I’d like to hate the Nats, but…


Former Orioles great Davey Johnson (second from right) now is leading the Washington Nationals. (Rob Carr/The Associated Press)

As a Baltimore-bred Orioles diehard, I’d really like to hate the Washington Nationals, or as they are referred to in Charm City, the Gnats. For years, Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke worked against Baltimore’s efforts to obtain an NFL franchise following the Colts’ move to Indy. It seemed like karmic payback when Peter Angelos worked just as hard to keep the Expos out of D.C. When Angelos and MLB finally agreed to a deal, it left the Orioles with a regional TV network and a revenue guarantee. All D.C. got was the woeful Expos and the right to hand over most of their television revenue to Uncle Petey.

At the time, it seemed like a great deal for Orioles fans. There was hope that the creation of MASN (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network) would put the Birds in the same stratosphere as clubs such the Cubs, Mariners and Red Sox in regard to revenue and payroll. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned with the Orioles. Despite the creation of its own regional network, the Orioles still lag behind the crowd in terms of payroll, scouting and international amateur signings.

If you live near Baltimore or D.C., you have the option to watch the Orioles or Nationals every night on MASN or MASN2. For a baseball junkie such as myself, it’s terrific. I love the Orioles, but their games are all too often decided by the fourth inning. I prefer the National League game, so I have the option to switch over to the Nats when O’s games get out of hand.

In the past few months, I’ve found myself switching over to the Nats game more frequently. Once I make the switch, I tend to linger. As the Orioles have regressed from last season’s promising finish (shocking right?), the Nats have been playing some pretty entertaining baseball. I’m by no means rooting for the Nats, but I’m sure as hell watching.

Where Baltimore fans have always hated the Redskins, there’s no such history with the Nationals. If anything, the Nats have been dismissed as irrelevant, and Nats fans generally labeled as traitors who used to root for the O’s. As the Orioles continue to flounder and the Nationals churn out young talent, Washington’s fan base will grow.

Kids who live in the Baltimore/Washington corridor may no longer have to choose who to root for in the future. The Orioles are pushing fans to the Nationals, and Washington is obliging with an entertaining young team. Hell, they even have former O’s great Davey Johnson manning the ship. As a Baltimore native, I’d like to hate the Nats on principle, but until the Orioles make an attempt to be competitive, they’re my only reliable option to see good baseball on television.

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