For Sherlock Holmes, it was Professor James Moriarty.
For the Hatfields, it was the McCoys.
For Inigo Montoya, it was the Six-fingered Man
For Superman, it was kryptonite.
For Batman, it was the Joker
For the New York Yankees, it was and forever will be the Boston Red Sox.
History and literature are full of examples of epic rivals facing off.
Usually the best of these rivalries occur when both parties are equally matched and either one could secure victory on any given day.
For the past three years another rivalry has been quietly building between the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays.
For those who question the Rangers and Rays as rivals consider this, the path to the postseason for each team for three of the past four seasons has come down to a battle between them.
In 2010 the Rays faced the Rangers in the American League Division Series and lost two games to three.
In 2011 the Rays once again found themselves facing the Rangers in the Division Series and this time only managed a single victory in the series.
Although the Rays were defeated by the Rangers in two consecutive years they can take some solace in the fact that the Rangers went onto the World Series both years. After all, somehow losing to the eventual pennant winner provides some small comfort.
Both teams were shut out of the postseason in 2012 which brings us to this season. Currently the Rays and the Rangers are battling each other for the top seed in the wildcard race.
After splitting a four game series in Tropicana Field this week the Rays and the Rangers remain tied for the top Wild Card spot.
It is highly probable that the Rays and Rangers will meet in the winner takes all Wild Card game this year marking the third time in four years that the road to the World Series runs through them.
So while the Rangers and Rays have not been rivals for as long as some of the historic rivalries in sports, it should certainly not be discounted in terms of intensity.
And while one could argue that the Rangers’ true rival should be their American League West Division opponent, and neighbor to the south Houston Astros, they would be wrong.
The Rays and Rangers offer a battle between two teams that were near the bottom of the standings for much of their existence before finding a winning formula for success late in the last decade.
The fact that each team went through so many losing seasons makes them even hungrier to continue their current success which just so happens to intensify the rivalry more than any games against an in state rival such as the Astros or Marlins would provide.
There are also some connections between the two teams beyond their recent success that may not be so obvious at first glance.
Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams served as manager of the Washington Senators and continued in that role for a single season after the team relocated to the suburbs of Dallas, Texas to become the Texas Rangers.
The Ted Williams Baseball Museum is located inside of Tropicana Field which just so happens to be the home of the Tampa Bay Rays.
In addition to the Ted Williams connection there are many players who have been associated with both the Rangers and the Rays leading to a familiarity of sorts.
During the 2010 and 2011 playoffs former Ray Josh Hamilton helped lead the Rangers to victory. I am sure there were quite a few times when the Rays had wished that they still had him on the team.
This year it is Matt Garza former Rays pitcher turned Rangers pitcher that will look to eliminate his former team from the playoffs.
The Rays have four games against the Orioles at Tropicana Field before heading to New York for a three-game set with the Yankees. The Rays will end the regular season in Canada with a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays. There is little room for error for the Rays if they want to cling to that Wild Card spot as the Orioles are nipping at their heels and could take the Wild Card spot depending on how the head to head games go.
The Rangers have a slightly easier path in theory when it comes to them holding onto their Wild Card spot with three games on the road against the Kansas City Royals before returning to the Ballpark in Arlington for three games against the Houston Astros and four games against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
But of course anything can happen on any given day which is why the games are played. This year is shaping up once again to be one of those down to the wire seasons where all of the postseason spots won’t be filled until the last out is recorded.
While it is yet to be determined how this season will end in terms of the Rays and Rangers one can definitely not deny the young rivalry that seems destined to last for years to come as both teams battle each other year after year.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to pray for a miracle sweep of the Rangers by the Astros to help the Rays secure home field advantage.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson