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O's-Nats Rivalry Gets Serious

(By John McDonnell - TWP)

You'd think the Nationals would have some sort of built-in advantage over the Orioles in Washington, seeing as how the Nationals have the word "Washington" in their name and all. Still, who's more popular in D.C.? If television ratings can be believed, it's still the Orioles, which says something about sports loyalty, the nature of Washingtonians, the allure of black-and-orange and the perils of prolonged stinkiness. From the Washington Business Journal:

The Orioles this year have outdrawn the Nationals among D.C.-area TV viewers, with the Orioles' averaging a 0.8 rating on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network -- co-owned by the Nationals and the Orioles -- in D.C. so far this season. That's up 60 percent from last season and now surpasses the Nationals' average local rating of 0.5, down from a 0.7 last year.

Obviously these are small numbers, but still, a 0.8 isn't particularly close to a 0.5, especially when one of the teams is manifestly NOT FROM WASHINGTON. As previously reported, the Wiz averaged a 0.9 in the D.C. market this season (about 21,000 households), while the Caps averaged a 0.8 after the Bruce Boudreau hiring, which would put the Nats fifth in this market in local TV viewers, albeit behind four above-.500 teams.

Of course, it's possible that Washington fans express their abiding love for the Nats via the radio dial, Internet broadcasts, Strat-o-matic or silent meditation at home in front of a shrine of Dmitri Young bobbleheads, but they don't seem to be expressing it via television viewership. Or WaPo clicks, for that matter.

Some fans, of course, have maintained that it's feasible to simultaneously be fans of both baseball clubs. Even the managers got in on the "we're-all-one-big-MASN-family" act, with Manny Acta praising the Orioles brand of baseball and Dave Trembley saying this:

They're like the other hometown team, and I think for the good of the game you always want your hometown teams to do well. I think it says something about, you know, pride and resurgence of baseball. I think it's great here, they've had such big crowds the two nights we've been here. I think it's nice to have that spark back in our whole community: Baseball.

Emphasis added, but jeez, really? You always want your hometown teams to do well? Yankees fans always want the Mets to do well? White Sox fans have a special corner of their heart reserved for the Cubbies? Really?

Luckily, if nothing else, the team's marketing people recognized that to hate is divine, with the Nats cooking up a Sunday promotion giving free Nats hats to the first 10,000 fans turning in a logoed product of a rival, also according to the Washington Business Journal. I'm guessing they weren't looking for a lot of Mariners gear. And then, of course, there was Teddy vs. The Bird, in two parts. It may be silly, childish, juvenile and more comedy than anything else, but hey, so was Ronnie Belliard's home-run celebration.



By Dan Steinberg  |  June 30, 2008; 1:11 PM ET
Categories:  Nats , Orioles  
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Go Nats!

Posted by: jonthefisherman | June 30, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I've tried to care for the Nats, I really have. I just can't do it. Not a sliver of me gives a crap.

Go O's.

Posted by: Ben | June 30, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

There isn't a hatred in D.C./Baltimore because the teams haven't coexisted (or co-existed at a high level of play) yet. You give it some years and I guarantee the "rivalry" will get more heated. I went to the game Sunday and the worst thing I heard from an Orioles fan was "Go Expos!" Not really that obnoxious.

I left after the top of the 12th though thinking the O's had won it. Thankfully I was wrong but I can't stand missing a walkoff. That really sucks.

Posted by: JDP | June 30, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Also, I grew up as an Orioles fan at the old Memorial Stadium and then at Camden Yards and the Orioles still have a place in my heart. But I'd expect all D.C. area fans of the Orioles to give up hope once they realize Angelos is not leaving ever and they have a team right here off the Metro they can go to.

Still, the O's own the Nats in the intangibles: better song (Orioles Magic destroys and I mean destroys Nuts for Nats), better mascot (someone really needs to rethink Screech), and far far better stadium (Nationals Park lacks any character, it is bland and new and clean and doesn't even have a gimmick to keep me interested).

Posted by: JDP | June 30, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Does XM offer the same kind of stats? That's where we get most of our Nats coverage -- and we can do it from anywhere in the country.

