The days of Pedro Martinez tossing Don Zimmer to the ground may be over, but that doesn't means the majors are lacking for rivalries. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Several of the longtime rivalries remain as intense as ever, even as new ones have begun to emerge. The best seven for this season:
USA TODAY SportsCaylor Arnold
This one is still in its infancy, but it has plenty of potential: The Dodgers were close to potentially ending a World Series drought of their own last October when they surprisingly took a 2-1 lead over the Cubs in the NLCS ... before losing the next three games.
We can thank the realignment following the 2012 season, when the Astros moved from the NL Central to the AL West, for this gift. Their first couple seasons were somewhat uneventful — Houston lost 111 games in 2013, and the teams each suffered 90-plus losses in 2014. But things really got rolling in 2015. The Astros had at least a share of the division lead for all but 17 days of that season until mid-September, when the Rangers overtook them for good. Texas was 6-1 against Houston in that final month and 13-6 overall that season.
And it got worse for the Astros last season, when they 4-15 against the Rangers. After a strong offseason, Houston is the AL West favorite this year.
USA TODAY SportsThomas B. Shea
Because they rarely have been competitive simultaneously in recent years — the last time both franchises reached the postseason together was 2009 — this rivalry has cooled, at least on the national level. In addition, many of the prominent/volatile personalities from the most recent peak of the tension have either retired or are playing elsewhere.
With both Boston and New York on the upswing and loaded with young stars, however, perhaps the rivalry will reignite.
USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner
First came the Jose Bautista bat flip, then the Bautista hit-by-pitch, then the Bautista hit-by-Rougned Odor. But Bautista has had the last laugh as the Blue Jays have eliminated the Rangers in the ALDS the past two postseasons.
The only thing holding back this budding rivalry is that Toronto and Texas play only seven times each regular season. But mark your calendars now: Rangers at Blue Jays (May 26-28), Blue Jays at Rangers (June 19-22).
TNS via Getty ImagesFort Worth Star-Telegram
They’ve finished 1-2 in the NL East for three consecutive seasons, with the Nationals winning in 2014 and 2016 and New York taking the division in 2015. Unlike the NLDS-challenged Nationals, the Mets actually reached the World Series in that span. But Washington is 35-22 against New York in the regular season since 2014. Remember the Mets’ infamous 2007 collapse? The Nationals went 5-1 against them in the season’s final two weeks.
This one was special even when the Cubs were spinning their wheels in a futile attempt to catch the Cardinals. But now that the roles have been reversed — Chicago is the hunted instead of the hunter, and beat St. Louis in the 2015 NLDS — and both teams are contenders, it’s officially on. Despite finishing 17 ½ games behind the Cubs in the NL Central last season, the Cardinals actually won the season series (10-9). And the two teams put on three classics to open this season.
Adding to the intensity: The recent player movement between the teams (Jason Heyward and John Lackey to Chicago; Dexter Fowler to St. Louis), and the barbs traded by managers Joe Maddon and Mike Matheny.
USA TODAY SportsJeff Curry
This rivalry is so historic that it dates back to both franchises being o the other coast. And it hasn’t lost much intensity in recent decades, with the Giants and Dodgers combining for eight of the past nine NL West titles. Los Angeles may have won four consecutive division championships, but San Francisco boasts three World Series wins since 2010. L.A. is still looking for its first since 1988.
We’re looking forward to that first Madison Bumgarner-Yasiel Puig matchup this season.