The Nationals have also been NL East Champs in three of the last five years — 2012, 2014 and 2016 — though they have yet to advance past the divisional round of the postseason.The Orioles, meanwhile, were named AL East Champs just once in that time period. They beat the Tigers in the Division Series in 2014 and then went on to lose to the Royals in the Championship Series.
Moving past the fact that these are comparable baseball teams that have both enjoyed some success over the past couple of years, with no need for an “inferiority complex” on either side, let’s discuss this: The only time there’s been palpable on-field tension between the teams was a September 2015 game at Nats Park, when Jonathan Papelbon threw a fastball that hit Manny Machado on the shoulder.
Machado had some choice words for the pitcher on his way to first base. Papelbon, who formerly played for the Phillies and the Red Sox, was immediately ejected. Players came off of both benches, but there was no brawl. And a few days after the Machado incident, Papelbon got into it with his own teammate, Harper, in the dugout. Fans might remember that Papelbon grabbed the right fielder by the neck. Papelbon requested and was granted a release from the team in August, so that’s no longer a cause for concern for Orioles fans.
So, again, we ask… what gives? Why are some still acting like these meetings need to be injected with false disdain?
Is it because Orioles owner Peter Angelos opposed the Expos’ move to D.C. on the grounds that it would harm his team financially? If so, that was more than a decade ago. He lost the vote, and the Nationals are celebrating their 13th season in D.C. Not to mention, they came in 10th on this year’s Forbes list of most valuable MLB teams.
Is it entirely about the MASN broadcast rights fees dispute? (Read more about that HERE.)
Or is there something else prompting low blows about jobs and crime rates?
If not, and you can quote us on this: We’re calling for a truce.
Unlike other interleague rivalries, the Cubs and White Sox for example, the Nats and the O’s don’t play a mere 10 miles apart from each other, drawing fans from the same city.
They’re actually about 40 miles apart, even further than the Bay Bridge Series interleague “rivals,” the Giants and the Athletics, but not quite as far apart as the Citrus Series “rivals,” the Rays and the Marlins, whose home stadiums are separated by 4+ hours of highway driving.
And, unlike the “Subway Series” teams, the Mets and Yankees, the Nats and O’s have never faced off in a World Series.
Until that blessed day, let’s try to appreciate how many more people in the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area are able enjoy the simple pleasure of a night out at the ballpark with two stadiums to choose from.
And when it comes Beltway Series games, whether the breeze is coming off the Inner Harbor or the Anacostia, just root for whichever home team floats your boat.