Posted by: Nats on XM | June 30, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Hey smart reporter guy...

I'm no ultra talented investigative reporter BUT...

the likely reason for the disparity in the TV rankings is that 1) when both teams are playing, MASN HD usually goes to the O's and not the Nats (you'd rather watch in HD right?) and the O's are usually on MASN while the Nats are hidden on MASN2 and other nefarious stations.

Maybe we could have someone with two much time on their hands and figure out what the actual difference in ratings are when you have both teams on the same station in roughly the same time slot?

Another interesting anecdote, the other night I was trying to find the nats on Comcast, and it didn't show up on any of the MASN stations; I checked the web and found that they were on MASN2, but the guide said CSPAN Capitol Hill coverage or something. The nats were indeed on TV, but MASN apparently had not updated their information with Comcast (or vice versa) I'm not saying Angelos hates the Nats, but...

Posted by: GSM | June 30, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I hear ya, GSM, but I care about the Nats and not the O's, and I've always been able to find the Nats games, even if it requires one or two extra clicks. If you care, I think you find 'em.

Posted by: Dan Steinberg | June 30, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

You know those rating systems are flawed. They don't take in account houses that have... uh... more than two television sets... and...other things of that nature.

Posted by: Wes Mantooth | June 30, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Those TV ratings disappoint me but don't surprise me. There are many people in the D.C. area who grew up here rooting for the Orioles (because they were the closest team) and when the Nats came to town proclaimed that the Orioles had been their team for 30 years, etc. and that they weren't going to change even though they now had a team closer to home. I don't really understand this mindset--for example, people in North Carolina used to root for the Redskins, but they all switched to the Panthers, logically, when they got their own team--but I know and/or have met too many people who feel this way to deny that it exists. Having the Nats almost completely off TV for those first two years didn't help in trying to change this, but I would imagine only a winning Nats team could bring those people over from the dark side. But if you only have so many baseball fans in a city and you start with a good chunk of them who refuse to change their loyalties to the team up north (not to mention all the Red Sox fans that have materialized here in the last five years), I suppose that is going to affect your fan base.

And GSM, I don't want to defend anything to do with Angelos, but each team has an equal amount of games on MASN and MASN2. You're right, sometimes Comcast doesn't have it right (and sometimes the Post prints the wrong station), but all you really have to know to check MASN, then MASN2 and then Channel 20 and you'll find on one of those three stations (although I'll admit I forget about 20 sometimes.)

Posted by: Fingerman | June 30, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

It appears for some reason the Nats HD games in HD are backloaded into the 2nd half of the season. Not sure why this is the case unless The Warehouse has some broadcasting tactics up it's orange sleeve. I see 14 HD Nats games in the first 3 months (not including those vs. Baltimore), and then 23 HD games the final 3 months of the 6-month long season.

Posted by: Chris in SS | June 30, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I grew up in DC, liked the O's, and was waffling when the Nats came to town. Like everyone else, I hate Angelos. But geez, the DC ownership group seems just as bad. Who would you rather watch: Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones or Elijah "Headcase" Dukes, Lastings "Immature" Milledge or Ryan "Boring Guy" Zimmerman? The Nats spend no money on their team, charge $4 for a bottle of water, and built a stadium with no parking. Screw the Nats. Go O's!

Posted by: UMD's Burning Couch | June 30, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Also, shouldn't it say something if the biggest crowd of the year was swelled by the folks from Baltimore coming down? I say it's a rivalry, since the stands were split about 50-50.

What about Arbitron ratings? Anything there Dan? Can we compare those ratings?

Posted by: DC Centurion's Shield | June 30, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

The Orioles TV ratings are better due to record and all the Red Sox fans in the area.

Posted by: Kev | June 30, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I'd rather watch the immature, boring headcase.

Doesn't every stadium charge $4 for a bottle of water?

