Yankees-Mets and the 10 Best Rivalries in Baseball Today

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJune 8, 2012

Yankees-Mets and the 10 Best Rivalries in Baseball Today

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    The New York Yankees and New York Mets will renew their rivalry this weekend at Yankee Stadium. If you believe the media, that means everyone in the city of New York is going to stop what they're doing and stare wide-eyed at the nearest TV screen for the next 72 hours.

    The media exaggerates, of course, but that doesn't mean the Yankees-Mets rivalry isn't a big deal. They're two teams who share common ground, and there have been times when their battles have loomed large over the baseball landscape.

    Seeing these two teams back together again got us to thinking: What are the best rivalries in baseball?

    I know, I know. It's been done to death. 

    But not like this. What we're going to do here is rank the best rivalries in baseball today. That means dead rivalries like Braves-Mets and Yankees-Dodgers need not apply. I am going to take history into account, but current events matter just as much.

    And away we go...

    Note: Special thanks to Baseball-Reference.com for the vital intel.

10. Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies

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    All-Time Series: ATL 1,045-987

    Since 2000: PHI 116-102

    The Braves and Phillies are two of the oldest franchises in the National League, and by now they've butted heads over 2,000 times.

    Despite their long history, there's never been a ton of animosity between the Braves and Phillies. Theirs is more of a respectful rivalry. 

    Two recent quotes from the GMs of both teams, courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, pretty much sum it up.

    “We have a healthy respect for the Phillies,” said Braves GM Frank Wren.

    “I think of them as a model club,” said Phillies GM Ruben Amaro.

    You see? No fisticuffs.

    Nonetheless, the Braves and Phillies are on this list because they've managed to play some pretty intense baseball games recently despite their mutual respect for one another. The six series the two teams played last year were a lot of fun to watch, and earlier this season they gave us one of the most exciting baseball games in recent memory.

    You remember that one, right? Back on May 2, the two clubs played an 11-inning thriller that featured huge rallies by both clubs, and it was ultimately capped by a walk-off home run by Chipper Jones.

    "Epic" is a word that's overused nowadays, but, well, that was epic.

9. Philadelphia Phillies vs. Washington Nationals

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    All-Time Series: PHI 385-344

    Since 2000: PHI 129-93

    Most baseball rivalries are really old. Seeing as how the sport is well over 100 years old, that's just the nature of the beast.

    That's not the case with the rivalry between the Nationals and the Phillies. The Nationals have only been the Nationals since 2005, and before that they were the Montreal Expos. They had tangles with the Phillies in those years, to be sure, but nothing significant.

    In recent years, the Phillies have won five straight NL East titles and a World Series in 2008, while the Nationals have simply been trying to find their footing as an organization. There hasn't been a lot of head-butting.

    So no, the rivalry between the Nationals and Phillies is not the least bit old. On the contrary, it's quite new, and that's the beauty of it.

    For all intents and purposes, this rivalry got real in early May of this season. The Nats took the first two games of a three-game series against the Phillies, and in the third game Cole Hamels sent the Nats a message by plunking star rookie Bryce Harper. The Nats took exception to that, and now we're staring at a rivalry that has a chance to become something big in the next couple years.

    "They're the team that has won every year and they're the team to beat," said Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, via Sports Illustrated. "Until someone beats them, they're the team."

    It's the old guard versus the new guard, and the fans already love it. While the Nats and Phillies duke it out on the field, the two fanbases will wage their own little war in the stands.

    This, my friends, is how a great rivalry starts.

8. Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals

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    All-Time Series: Cubs 1,096-1,054-17

    Since 2000: STL 105-99

    These two clubs go waaaaaay back.

    The Cubs and Cardinals first hooked up in 1885, and they've played over 2,100 games since then. Both teams have seen some truly great players come and go, but the franchises themselves couldn't be more different. The Cardinals are a proud club with an array of NL pennants and World Series titles to show off. The Cubs are and always have been baseball's lovable losers.

    The Cubs and Cardinals are geographical rivals to a degree, but the true heart of the rivalry is a territorial one. The Cardinals can't touch Chicago, but they certainly have a following elsewhere in Illinois. When the rivalry heats up, the two armies of fans also heat up. A good Cubs vs. Cardinals game can put any Red Sox-Yankees game to shame.

    The rivalry hasn't been so great the last couple years, and that's thanks in large part to the decline of the Cubs. They just haven't been able to hold their own against the Cardinals, as they have an 18-20 record against the Cards since the start of the 2010 season.

    Nonetheless, the rivalry has had its moments. The Cubs scored a walk-off win in extras against the Cards earlier this season, and Albert Pujols hit walk-off home runs in back-to-back games against the Cubs last season. Despite the sorry state of the Cubs, these two teams have found ways to keep the entertainment coming.

    This rivalry is going to be one-sided for a few years, but it will be great again. You can count on it.

7. Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox

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    All-Time Series: CWS 48–39

    Since 2000: CWS 42-33

    The Cubs and White Sox first hooked up in the 1906 World Series, which the White Sox won four games to two.

    That was pretty much it for a long time. The Cubs did their thing in the National League, and the White Sox did their thing in the American League. The barrier between the two leagues rendered them unable to battle it out for the fate of the Windy City for a long time.

    The rivalry finally became a regular occurrence in 1997 when interleague play was born, and since then it's given us many memorable moments. The brawl between A.J. Pierzynski and Michael Barrett in 2006 (pictured) is my personal favorite, simply because it was about time somebody gave Pierzynski a good haymaker.

    As far as the fans go, this is a classic bragging rights rivalry. Either North Siders are going to get to gloat for a year, or South Siders are. That simple.

    The rivalry has gotten to be a little one-sided lately. The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, so the rivalry no longer consists of two cursed teams. To boot, the White Sox have gotten the better of the Cubs three seasons in a row, and they've already swept them once this year.

    Once again, this has a lot to do with the hard times that the Cubs have fallen on in the last couple years. The White Sox have had issues of their own, but they haven't hit rock bottom quite like the Cubs have.

    Oh well. The fans make this rivalry great, and that's not changing anytime soon.

6. New York Mets vs. New York Yankees

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    All-Time Series: NYY 49-35

    Since 2000: NYY 42-30

    The Yankees-Mets rivalry is just like the Cubs-White Sox rivalry in that it's a rivalry that has everything do with bragging rights. 

    Their rivalry ranks ahead of Cubs-White Sox because, well, New York is bigger than Chicago, and these two fanbases are bigger. The bragging rights, therefore, are bigger.

    Besides, it's not like we're talking about a rivalry that has never felt intense on the field. The old feud between Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza boiled over on more than one occasion back in the day, and the Mets and Yankees took their rivalry to another level when they duked it out in the World Series in 2000.

    Ah yes, those were the days...

    The Mets-Yankees rivalry will likely never be as good as it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but it's managed to stay strong over the last decade-plus. This is primarily because both teams have managed to stay strong.

    Sure, the Mets have hit the skids the last couple years, but they're back on track this season. They're going to give the Yankees a run for their money this weekend.

5. Los Angeles Angels vs. Texas Rangers

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    All-Time Series: LAA 403-383

    Since 2000: LAA 119-108

    The Angels and Rangers don't go back all that far, as they've both been members of the AL West for just about 40 years now.

    For what it's worth, the Angels and Rangers share a pretty even record ever since the Rangers joined the AL West in 1972. They've played 606 games, with the Angels holding a slight 316-290 edge.

    Aside from that, there's not much to see here. Unlike most of the other entries on this list, the Angels-Rangers rivalry is on the list because it promises to be a very, very good rivalry for years to come.

    The Angels-Rangers rivalry is essentially the West's answer to Red Sox-Yankees. Both teams have claimed their place among baseball's big spenders, and both of them are going to have billions of dollars in TV money to play with going forward.

    The arms race has already begun. The Angels made a bold statement when they inked Albert Pujols and former Rangers ace C.J. Wilson to lucrative contracts this offseason, and the Rangers responded by bringing in Japanese ace Yu Darvish. More recently, they signed veteran ace Roy Oswalt to aid them down the stretch.

    The two teams have met six times this season, and they've split those six games. The atmosphere has been charged when they've hooked up, and that's because both clubs and both fanbases know what's at stake.

    No, it's not the AL West. It's the West. Period.

4. Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays

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    All-Time Series: BOS 146-104

    Since 2000: BOS 133-92

    For the first decade of their existence, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays played the part of a doormat in the American League East. The Boston Red Sox had little trouble walking all over them, compiling a 111-58 record against the Devil Rays from 1997 to 2007.

    Everything changed in 2008. The Rays emerged with a new name and a new attitude, and they made the defending World Series champion Red Sox their primary target.

    The tables have turned dramatically since the start of the 2008 season. The Rays hold a 46-35 record over the Red Sox, and they officially announced to the baseball world that they were for real when they beat the Red Sox in seven games in the 2008 ALCS.

