It’s a little too soon to proclaim it as such, and we must give props to the great Baltimore Orioles teams of Earl Weaver, but it’s possible that baseball fans who live in the Washington, D.C. area are in for a golden era.
Now that the Washington Nationals beat the tar out of the Miami Marlins in the season opening series and the Orioles seem capable of playing as well as they did in 2012, there could be two first-rate teams playing ball in the neighborhood at the same time. That would be a first. Ever. And it all began in 2012 while we were two busy marveling at how both the Nationals and Orioles were having breakthrough seasons without really thinking much about the cumulative effect on the Washington-Baltimore area.
The 2012 season ended with the Nationals as National League East Division champions and winners of 98 games. Meanwhile, the Orioles finished second in the American League East, winning 93 games and also qualifying for the playoffs. The Orioles hadn’t done that well since 1997. The Nationals had never done that well. Even with two Washington American League teams coming and going during the 20th century neither Senators team played in the post-season after 1933.
Washington itself was without big-league ball for decades and after the Orioles went into a decade-and-a-half slump residents of Baltimore probably felt the same way.
The Nationals have steadily built themselves into a powerhouse. In many quarters they are the World Series favorites. The Orioles sneaked up on people last year and there is still a body of opinion that they aren’t quite for real, can’t match their 93 wins, and might fall back in the AL East. The most miraculous, serindipitous scenario of all would have the Nationals and the Orioles meeting in the World Series. Beltway citizens would be delirious, President Obama would throw out the first pitch at each park, and it would be such unlikely, good theatre that all other baseball fans would be enthralled by the match-up.
Baseball people are picking the Nationals to get there, but few are picking the Orioles to get there. It would be intriguing.
Washington began the regular season this week as predicted. The Nationals got off to a winning start. They positively steamrolled the poor Miami Marlins (we mean poor in more than one way). Three up, three down applied to the games and to the individual innings. Washington threw Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmerman at the Marlins and after three games Miami mustered all of one run.
Some 27 innings into the season the staff earned run average was 0.33. Of course, allowances must be made for the fact that the Nationals were playing a minor league team competing under the guise of being a member of the National League. As good as the Nationals were, we just got an early preview of how bad the Marlins are likely to be.
In the 1950s there was a AAA International League team named the Miami Marlins. They were actually owned by Bill Veeck, which means they were probably more fun to watch than this version, especially since one of the pitchers was Satchel Paige, still mowing batters down as he approached his 50th birthday. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria would insist there is no connection between his Marlins and those Marlins, he’s only trying to fool everyone.
So an asterisk must be placed next to the Nationals’ three wins signifying that they swept what was passing for a Major League team.
The Orioles very much faced a real opponent and took two out of three from the Tampa Bay Rays. Baltimore pretty much needed only one guy to do it, too. Chris Davis played as if he was telling that Baltimore-born slugger Babe Ruth to move over. In three games Davis went 7 for 11 for a .636 average with three home runs (one in each game) and 11 RBIs. Even if it’s transitory, as we all know it is, it must be nice to wake up and see that average next to your name in the expanded box score.
Sure it’s early, early, early, but one can’t help but glance ahead at the schedule to the end of May when the Nationals and Orioles play against one another four days in a row, two games in each park. If the teams are still playing the way they are liable to that could be some pretty fun stuff.