How Would Nationals-Orioles World Series Compare to 2000's N.Y. Subway Series?
There has to be something in the water in the areas surrounding the Beltways.
The Orioles haven't made the postseason since 1997, when Mike Mussina was still a young ace and a 54-year-old Davey Johnson was running the show. The Nationals haven't made the playoffs since 1981, when they were still the Montreal Expos and a fella named Andre Dawson was in the prime of his career.
If the season ended today, both the Orioles and the Nats, managed by none other than Davey Johnson, would be in the postseason. The Orioles as one of the American League's two wild-card winners. The Nationals as the champions of the NL East. With both of them gunning to play in October, the Beltway rivalry finally means something.
There's a lot of baseball left to be played, to be sure. But shoot, how can we not entertain the notion that the Orioles and Nationals may end up playing each other in the World Series?
When it comes to World Series matchups involving regional rivals, there aren't many options to choose from. To boot, it's not common for regional rivals to end up playing one another in the World Series. It's been more than a decade since regional rivals met in the World Series, that being the New York Yankees and New York Mets in 2000.
The 2000 Subway Series wasn't a great World Series, as the Yankees won it in five games, and there was never really any doubt in the first place that they would end up winning. Still, it's a series that looms large all the same because it stirred the city of New York into a frenzy and because it's still the only World Series to feature the Yankees and the Mets.
So, for kicks, let's ask how a potential Beltway Series in 2012 would compare to the 2000 Subway Series. Would it be more competitive? More interesting? Less interesting?
These are questions that call for an immediate discussion.
Regional ties are about the only thing the Orioles and Nationals have in common. They are two drastically different teams.
The Nationals have all the usual trappings of a legitimate contender. Their starting pitchers lead all of baseball with an ERA of 3.21, which is no surprise seeing as how their rotation is anchored by three legitimate aces in Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Though their offense got off to a slow start due mainly to injuries, the Nationals have scored more runs since the All-Star break than any team in the National League. The only regular in their starting lineup who isn't swinging a hot bat at the moment is Bryce Harper, who made the All-Star team at the age of 19 just a few short weeks ago.
The Nationals don't have the best bullpen in the league, but that's a petty complaint given the strength of their starting rotation and the newfound explosiveness of their offense. With strengths like those, it's by no means an accident that they have the best record in baseball.
The Orioles, on the other hand, don't make any sense.
A total of 10 different pitchers have started games for the Orioles this season, and the only one who has been both healthy and consistently effective is Wei-Yin Chen. Even despite his good work, Orioles starters still rank in the lower third of MLB's 30 teams with an ERA of 4.68.
Their offense isn't much of a prize, either, as the Orioles rank 10th in the American League in runs scored. About the only thing they do well offensively is hit the long ball, as they are tied for fourth in the AL in home runs with 146 on the season. Adam Jones leads the way with 24.
The Orioles also may be the worst fielding team in baseball. They lead the league in errors with 90, and the advanced stats (see: FanGraphs) confirm that they are one of the most ineffective defensive teams in the league.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Baltimore's only truly great asset is its bullpen, which ranks third in MLB with a 2.94 ERA. Orioles relievers have lost only eight games all season, tied with the Texas Rangers for fewest in baseball.
Baltimore's bullpen is a big reason why the Orioles have such an easy time winning the close ones. They're 22-6 in one-run games and 12-2 in games that go into extra innings.
Even so, by traditional baseball standards, the Orioles are an inferior team compared to the Nationals. They may have a better bullpen, but the impact of superior starting pitching and superior hitting far outweighs that of a superior bullpen.
But just because the O's are a lesser team on paper doesn't mean they'd be doomed against the Nationals in a World Series matchup. After all, the Yankees weren't a better team than the Mets on paper in 2000, and they ended up doing just fine.
The Yankees had truly great teams in 1998 and 1999, but we tend to forget that they only won 87 games in 2000. That was mainly due to the fact that their starting pitching was a mess for much of the season. Andy Pettitte won 19 games and Roger Clemens posted a 3.70 ERA, but Orlando Hernandez had an ERA of 4.51 and David Cone had an ERA of 6.91 over 29 starts.
Other starters they used included Denny Neagle, Ramiro Mendoza and a washed-up Dwight Gooden.
In the end, Yankees starters finished with an ERA of 4.87, which ranked in the middle of the pack in MLB. Their bullpen wasn't any better, posting a 4.52 ERA that also ranked in the middle of the pack. Even Mariano Rivera had a down year, blowing five saves and losing four games.
The Yankees offense was good, but not elite. It scored 871 runs, just enough to balance the 814 runs given up by the Yankees pitching staff. They did hit 205 home runs, but that was only good enough for 10th-best in MLB that year (we were still in the steroids era, after all).
The Mets, on the other hand, were a very good team on paper. They won 94 games in 2000, and that was largely thanks to a starting pitching staff that featured five pitchers who won double-digit games. Mike Hampton and Al Leiter combined to win 31 games with ERAs well under 4.00.
Combined, Mets starters posted an ERA of 4.07, second only to the Atlanta Braves in MLB.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
The Mets also could swing the bats as well. Their 198 home runs nearly matched the Yankees' total that season, and they ended up scoring 807 runs with a team batting average of .263. Mike Piazza had one of his finest seasons, hitting 38 home runs with 113 RBI.
The Mets bullpen wasn't perfect, but it finished with a lower ERA than the Yankees bullpen at 4.37. Armando Benitez saved 41 games with a solid 2.61 ERA.
