Let’s be honest for a second, last year was the first time the Philadelphia Phillies really noticed the Washington Nationals were even in their division. During 2007-11, when the Phillies won five straight division titles, the Nationals finished higher than last place in the division just once, which was in 2011. The Nationals won 80 games in 2011 and finished in third place in the NL East, the highest they finished since 2007, when they finished in 4th place.
2012 was a new story for the Nationals and Phillies alike. While the Phillies began to see their time domination of the division and the National League beginning to end, Washington saw a chance for their best season since moving to the nation’s capitol. The rivalry began in spring training last season when the Nationals made comments about how they were now the favorites to win the division. The Phillies did not appreciate the comments and the fans took it harder, which started an intense rivalry between the two fan bases.
The Phillies had been looking for a new rival since the New York Mets have not been competitive since 2008 and there had not been any real rivalry with the Atlanta Braves in a few years. All the stories lined up for a new rival for the Phillies. The Nationals clearly got the best of the Phillies in 2012 by winning 98 games and a division title, while the Phillies had their worst season in recent memory. The question, however, was would the rivalry continue in to 2013 or would it be a one year fluke?
Wednesday’s spring training game may have answered that question. It began when Stephen Strasburg (unintentionally) hit Chase Utley in the foot with a pitch. Roy Halladay then responded by throwing behind Washington’s Tyler Moore. After the game Halladay said “the pitch slipped” he then smiled and added “it wouldn’t have been the worst thing” if the pitch hit Moore.
This being only a spring training game shows that this rivalry will remain intense in 2013. The fan bases do not like each other and it seems the players are beginning to have some history with each other as well. It seems as if both teams will be competitive this season, only adding more fire to this exciting, new rivalry.