Who are the Nationals’ biggest rivals?
The National League East could be called the most competitive division in baseball with at least 3 NL East teams that have a genuine chance to make the playoffs, while the other 2 could get there with a little luck and ingenuity. In such a talented division, the typical division rivalries are bound to be legendary, but who are the Nationals’ greatest rival? Today, I will break down some top candidates for the team most worthy of the title.
The Braves and Nationals have battled for the Division for the last decade. Through these series, we’ve seen some great moments and some sickening paybacks. Who could forget the bench clearing HBP of Bryce Harper by Julio Teheran? In more recent history, there was Juan Soto’s pimp job off of Will Smith in 2020; a bright spot in a grim season for the Nats. Soto’s opening day walk-off against the same pitcher was equally legendary to begin the Nats 2021 season.
Then there’s the battle of Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. as the best young outfielders. Two young stars that play with passion and skill, hopefully for years to come. While Acuna edged out Soto for the Rookie of the Year honors, Soto countered by winning a World Series the year after. There’s so many storylines between these two clubs, it’s almost impossible to surmise it. These teams traded blows for the top of the table for years, there’s a massive case for the Braves to be the biggest rival to the Nats.
New York Mets
Similarly to Acuna vs Soto, the Nats and Mets have had dueling players for years. Jacob deGrom/Max Scherzer as the best pitchers of the last decade, Syndergaard/Strasburg for the best No. 2 pitchers in a rotation, and with the addition of a new shortstop, Francisco Lindor/ Trea Turner.
Lindor is an exciting player, his arrival symbolizes a new New York Mets with a monster contract that should guarantee he will be in New York for the rest of this decade and beyond. Gone are the days of scandals and bad business decisions with that Mets’ franchise. The Mets are here to compete seriously, and Lindor could be the final piece to a Mets championship run. Trea Turner on the other hand, already has a World Series ring, he has nothing to prove except to himself. Two incredible players at the most exciting position is guaranteed to be interesting. So while the vitriol of the Nats/Braves rivalry might not be there, the sheer amount of talent between these two clubs has been, and will be more than enough to fuel competition 19 times a year.
Philadelphia sports have long had an unsavory association about them, and the Phillies are no different, from fans cheering at a Jayson Werth broken wrist after he left Philly to sign with the Nationals. Then there were the days of Phillies Fans declaring Nats Park as Citizens Bank South based on their days of being obnoxious visiting fans in Nationals Park.
The Phillies have the best case for the traditional, bad blood rivalry. Bryce Harper, naturally, is a major factor in this. Not even a month into his MLB career, Cole Hamels drilled him square in the back as a rookie indoctrination, and of course fast forward 7 years and Harper signs a mega deal with the Phillies. Many Nats’ fans took this as a betrayal, after a laborious offseason filled with Harper drama, he signed with the very people who hated him since his teenage years? He goes into press conferences and social media proclaiming himself as a Philadelphian, all while remaining silent to the fans that supported and defended him for years. Finally on the eve of his return, he posts a corporate thank you to Nationals fans. The best he can say about his home for 7 years is….. The Silver Diner? That’s not even a DC staple, it was founded in Rockville.
Needless to say, Harper’s return was filled with boos and cheers of jubilation at his striking out. The Phillies/Nationals rivalry has a tendency to center around one player, but that’s not what it’s defined by. This rivalry is characterized by two passionate fanbases, an hour and a half apart, that want absolutely nothing to do with each other. That’s the perfect formula for an intense rivalry, and if I had to put money on who the Nationals’ biggest rival was. It would undoubtedly be the Phillies.
Who do you think is the Nats’ biggest rival? Let US know in the Comments!
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