Posted by: Hoagie | June 30, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Dan, I don't know that it's really more than just two extra clicks to find the Nats game on TV. I agree, anyone who really wants to watch the Nats can manage to find the game on TV, but anyone whose seen the ratings for Deal or No Deal knows that a good deal of ratings are accounted for by people who are casually flipping around and happen to land somewhere. On my cable system (Comcast) most Nats games are on "MASN2", or as it is displayed on the Comcast TV guide data channel "NO SIGNAL", program "Off Air." Or, they're on MASN HD, better known as "MOJO HD" in the guise of the Royal Canadian Opera or something else that is unlikely to feature the talents of Jesus Colome. Also, how restricted are these ratings in terms of area? Are we talking all of DC, MD and Nova? Or is this just DC proper? I can't deny Nats fever isn't exactly spreading like ebola, but I can't imagine that more people actually located in DC are more interested in watching the AngelO's. Perhaps there's also influence of the O's having Yankees and Red Sox games to broadcast?

Posted by: mrlogical | June 30, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Hoagie, The $4 water was just a rant that pissed me off this weekend. The real issue I was trying to make is that the Nats owners aren't putting a quality line-up on the field because they refuse to pay for one. This Nats' team would have trouble winning some AAA leagues.

Posted by: UMD's Burning Couch | June 30, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

The Real Rivalry- December 7th

Can't wait to invade that purple stadium

Posted by: 70 Chip | June 30, 2008 3:44 PM | Report abuse

UMD is right, the Nats ownership group isn't anything to be excited about. They really haven't put much effort into fielding a competitor but it is early in their ownership so maybe a little slack is deserved while Angelos has just screwed the O's for a long time now.

Posted by: JDP | June 30, 2008 3:48 PM | Report abuse

70 chip: We're waiting for ya! Have been for a LONG time! Jack Kent Crook and his cronies coming to town! Oh he's dead? What about Raljon? Anyway, can't blame DC fans. As a diehard Caps fan born in Baltimore I know I'd have a very difficult time leaving them to support the Baltimore Predators.

Posted by: eric | June 30, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

"Prolonged stinkiness"? O's have worse record than the Nats the past three seasons and haven't seen a .500 season since 1997. So I'd only have to imagine that statement applied to Baltimore.

Posted by: DC Optimist | June 30, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

One way to look at this issue is that the Baltimore team is now at it's fan base peak. As each year goes by, more young kids in the DC, NOVA, MD suburbs will attend their first game at Nationals Park, watch their first Nats games on TV, get their Washington shirts, and hats, and thereby become Nats fans. As the team becomes more competitive for a division title this will accelerate the process.

But as for Baltimore they are at their peak now for their DC area fanbase who grew up here before the Nats existed.

Posted by: Nats Fanatic | June 30, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget that the DC fanbase is perhaps the most fair-weather in sports. Remember all those Ravens fans in 2001? My sense tells me that if this were 2005, the Nats ratings would be through the roof and those folks from the immediate MD suburbs wearing their orange this weekend would've been wearing red. Also, apparently Verizon FiOS doesn't carry MASN 2.

Posted by: Rob | June 30, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Who cares how much a bottle of water costs -- it's free out of the fountains. Anyone buying a bottle of trucked in water is an idiot!

Posted by: call me al | June 30, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I am an old Senator fan from back to 1961. So, I am an old baseball fan around the DC area. I relocated to NC four years ago and was very happy to see baseball return to DC. I have reservations about the return of baseball which I will address at the end of this post. I was hurt and disgusted when Bob Short and Ted Williams gutted a team which showed promise and the ability to COMPETE RPT COMPETE before moving to Texas. Losing the Senators left a big baseball void in DC. Okay, we had that Orioles up the pike there to help fill the void and when it was suggested to EBW, the Oriole honcho those days, that maybe a few Oriole home games could be played in DC. His response was, I will never forget, "We don't need DC". EBW apparently didn't realize or care about the negativity that statement would bring up among older fans. I came to the conclusion that I didn't need the Orioles either. I would watch them, but, without much excitement. It was baseball.

Now, regarding my reservations about the return of baseball to DC is this; The sports fans of DC will tolerate losing from only one sports franchise in that city and I'm sure I don't have to name it. Psst: hint...hint...Think Burgundy and Gold.

