Ranking the Best Rivalries in Baseball
Baseball has a way of bringing out the best, and the worst, in people.
There's an idea that baseball is a gentleman's game, that is slow-paced and perhaps more sophisticated than other professional sports.
But just ask a New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox fan about all of that.
To some fans, the game of baseball is about being the best. Rivalries are as much a part of the game as home runs and strikeouts.
Baseball blood-feuds can simply be a virtue of geographical proximity. Some are more due to divisional confrontations. Others may be the result of one inside fastball, or a watched home run.
There's really no limit as to how a rivalry can be formed.
And the rivalries don't always stay on the field. There have been numerous occasions of players speaking their minds about a particular team, causing a stir in the world of the media.
So, if everyone could go back to their corners for a minute, here's a look at the best team rivalries going on in baseball today.
No. 1: New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
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Is there any doubt which rivalry would claim top honors?
The feud between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox has become one of the most publicized rivalries in all professional sports.
Having played more than 2,100 games against each other, the history between the two teams virtually dates back to the Babe Ruth era.
In 1916, the Sox sold Ruth to the Yankees for $500,000. And then Ruth went on to become one of the greatest athletes America has ever seen.
The rivalry escalated some in the 1940s when Boston legend Ted Williams and the Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio each were in the pinnacle of their respective Hall of Fame careers. In 1941, Williams lost out to DiMaggio in the AL MVP race, despite batting .406 for the season and having arguably his finest year.
Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk.
Pedro Martinez and Don Zimmer.
Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek.
These are just some of the classic tussles that have existed over the course of this long, documented rivalry.
Current all-time record (from 1901 through 4/7/13): Yankees, 1,146-961-14
No. 2: San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
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The rivalry between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers doesn't only include more than 2,300 games, spanning more than a century. It also covers about 3,000 miles, from sea to shining sea.
This bitter feud began when the two teams played in New York (New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers). The two teams moved out west in after the 1957 season, but the new home cities didn't change the old feud.
Over the longstanding rivalry, many fans and players have gotten into altercations at numerous Giants-Dodgers games, whether in New York or California. Some have been rather violent and even deadly.
On the field, the two teams have been rather evenly matched.
Though lately, the Giants have been the better of the two teams, having won the World Series two of the last three years. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have not won a pennant since winning the World Series in 1988.
Current all-time record (from 1901 through 4/7/13): Giants, 1110-1090-13
No. 3: New York Mets vs. New York Yankees
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The rivalry between the New York Mets and New York Yankees—more commonly known as the Subway Series—is certainly more about geography than head-to-head history.
The rivalry started when the Mets came into existence in 1962, but since they play in separate leagues, they never really faced one another.
That is, until Interleague Play was introduced in 1997.
Since the '97 season, the Yankees have taken the persona as the older brother picking on their little brother, the Mets. With all of the fire power the Bronx Bombers have had in their lineups through the years, the Mets have always been the underdog in the Subway Series.
But to their credit, the Mets have held their own against their crosstown rivals, sporting a few comeback wins against future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera along the way.
The feud between the two teams from the Big Apple escalated during the 2000 season.
On July 8, the teams took part in a highly unusual doubleheader, in which one game was played at Shea Stadium, and the nightcap was played at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won both games 4-2.
But in the second game of the twin bill, Yankees' ace Roger Clemens beaned All-Star Mike Piazza in the helmet, which left Piazza with a concussion.
Some two months later, the teams met in the World Series. This was the first time that two New York teams met in the Fall Classic since 1956. It was obviously a highly anticipated matchup, and the Series did not disappoint.
But in Game 2, with the Piazza beaning still fresh in everyone's memory, more fuel was added to the fire.
In his first at-bat against Clemens since the July incident, Piazza fouled off a pitch, shattering his bat into pieces. As one of the pieces flung towards Clemens, the right-hander picked it up and threw towards the first-base line, nearly hitting Piazza who had been running down the line in case of a fair ball.
The benches cleared, but no further action was made of it. The Yanks went on to win the game, and later won the Series 4-1.
Current all-time record (from 1901 through 4/7/13): Yankees, 54-36
No. 4: Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets
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Though both of these franchises have been around for quite some time, this rivalry between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets is relatively new to the game of baseball.
For years, the two clubs were never contenting at the same time, and never really had much to battle about.
