Maybe it's the (blessedly) long regular season or the emphasis on series rather than individual games. Or maybe it's that the cold beer and warm weather make us too happy to remember that baseball can be a sport of ... hatred?
Even if "hatred" is too strong a word, rivalries are an important part of the sport's tapestry. They might not get as much attention as, say, rivalries in college football, but MLB has a rich array of blood feuds. And that's especially the case at this moment in time. Here, then, are the 10 best of those blood feuds. — Dayn Perry
Separated by just 83 miles of interstate, the Cubs and Brewers didn't meet at all until '97 and didn't play regularly until Milwaukee hopped leagues the following year. Proximity and the larger Cubs fan base have led to Miller Park being called "Wrigley North" during Cubs-Brewers games. Needless to say, having visiting Cubs fans take over the park doesn't sit well with Brewers backers. (Just as bad was when Milwaukee institution Miller Brewing merged with Coors and moved to ... Chicago.) The Cubs lead the series, but the clubs have played an inordinate number of close games.
This one may have lost a bit of luster in recent seasons, but for a while it was the biggest thing going, with regional hostilities, tight races, playoff encounters ... John Rocker. The Braves hold a comfortable lead overall, but they've split their two postseason encounters. The "Miracle Mets" of 1969 swept the Braves in the NLCS, but 30 years later the Braves, despite Robin Ventura's "grand-slam single" in Game 5, topped the Mets in a dramatic NLCS rematch (five of the six games were decided by one run). Lately, though, both teams have been looking up at the Phillies.
The old "Mayor's Trophy" exhibition was about as intense as exhibitions can get (George Steinbrenner almost fired Billy Martin because he once lost this — it bears repeating — exhibition game). In 2000 the teams met in the first "Subway Series" since Yanks-Dodgers back in 1956. The Yankees topped the Mets in five games, but Game 1 stands as a classic. Big moments include Roger Clemens' beaning of Mike Piazza and then Clemens' subsequent hurling of a broken bat at Piazza. Overall, the Yankees have won 49 of 84 encounters.
You'd think hostilities between the Yanks and Rays would be more intense, what with the Yanks' strong organizational presence in Tampa. However, Rays-Red Sox has emerged as the runner-up rivalry in the AL East. They've brawled repeatedly and violently (remember when Gerald Williams charged the mound as Pedro Martinez was working on a no-hitter?), and they've accused each other of playing dirty. Boston had its way with the Rays for the early years of the latter's existence, but since its breakout season of 2008, Tampa Bay holds a big edge over the Sox, including a Rays' triumph in the 2008 ALCS.
Roosevelt Road divides Chicago into North (Cubs) and South (White Sox) sides. The Cubs play in Wrigley, and, 13 stops south on the red line the Sox toil at U.S. Cellular. (It even tears families apart). The Sox narrowly lead the series, 49-41, and they also won their lone World Series encounter with the Cubs, way back yonder in 1906. Big series moments include Michael Barrett's right cross to the widely reviled jaw of A.J. Pierzynski. There's also this gem of a quote from Sox manager Ozzie Guillen: "But one thing about Wrigley Field, I puke every time I go there."
This one isn't as relevant as it once was, but is any other rivalry so freighted with history? The Dodgers and Yankees have met in the World Series 11 times (the Yankees winning eight), and in doing so they've delivered some of the sport's defining moments: Mickey Owen's dropped third strike, Al Gionfriddo's catch, Jackie Robinson's steal of home, Sandy Amoros' snag, Don Larsen's perfect game, Reggie Jackson's three home runs ... the list goes on and on.
It's often observed that everyone in Philly is envious of everyone in New York. In recent years, though, there's no such thing as a Phillies fan who envies a Mets fan. That's because the Phillies, over the last three seasons and change, have ritually abused the Queenslanders. The rivalry really began to surge after divisional realignment in 1994, when the Phillies' traditional rival, the Pirates, were dispatched to the NL Central. But things first got ramped up in 1980, when then-Phillie and former Met Tug McGraw, at the Phillies' World Series victory parade, told the crowd that New York could "take this championship and shove it!"
Think of this as Sox-Yanks with a Midwestern sense of decorum. That is, no "Massholes" and no "lord of the manor" sense of Yankees entitlement. Heck, midway through singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at Wrigley Field in 2001, longtime Cardinals announcer Jack Buck swapped his Cards hat for a Cubs hat. Contrary to what you might think, Chicago leads the all-time series, but that's mostly because the Cubs fattened up against the awful Cardinals teams of the early 20th century. Big moments in rivalry history include the Lou Brock trade and the '98 McGwire-Sosa home run chase.
To hear some in the media tell it, this is baseball's only rivalry. It isn't. It's not even the best rivalry in baseball. It is, however, a great one. You can trace its origins back to the sale of Babe Ruth in 1916 or, if you prefer, the pennant race of 1904. The Sox and Yanks have given us the pennant races of '48 and '49, Bucky Expletivin' Dent, Aaron Boone's unlikely walkoff, and Boston's impossible comeback in the 2004 ALCS. And as with any good blood feud, there's been plenty of on-field violence, including Pedro Martinez's judo-toss of Don Zimmer and any number of brawls involving Carlton Fisk. So why is it the runner-up? Too one-sided. While the Red Sox were failing to win the title from 1918 to 2004, the Yanks over that span were hoarding 26 championships. The Yankees also lead the all-time series by close to 200 games.
These two venerable franchises have hated each other on both sides of the country, and their rivalry dates back to the 19th century. And even though they've played each other more than 2,300 times, the Giants hold a mere 22-game advantage in the all-time series. Now that's a hotly contested rivalry. As for signature moments, there's the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" (probably the most iconic moment in baseball history), the classic races of 1962 and 2004, the ugly Juan Marichal-Johnny Roseboro brawl, and Reggie Smith's pummeling of a Giants fan back in 1981. Heck, following the 1956 season the great Jackie Robinson retired rather than accept a trade to the Giants, in part because he so loathed the idea of suiting up for his longtime rivals.