Battle of the Beltway? I-95 rivals? If you mean more people will go to Camden Yards because it’s convenient to both team’s fans, you’re right. If you mean there’s a natural rivalry between the Nationals and Orioles, you’re wrong.
Even though interleague play has run its course, I, for one, would be lying if I said I didn’t like seeing National League teams at Oriole Park. But a Beltway rivalry just isn’t going to happen. I saw for myself over the weekend that more fans would show up to watch the two teams play. This is simply because of easy access. The same reason I would go to Nationals Park if the O’s were playing there.
The O’s do travel to Pittsburgh this year, which is a much easier sell as a National League rival. Mainly, the Pirates kicked our asses in two World Series. In 1971, the Pirates squeaked out a 2-1 game-seven victory, and in 1979, they came back from a 3-to-1 deficit and put us away in seven again. Unfortunately, fans under 35 really wouldn’t remember much of this. What then still makes the rivalry relevant? Football. Steelers fans and Ravens fans hate each other. And before anybody says “Baltimore hates the Redskins,” remember that it’s not the same. The Ravens don’t play the Deadskins in meaningful games. Most of the hate comes from a previous Redskins owner blocking Baltimore from getting a franchise; in turn, Washington got Dan Snyder, enough said.
If interleague play is to continue, MLB needs to slide a little football reference into its ad campaign. I don’t know what attendance is like in Pittsburgh, but in Baltimore, it’s horrendous. Using the football rivalry as a marketing angle would generate ticket sales in both venues. Both baseball teams are trying to climb out of the bottom in their divisions, on what one hopes to be a lasting upswing. If we have to play the National League, three games at Camden and three at PNC would be great for these young teams (half the players probably weren’t born for the two World Series in the ’70s).
The O’s took two of three in part one of the dreaded Battle of the Beltway. Brace yourself D.C., all those crazy Nats-hating O’s fans will be crowding I-95 in June looking for blood.