    Though the Rays have the upper hand as far as the actual games go, it's not as if the Red Sox have rolled over and died. They've fought the Rays, and the Rays have fought back. There's been a mutual dislike between these two teams for over four years now, and it hasn't died down one bit this season.

    I'll put it this way: When Rays DH Luke Scott ripped Fenway Park and Red Sox fans in April, you knew he was going to pay for it sooner or later. Sure enough, Scott got plunked a couple weeks ago, and a brawl ensued.

    There's plenty more where that came from, and it will be seen both in this season and in seasons to come.

3. Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals

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    All-Time Series: STL 1,074-941

    Since 2000: STL 114-86

    The Cubs-Cardinals rivalry has cooled down in recent years, but it didn't take long for a new challenger to arise in the NL Central to give the Cardinals a fight: the Cincinnati Reds.

    Once again, we're talking about two very old ballclubs, and goodness knows these two teams have been playing each other for long enough. 

    But never mind the history. The Reds-Cardinals rivalry is on this list because of how deliciously vicious it's been in recent years.

    It started when the Reds rose from the ashes in 2010 and tried to take the NL Central throne from the Cardinals. They finally let the Cards know they were for real in August of that year. Brandon Phillips ran his mouth about the Cardinals, and the next thing anyone knew he and Yadier Molina were at each other's throats. The dynamite went boom.

    And it continued to go boom. The Reds and Cards picked up right where they left off early last season, prompting David Schoenfield of ESPN.com to declare theirs to be the best rivalry in baseball.

    It's looking like the division will be up for grabs between the two teams again this season. More fireworks are in order.

    In the immortal words of Bart Scott, "Can't wait!"

2. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants

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    All-Time Series: SFG 1,096-1,079-17

    Since 2000: LAD 113-106

    Man, where do we even begin with this one?

    The Dodgers and Giants have been going at it for a loooooong time. They first played in 1890, and they've been doing battle every year since for over a century.

    The rivalry was at its best when both teams played in New York. The New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers have us great moments like Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" in 1951, and the two were involved in a handful of close pennant chases in the 1950s. They continued to be a thorn in each other's sides after packing up and moving to California in 1958.

    The most shocking on-field incident involving the two teams happened in 1965 when Juan Marichal attacked Dodgers catcher Johnny Roseboro with a bat, inciting a benches-clearing brawl. It was like a professional wrestling match, except real.

    Fans of both teams have always done their part to keep the rivalry alive, but it obviously goes without saying that things boiled way, way over in April of 2011 when Giants fan Bryan Stow was viciously attacked and beaten outside Dodger Stadium. The bright side is that the Stow incident has inspired both fanbases to mellow out, and it forced the Dodgers to make Dodger Stadium a safer place.

    It's had its bad moments, but what makes the Dodgers-Giants rivalry a great one is the fact that it's never really been one-sided. You can see above how close the overall record is, and you can also see that nothing much has changed recently.

    With the Giants and Dodgers once again at the top of the NL West this season, it's clear that the rivalry is just as even now as it's ever been.

1. Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

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    All-Time Series: NYY 1,134-954-14

    Since 2000: NYY 114-104

    A lot of fans out there hate the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. In fact, the only thing they hate more than the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is how much people talk about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

    To these fans, I say this: too bad. The rivalry between the Sox and Yanks gets as much press as it does because it truly is the best rivalry in baseball.

    The rivalry has everything working for it. There's a rich tradition of nastiness between the two clubs, stretching from the classic brawl between Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson in 1973 to Pedro Martinez's throwdown of Don Zimmer in 2003 to the clash between Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek in 2004.

    Those 2003 and 2004 seasons were easily the best two years of the rivalry. The regular-season matchups between the two teams were split nearly down the middle, and they needed seven games to decide the ALCS both seasons. The Yankees won in '03, and the Red Sox won in '04. Their victory over the Yankees that year is without a doubt the most stunning postseason victory in baseball history.

    The intensity of the rivalry has died down a lot since then, but it's still a strong rivalry because it's remained competitive. Since 2005, the two teams have played 130 games, and the Yankees hold just a slight 66-64 advantage.

    That kind of parity didn't exist for a long time in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. The Yankees consistently beat up on the Red Sox, and they would add insult to injury by winning the World Series time after time.

    This century, both clubs have two World Series championships, and the head-to-head record between the two in the regular season is almost even.

    Love it or hate it, baseball's biggest rivalry is more a rivalry now than ever before.

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