Based on what the Mets brought to the table that year, they should have beaten the Yankees to win their first World Series in 1986. They had the better team.
They didn't beat the Yankees because, well, the Yankees were the Yankees in those days. There was no beating them in October, though the Mets definitely gave them a run for their money.
In a matchup between the Orioles and Nationals in the World Series, one supposes the Orioles would be the Yankees and the Nationals would be the Mets. The Nationals have the excellent starting pitching and the solid hitting. The Orioles have the bad starting pitching and the somewhat questionable offense (by AL standards).
The only thing the O's don't have that the Yankees had a lot of in those days is all the postseason experience. The same goes for the Nationals, too.
Since the two clubs are about equal on experience, the edge that the Nationals have on paper would make them the favorites in a World Series matchup against the O's.
...But it's worth noting that the O's won the season series against the Nats this season, four games to two.
As I'm sure you well remember, the Subway Series in 2000 was kind of a big deal in New York.
Naturally, each of the five games of the 2000 World Series was very well-attended. Each game drew more than 55,000 fans, with the high being the 56,059 fans who attended Game 2 at Yankee Stadium.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
The hype in New York was by no means limited to the two ballparks, however. The city honored the Subway Series by dressing up the city's actual subway trains.
As the New York Daily News tells the story, trains that ran on the No. 4 line were outfitted with pinstripes and Yankees logos on the first and last cars. Trains that ran on the No. 7 line were outfitted with Mets colors and logos.
The decorated trains proved to be so helpful to the city's economy that the decision was made to keep them in circulation after the series ended.
It's doubtful that any trains will be decorated if the Orioles and Nationals meet each other in the World Series, but you can rest assured that the local fans will be into the spirit of the thing.
The Orioles and Nationals rivalry isn't widely regarded as one of the best in baseball, but it's getting to that point, and you already can tell that the fans in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. are loving it.
The Orioles and Nationals played six games this season. Each of the three games played at Nationals Park in May drew upwards of 36,000 people, topping out at more than 42,000 on Saturday, May 19. Each of the three games at Orioles Park at Camden Yards in June drew more than 40,000 people, topping out at more than 46,000 on June 23, another Saturday.
Keep in mind that these are two clubs that don't draw a ton of fans. The Nationals are 14th in average attendance this season, and the Orioles are 23rd.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
This would be Baltimore's first trip to the World Series since 1983. It would thus have a great excuse to invite all the members of that team back for a sort of grand celebration, and my assumption is that Cal Ripken, Jr. would be on display throughout the entire series as the Orioles' most eminent ambassador.
Washington, D.C., meanwhile, hasn't seen the World Series come to town since the Washington Senators won the American League pennant all the way back in 1933. It's not hard to imagine the city decked out in Nationals colors. Perhaps some logos could be attached to all the various monuments.
Not even the 2000 Subway Series had that kind of influence.
New York couldn't get enough of the Subway Series. New Yorkers ate it up.
The rest of the country? Not so much.
According to Baseball-Almanac.com, the 2000 World Series scored just more than 18 million viewers, the lowest total for a World Series ever recorded.
This baffled Fox Sports president Ed Goren.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
"Our research people are going to have to take a look and see if they can come up with some explanations," Goren said, according to CNNSI.com. "I'm guessing maybe there's something wrong with the national Nielsen sampling. This has been a difficult year for a lot of us."
Several different explanations were offered. For example, the declining interest may have had something to do with the fact that the NFL season was in full swing. Or maybe people were watching all the TV shows that had been pushed back by the Summer Olympics in Sydney.
Or maybe people outside the state of New York just didn't care enough to watch.
Ratings dropped once again when the 2002 World Series featured an all-California matchup between the Anaheim Angels and the San Francisco Giants, which lends credence to the notion that national interest will be lacking if two teams from the same area are featured in the World Series.
If so, this is a problem that could mean trouble for a potential Orioles-Nationals World Series matchup, as it's a matchup that would appeal most to two fanbases that are very close to one another.
But it would be foolish to assume that people outside Baltimore and Washington, D.C. would tune out completely. If the O's and Nats make it to the World Series, several different storylines would be sure to draw viewers.
Harper alone surely would draw a plenty of extra viewers. He's the most hyped baseball prospect to come along in a long time, and he's only going to be 20 years old if and when the Nationals make it to the World Series. His performance may never again come close to being what it was before the All-Star break, but he's not losing his superstar status anytime soon.
Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
Meanwhile, in the other dugout would be fellow young phenom Manny Machado. It wasn't even a given that he would see time in the major leagues this season, but the O's called him up last week, just about a month after his 20th birthday, and he's performed pretty well in limited action amidst much attention.
Fans also could tune in to check out other young stars such as Adam Jones and Matt Wieters on Baltimore's side of the fence, and stars such as Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Gonzalez and Zimmermann on Washington's side of the fence (sadly, no Stephen Strasburg).
The other thing that may have hurt the 2000 World Series from a television perspective is the fact that it only lasted five games. The longer a series lasts, the more likely it is to generate interest.
The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals demonstrated this beautifully this past October when they took their series to seven games. According to MLB.com, Game 7 ended up being the highest-rated MLB game in seven years.
Major League Baseball surely would much rather have the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers end up in the World Series this year, but the Orioles and Nationals wouldn't be such a disaster.
Special thanks to Baseball-Reference.com for providing all of the stats.
If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?