Nats-Phils rivalry now a two-way street

Nats-Phils rivalry now a two-way street
May 7, 2012, 9:41 pm
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Rivarlies in sports have to, absolutely must, be two-way relationships. A one-way rivalry can be just about the saddest thing to be realized, just ask Wizards fans about the LeBron James-led Cavaliers. Now that the Nationals look like a good baseball team, and the once-untouchable Phillies are vulnerable, the D.C.-Philly baseball matchup is becoming one of the best and most heated in sports.It took a series win by Washington, and an overall dominant stretch over Philadelphia, for it all to be realized. It was clear last night the Nats and their brash young star Bryce Harper finally got under the Phillies skin as Cole Hamels lost his cool and is now suspended five games. Throw in a taunting kiss from Shane Victorino - a clear reference to Harpers lore - and we have ourselves some storylines.Over at CSNPhilly.com, their Phillies writers have come to acknowledge the contentious relationship as a clear rivalry that could entertain sports fans of all walks for quite some time. Columnist Rueben Frank put the hatred within the Philly perspective and sounds pretty excited for what could be waiting for us in the future.You wanted a rivalry? You got a rivalry.Were only a month into the 2012 baseball season, but this is already getting good, he writes.
After the Nationals ill-fated Take back the Stadium ploy? After a weekend of Flyers and Eagles chants infuriated the locals at Nationals Park? After Cole Hamels hit Bryce Harper Sunday night and then openly admitted to doing it? After Jordan Zimmerman hit Hamels two innings later? After Nationals GM Mike Rizzo called Hamels classless and gutless?Oh yeah, were on.
Many around baseball are looking now at the Nationals Take Back the Park campaign as the true catalyst for the rivalry, that Washingtons public efforts to turn away Phils fans shook the hornets nest. But now, if this rivalry continues it will clearly date back to Hamels beaning of Bryce Harper. According to Frank, even Hamels realizes what he did.Thats what makes it exciting in baseball, he said after pitching eight strong innings in the Phillies 9-3 win at Nationals Park in Washington. Thats what you want. To see your fans really get involved. ...You can feel the energy, and you want to play harder and I think thats what it really takes to get more people to watch our series when were playing each other. Its a long year, and when you have a series to look forward to, it kind of makes things go a little bit quicker and the excitement really takes you to another level of play.Frank and Phillies fans seem to look at Hamels pitch as a statement made by the team, on national television and against an upstart young team. The statement Hamels made when he hit Harper on national TV Sunday night was that the Phillies arent quite ready yet to relinquish N.L. East bragging rights to the upstart Nationals, Frank writes.Whether the message was received is hard to tell, but with another series between the two coming up on May 21, we should find out soon. The two teams also play six of their last nine games together. It is a rivalry that now has both teams buying in and the best could be yet to come.