But that all changed starting in 2007.
Before the season began, Phillies' shortstop Jimmy Rollins made a statement, "We are the team to beat in the NL East...but that's only on paper". Clearly that didn't sit well with Mets fans, as their team had just come off a division-winning season in 2006.
In '07, the Mets had one of the greatest teams not to make the postseason. They sat in first place in the division for the majority of the season, and never had a below .500 record at any point in the year.
And, with a seven game lead over the Phillies on September 12, it was looking good for the Mets to make their second consecutive playoff appearance.
That was not to be, however.
The Mets would lose 12 of their next 17 games, including two five-game losing streaks, and were supplanted by the Phillies on the last game of the season. Rollins wound up winning the NL MVP Award that season.
The very next year, Mets' outfielder answered back to Rollins, stating that the Mets were the team to beat now that they had acquired left-hander Johan Santana.
Sadly for the Mets, they were beat.
They once again got knocked out of playoff contention on the last day of the regular season. And the Phillies would go on to win the World Series, ending a 28-year drought.
More offseason banter occurred following the '08 season.
Rollins and teammate Cole Hamels each took shots at the Mets, with Hamels calling their foes "choke artists." Mets' offseason acquisition Francisco Rodriguez joined the fray, once again dubbing the Mets to be the "team to beat" in 2009.
They were beat in 2009, and the Phillies once again won the division.
Current all-time record (from 1901 through 4/7/13): Phillies, 466-407-1
No. 5: Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
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The rivalry between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals is probably the least volatile on this list.
After all, the Cubs do play at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
But these two organizations go way back to the beginning of organized baseball, and have managed to stay divisional competitors for over a century.
In terms of head-to-head record, the Cubs hold a distinct advantage.
But in respect to overall success, the Cardinals have to be considered the favorite.
While the Cubs have won just two World Series in their existence (and none since 1908), the Cardinals have won a total of 11 World Series championships, including two in a six-year span.
Perhaps the highlight of this long-lived rivalry occurred in 1998.
Cardinals' slugger Mark McGwire and Cubs' favorite Sammy Sosa raced to break Roger Maris' single-season home run record with 62. McGwire won the race, barely beating out Sosa in September of '98. However, Sosa was crowned league MVP that year, finishing with 66 home runs and a league-best 158 RBI.
Current all-time record (from 1901 through 4/7/13): Cubs, 1103-1064-17
No. 6: Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals' pitcher Chris Carpenter reflects on the altercation between the Cincinnati Reds on August 10, 2010
The rivalry between the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds is not as highly talked about as some of the others on this list.
But during the heat of this feud, things got rather ugly in the NL Central. There have been several on, and off, the field instances that have fueled this fire.
In '09, then Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan accused Reds' right-hander Bronson Arroyo of doctoring baseballs with pine tar. Cardinals' ace Chris Carpenter, along with John Smoltz (who pitched for the Cardinals briefly towards the end of 2009), accused the Reds of rubbing down baseballs improperly for St. Louis, giving them a batch that had a poorer grip.
But that was just the start.
In 2010, during a pregame interview, Reds' second baseman Brandon Phillips had some less-than-flattering things to say about his St. Louis opponents.
The very next night, with the Reds hosting the Cardinals, Phillips stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the first. Phillips, an outspoken but quirky ballplayer, offered his customary tap of the shin guards with his bat to catcher Yadier Molina (and the home plate umpire).
After hearing Phillips' comments from a day earlier, Molina wanted no part of the All-Star second baseman's "friendliness" and kicked the bat away. The catcher stood up and the two got into a shoving match.
Then, things got really ugly.
The benches and bullpens emptied, and the area behind home plate became a sea of red. During the fracas, Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto's cleat connected with the face of Cardinals' back-up catcher Jason LaRue, resulting in a nasty gash over his left eye and a slight concussion.
Once the dust settled, the managers (Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker) were the only two ejected from the game. Ever since this battle royale, there has been a bitter taste in the mouths of fans from both sides. Publicly, the two teams have let bygones be bygones and have moved on.
But fans still boo Phillips in St. Louis and Molina in Cincinnati.
With both teams evenly matched and pitted in an annual battle for the top of the NL Central, who knows what else this rivalry has in store.
Current all-time record (from 1901 through 4/7/13): Cardinals, 1,078-946-16