For more than a century, Major League Baseball has been home to some of the most competitive and long-lasting rivalries in the history of professional sports. Whether it’s the legendary rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, or more modern rivalries between expansion teams, the league is full of hometown pride and away-game animosity that makes for some of the most entertaining match-ups found in any sport. For 160 games in 2012, the rivalries below look to be the hottest and most contested of the season.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets
It’s tough to pick who the Phils’ chief rival really is within the National League East. The team has spent so many years hammering its NL East opponents that it’s a relatively safe position to simply be anti-Phillies. Yet, no rivalry comes close to the heated contest between the Phils and the New York Mets. The teams share a division and, in recent years, they’ve shared top billing as the league’s champion or wild card teams. While the rivalry started sometime after the 1993 move of the Pittsburgh Pirates to the National League Central, it didn’t become official until the 2007 season.
It was during that season that the Mets, suffering from an epic collapse, slid from first place in the division to second place — right behind the Phillies. On one of the last days of the regular season, the Phils won the division and the Mets got blazed in the New York Post. Since then, things have been legendarily tense.
New York Yankees vs. New York Mets
Maybe it’s just a Mets thing, but it seems like the team can’t catch a break even in its hometown. The rivalry between New York’s two MLB teams is legendary and long-lasting, even though the Yankees have more World Series wins and legendary players than the Mets could ever hope to have. It hasn’t been long since the last Subway Series, but both teams and their fans maintain a healthy dose of animosity toward each other. For this reason, it’s a good idea to stay out of Queens with a Yankees cap on. And there are rumors that most people in the Bronx aren’t fond of orange, either. Both teams this year are notching up more wins than losses, and there is the vague hope of a renewed Subway Series this October.
San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
It seems as if every baseball rivalry involves New York. It might not be fair, but the city is one of the great centers of baseball’s legendary history. Both the SF Giants and the LA Dodgers were once New York teams, and they didn’t care very much for each other then. During the 20th century, both teams got sent to the west coast as part of MLB’s major restructuring; they continued to perpetuate the rivalry there, with San Francisco fans developing a unique brand of animosity and competitiveness when the word “Dodgers” was mentioned within city limits. Today, the teams maintain an active and engaging rivalry that dates to the 19th century.
New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
In 1904, the Yankees and Red Sox were grouped together in the pennant race for the American League. That’s the same year that the single most storied rivalry in Major League Baseball history was formed, and it only deepened after the 1920 trade of Babe Ruth from the Sox to the Yanks. It was this trade that sealed the fate of Red Sox Nation, with the Yankees winning 24 Word Series match-ups before the Red Sox would manage to “break the curse” and win even one such series. With both teams sporting some really talented teams this year, the rivalry looks to remain hot through the off-season.
Plenty of Reason to Compete and Celebrate
Major League Baseball’s rivalries are one of the hallmark features of the sport’s spring-to-fall season and, with so many talented teams in rival cities this year, 2012 looks to be particularly contentious. That makes for a good and entertaining season, and fans should rejoice at the prospect of the league’s hottest rivalries getting even hotter before October.