While rivalries are often hyped on college football Saturday, or Duke vs. North Carolina during college basketball on ESPN, Major League Baseball has more than a few of its own. From the West Coast to the East Coast, summer through fall features a host of games that stand out among the 162 game schedule.
While interleague play has been a ruse to engage greater viewership, it has also provided some quality regional matchups. The Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox have moved beyond an exhibition game to being pivotal on the schedule for both teams. In New York, Mets vs. Yankees is a big draw, while out west, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels have been good for California.
But, when looking to a stop the day, order food in advance kind of rivalries, the list grows short. These are the games you grew up with. These are the teams that divided families and ended relationships. These are the matchups you circle on the schedule and demand payback from a previous season. Simply stated, these are the games that matter.
5-Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs
The Brewers, once a regular in the American League Central, have become a thorn in the side of the Cubs. Dating back to 1998 when Milwaukee moved to the NL Central, the overall record for the I-94 rivalry is 194-186, with Chicago owning the tale of the tape.
Brewers vs. Cubs has become a compelling matchup. While Chicago owns the better of the record, Milwaukee has been a tough opponent. During the 2018 season, the I-94 rivalry set a new tone, as Milwaukee became not just highly competitive, but a World Series contender. The two teams would finish tied for the NL Central title. The Brewers won the playoff, forcing the Cubs to be a Wild-Card team. Chicago would eventually lose to the Colorado Rockies.
4-New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves
The Braves are a curious team. In the 90’s, they were star-studded and on the verge of winning multiple championships. The Mets, swimming in the media capital of the world, always seemed the bridesmaid, but never the bride.
Atlanta vs. the Mets always seemed somewhat anticlimactic. For all the bluster, neither team was much of a headliner. The Braves always managed to find its way to the postseason, only to be upended by anyone and everyone else. Atlanta managed only one World Series win, 1995, after opportunities in 1991, 1992, 1995 (W), 1996, and 1999.
New York, hoping to draft off of the Braves success, signed pitcher Tom Glavine in 2003. Success was fleeting, as he managed only one postseason appearance in 2006.
New York and Atlanta is a great rivalry that always had a lot of potential. In its heyday, the number of championships that could have been produced are numerous.
3-Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
For fans in the Midwest, this is the quintessential rivalry. Traveling 296 miles either up or down I-55, Cubs vs. Cardinals is the classic summer matchup. Even when both, one, or neither team has a shot at postseason play, fans in Chicago and St. Louis have this game circled on the calendar.
The numbers are not complicated. The Cardinals have won 19 National League Pennants while the Cubs have won 17. Seems close, right? However, when it comes to the Fall Classic, St. Louis holds a significant advantage, having won 11 championships while the North Siders have only three.
For the money, Cubs versus Cardinals is baseball always worth watching. It’s divided friendships, families, and an entire region of the country. Regardless of the records, this is not just one of the best rivalries in baseball, but in all of sports.
2-New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
This is a no-brainer. Sox-Yankees have everything. Fan angst in Boston, fan supremacy in the Bronx. Until Boston finally broke out and started winning championships again, New York had the clear advantage in being a team that had free rent in the minds of Red Sox fans.
Not so much now.
Like so many rivalries in baseball, this one is very regional. The size of both the Boston and New York market make it ideal for both cable and national broadcasts. It’s also one of the few rivalries that resonates beyond the Eastern seaboard. With transplants out West, Red Sox and Yankees fans are everywhere.
Is Boston versus New York the best rivalry in baseball? Some will say it is. However, one that began on the East Coast now resides on the West Coast. Making Sox-Yankees only second best.
1-Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants
When talking about the best rivalries in sports, many come to mind. In Baseball, Dodgers-Giants is, hands down, the best one going.
Dating back to the days where New York sported three baseball teams, the Giants had the better of the rivalry, with a record of 721-670-17. Since moving West, Los Angeles has the better record, winning 568 games, and losing 538.
Like other rivalries, this matchup is blessed by geography, not once, but twice. After sharing space in the Big Apple, the Giants and Dodgers now own the best rivalry on the West Coast. Despite California hosting five MLB teams, not any game between any of those other teams match the intensity of a game between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Argue all you like. Certainly fans of Major League Baseball will argue for any one of the top three rivalries. Cubs-Cardinals is great. Boston-New York is guided by a history that features the larger than life, Babe Ruth. But there is a special intensity that accompanies a game featuring the Giants and Dodgers. That makes a game between those two cities the best rivalry in baseball, and maybe in all of sports.