Major League Baseball’s Biggest Inter-Division Rivalries

What are sports without rivalries?  Major League Baseball is no different and over the last 100 or so years that the league has been in existence, some teams have developed quite a hatred towards each other.  Often times these rivalries are fueled by geography (i.e. two regions despise each other for more reasons than just baseball, but the feud spills over into the baseball aspect of things).  Alternatively, the two teams could have no real hostility towards one another, but consistently find themselves both in contention for a playoff spot down the stretch, making every meeting between them so much more meaningful.  Whatever the reason, we have compiled a list of baseball’s biggest rivalries and some key facts about each so that when push comes to shove, you can take a side and defend it to the death.

National League East

Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets

Reason for Rivalry: Geographic

This may not be one of the oldest rivalries in Major League Baseball, but you can bet that there is no shortage of bad blood between these two teams.  Despite their close proximity, Philly and NYC are two very different cities with equally passionate fans.  The rivalry between Philadelphia and New York City goes beyond baseball and extends into football and hockey as well, which is one of the reasons why this rivalry is considered geographic in nature.

Up until the mid-2000’s however, this rivalry could hardly be considered competitive.  The Mets showed some dominance in the late 60’s while the Phillies were largely non-competitive in the National League East.  The late 70’s were highlighted by three consecutive division championships for the Phillies, while the Mets spent much of that time period at the bottom of the division.  The two teams have had good success throughout the years, although neither of them really has shown it at the same time.  Recently, however, the rivalry has ignited with the Phillies as a perennial playoff contender and the Mets usually following close at their heels.  This is a pretty one-sided rivalry of late, but that does little to quell the angst of Mets fans towards their rival Phillies.

National League Central

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs

Reason for Rivalry: Geographic, Competitive, Historical

This rivalry dates back to 1885 when the two teams first met.  Often referred to as the Interstate 55 rivalry, the Cubs and Cardinals share some geographic hatred towards each other, with the region in Central Illinois, which lies between the two cities shouldering the brunt of the hostility.  Fans in this region receive radio broadcasts of the game from both Cubs and Cardinals affiliates, further fueling the hatred between the fan bases.

This rivalry was thrust into the national spotlight in recent years, largely due to the home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.  These two superstars of the Cubs and Cardinals, respectively, almost matched each other homer for homer during the 1998 season, giving national media attention to the Cubs Cardinals rivalry.

It is a competitive rivalry as well, with the Cardinals laying claim to 17 division titles and the Cubs holding 16 of their own.  Both teams have seen regular and post-season success in recent years, although the Cubs have not seen a World Series win in over 100 years.  These two teams and their respective fan bases have quite a bit of hatred towards each other and there is no sign of it letting up.  No matter where either team is in the standings, you can bet that their annual meetings will be billed as the biggest game of the year for both clubs.

National League West

San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Reason for Rivalry: Geographic, Competitive, Historical

The Dodgers-Giants rivalry has seen many faces throughout the years, beginning in 1883 when the teams first met.  At the time, both clubs were located in New York City, giving the rivalry some cross-town fuel as it literally divided the city.  When the Dodgers decided to move out west to LA in 1957, Dodger’s owner Walter O’Malley tried to convince Horace Stoneham, the Giants owner to move the team out to California as well, instead of Minnesota like Stoneham had originally planned.  With the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles, it only made sense that the Giants would wind up in San Francisco as the two California cities have always been at odds culturally, economically, and politically.

The competitive balance of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry is almost astounding.  With nearly 2,200 meetings between the teams over the last century the Giants hold a slight 50.1% – 49.9% edge in the win column.  Furthermore, the teams are tied with 6 World Series Championships apiece.  Surprisingly, neither team has actually met in the post-season but doing so would no doubt make this the most epic rivalry of all time – in any sport.

The rivalry has spilled out of the stadium and into the parking lot on a few occasions, each incident ending violently.  Most recently, a Giants fan was attacked in the Dodger’s parking lot after the LA home opener and remains in a medically induced coma.  The incident led to a plea from Dodger and Giants players to keep the rivalry clean and on the field.

American League East

Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

Reason for Rivalry: Geographic, Competitive, Historical

The Yankees and Red Sox rivalry is another of the oldest in sports history.  For over 100 years, these two teams have battled it out and whether you are a fan of either team or not – you almost can’t help but take sides.  This rivalry has been pitted as good vs. evil, the empire vs. the rebellion, and David vs. Goliath.  The geographic aspect of this rivalry precedes the American Revolution as Boston and New York have always been vying for cultural and political dominance in the Northeast.  Throw two successful baseball teams into the mix and you can see why ESPN can’t help but broadcast every single game when these two teams meet.

This rivalry basically started when Babe Ruth (ever heard of him?) was sold from the Sox to the Yankees.  What did the Sox get out of it? The Red Sox owner took the money from the sale of Ruth to fund his Broadway Musical No, No Nanette. From there, the Red Sox relinquished their choke hold over the Yankees and paved the way for the Bronx Bombers to become the most successful baseball franchise of the 20th century.  From the time of the Babe Ruth trade until 2004, the Yankees won 26 World Series Titles while the Red Sox won zero, zilch nada, nothing.

Don’t think that this great disparity between World Series Title detracted from this rivalry’s competitive nature, however.  The Yankees hold a slight 54.5% – 45.5% lead through 2,100 games.  The teams have even met in the playoffs recently, where the Yankees hold an 11-8 advantage over the Sox.  This rivalry has been highlighted with bad blood, bench clearing fights, and enough trash talking to fill the East River.  The Yankees have long been chastised for spending gregarious amounts of money to fuel their team’s success, leading to increased support for the Red Sox as the team who was chosen and pre-destined to take them down.  Recently, however, the Red Sox have been just as guilty of signing lucrative contracts in order to compete with their rivals.  The last few years, this rivalry has been less about good vs. evil, and more about dollar vs. dollar. Still, this is one of the greatest rivalries in sports and will probably continue to be for the rest of our lives.

Wrapping Up Baseball’s Biggest Rivalries

There are a few rivalries that we probably could have mentioned on our list, including Mets-Braves as well as some that are quickly building up steam the more competitive each team gets in the division (White Sox-Twins and Angels-Rangers, for example).  Think your team’s hatred of another team belongs on this list? Send your suggestions to [email protected]. If you have a particular love towards one of the teams mentioned above, let us know by leaving a comment about why your team is going to dominate the rivalry this year.  Just remember to keep it clean and let your team do the talking on the field.