Orioles and Nationals Set for Potential Collision Course to Divide a Region

Yesterday, marked the end of the regular Major League Baseball season which makes today the official start of the postseason.

While Derek Jeter enjoys an early start to his retirement, since the New York Yankees failed to make the postseason for only the third time in his 20-year career, other teams and regions are preparing for what the MLB marketing team calls the Hunt for October.

In the nation’s capitol this means choosing between pulling for the Washington Nationals or the Baltimore Orioles with both teams being the first to clinch their respective divisions and punch their playoff tickets.

After winning their divisions the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are seven victories away from facing each other in the World Series. Photo R. Anderson

After winning their divisions the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are seven victories away from facing each other in the World Series.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orioles captured their first American League East title since 1997 while the Nationals captured the National League East title in equally dominating fashion.

As noted before I follow both the Orioles and Nationals as part of my stable of teams.

The Orioles were the first team I followed growing up in Maryland and through moves to Florida and Texas they are still considered my home team.

Although the Nationals were known as the Expos when I was born, I started following them when they moved down from Canada long after I had left the region.

Of course there was a time before I was born when the region supported two American League teams in close proximity in the Washington Senators and the Orioles.

With only one team in the region when I was growing up it was easy to pull for the Orioles despite living geographically closer to D.C.

Davey Johnson was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles when they won the American League East Division in 1997. He also managed the Washington Nationals to their first winning record. Photo R. Anderson

Davey Johnson was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles when they won the American League East Division in 1997. He also managed the Washington Nationals to their first winning record.
Photo R. Anderson

While the decision to root for the Orioles was easy for me I was curious to know what it was like for people in the shadow of the Potomac River before I was born when they had to pick which team to follow.

As luck would have it, it turns out that my mom is older than me (funny how it works that way) and was alive when there were two teams to choose from, so I called her up to see which team she pulled for growing up.

As I had suspected my mom was a Senators fan growing up. I had suspected this because long after the Senators had left town she would still where her Senators shirt.

Conversely I had never known her to wear anything Orioles related although she did follow the team and encouraged my love of the Orange and Black.

While the Senators only exist to me through old baseball cards that I rescued from a dusty bin at a card shop, the Orioles are full of vibrant memories that shaped the baseball fan that I am today.

In a world where the Senators did not move to Texas it is possible that I never would have rooted for Cal Ripken, Jr.

In a world where the Senators did not move to Texas it is possible that I never would have rooted for Cal Ripken, Jr.

But had the Senators not headed to Arlington, Texas a few years before I was born to become the Texas Rangers, the odds are I would of had an entirely different childhood when it came to baseball.

In this alternate baseball universe instead of the Cal Ripken, Jr. poster on my bedroom wall it could have been replaced by whoever the big star for the Senators was at the time.

Of course, it is likely that I still would have become a Cal Ripken, Jr. fan much in the same way that there are fans of Derek Jeter who cannot stand the New York Yankees. Certain players just elevate beyond team loyalty.

Each year during Spring Training when I was growing up I tried to catch at least one Orioles game. Once the Nationals came onto the circuit I added games to see them as well further cementing my divided beltway allegiance.

Bryce Harper leads a young core of players who have brought playoff baseball back to Washington, D.C. Photo R. Anderson

Bryce Harper leads a young core of players who have brought playoff baseball back to Washington, D.C.
Photo R. Anderson

This support of two teams in the same market was justified by the fact that the only time they would meet in games that really mattered was if they both made it to the World Series in the same year.

I was not counting interleague series play as a challenge to pulling for both teams. For me the only conflict would come in the World Series since I would be divided on who should be crowned World Champions.

With the Orioles undergoing years of mediocrity at the time the Nationals moved into the neighborhood it seemed a safe bet to pull for both teams since the odds of either team, let alone both teams making the World Series was extremely low.

That all changed this year though when I had a hunch that the stars could align and turn Washington, D.C. into a house divided.

Each Spring Training visit includes a stop to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL to see the Baltimore Orioles play. Photo R. Anderson

Each Spring Training visit includes a stop to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL to see the Baltimore Orioles play.
Photo R. Anderson

While few could predict the dominating manner that the Orioles and Nationals won their divisions few should be surprised that both teams are in the playoffs.

There really is no clear cut line in the sand declaring, “This far, no farther” when it comes to saying where the Nationals Fans live and where the Orioles fans live.

The closer one gets to Baltimore the more intense the fan base for the Orioles becomes. But, the region in between Baltimore and D.C is where the real battle rages.

In fact, the Orioles have a billboard less than seven miles away from the Ballpark that the Nationals call home.

For people like me who were born when there was only one team to pull for in the region it is easier to justify keeping allegiance to the team from our youth and adding a more geographically friendly one as well.

The Washington Nationals are also a must see during Spring Training. Photo R. Anderson

The Washington Nationals are also a must see during Spring Training.
Photo R. Anderson

The generations that follow now will likely have to choose a side, either Red White and Blue, or Orange and Black much like my parent’s generation had to do during the time of the Senators.

With both the Orioles and Nationals full of talent throughout their rosters it seems likely that postseason meetings between the squads could become a regular thing.

As for the Senators of my mom’s youth who made that western journey all those years ago, since moving to Texas I have found myself rooting for the Rangers. In that way I suppose I am a Senators fan as well. They just have a bit more of a twang now than they did back in D.C.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some postseason baseball to prepare for.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

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