In regard to those TV ratings, it's simple, the O's are winning and playing better baseball. When I watch the Nats on the MASN channel here in NC, I try to figure out how they're gonna blow this game. I.E., bone-headed base running, no hitting or ineffective pitching. BTW: what happened to the Chief. The Nats had better start winning because this honeymoon is starting to sour. Cheers

Posted by: renaw9 | June 30, 2008 4:47 PM | Report abuse

fingerman: "There are many people in the D.C. area who grew up here rooting for the Orioles (because they were the closest team) and when the Nats came to town proclaimed that the Orioles had been their team for 30 years, etc. and that they weren't going to change even though they now had a team closer to home. I don't really understand this mindset ."

What I don't understand is the mindset that allows you to switch loyalties in the middle of your life. That is pretty gutless, to me, as far as sports fan-hood goes.

I grew up watching, caring for and emotionally investing myself in the Orioles. Suddenly the Nats come to town, with their bland roster, bland ownership, bland new stadium, poor overall quality, and I'm supposed to root for them just because? (Careful, I'm not implying I would root for them if they were a winner - bandwagon-hopping is equally appalling to me. Just emphasizing the utter lack of impact the arrival of the Expos had on me).

The funny thing is, I'm DC (area) through and through when it comes to sports. I love my 'Skins, Caps, Wizards, DC United and UMD teams. So it was with genuine enthusiasm that I tried to embrace the Nats. Even bought a retro Expos hat before the move in anticipation.

Problem is it doesn't stick. The Orioles have always been a part of the local landscape, and I can only devote intense fanhood to one team per sport. Having spent the conscious years of my life rooting for the Birds, I've realized I cannot be forced or force myself to like anyone else.

It's not in me to ditch my team. If you can't understand that, then I feel bad for you because you're missing out on something fundamental to fanhood.

Posted by: Ben | June 30, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

You want loyalty? I've been a KC Royals fan since 1977 and although I've since added the Nationals as my National League team (I've lived in the Arlington area off and on since '89), the Royals can't be knocked off my top spot. And, believe me, I've been put through the wringer as a Royals fan.
Hang in there, Nats fans, hang in there.

Posted by: Arlington Pimp | June 30, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

No way am I shelling out money to Angelos for MASN when they're giving away the game for free on the radio. It's much better to listen and work out than to be parked in front of the tv for three hours a night.

Posted by: Jake | June 30, 2008 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Ben: Understand where you're coming from. I didn't totally express my thoughts properly, though.

My friends tell me I'm an idiot for thinking this, but I guess part of my problem is that so many people in the DC area so readily accepted the Orioles as their home team. I completely understand why so many did--and the media tried the best they could to make me care about the Orioles--but as someone who didn't feel part of Baltimore but of Washington (and had a father who never accepted the Orioles as a home team and would lament how said it was that DC didn't have a baseball team anymore), I might go to an occasional Orioles game but never felt like they were my team. Did Baltimoreons adopt the Redskins when the Colts left? Of course not, so as a Washingtonian why adopt the Orioles as a consolation prize? So I was happy to finally have the Nats to cheer for.

But I also don't think there's anything wrong with switching allegiances to a team that moves into your hometown. In fact, it's essential. Otherwise, why move any franchise to a new city or create an expansion team?

Posted by: Fingerman | June 30, 2008 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Everyone is right...give it time. Skins/Ravens this year in Baltimore will be quite intense with fights. I have my QB Kyle Boller chants ready.

Eric Zier
Jim Harbaugh
Scott Mitchell
Stoney Case
Kyle Boller
Chris Redman
Jeff Blake
Anthony Wright

Go Skins.

Posted by: ahern | June 30, 2008 7:15 PM | Report abuse

At Nats Park you can get Ben's half smoke, at OPACY Ben's pole gets all the way smoked.

Posted by: (419+1)*0 | June 30, 2008 7:36 PM | Report abuse


Di*k jokes.

Those are funny.

Posted by: Matt C | June 30, 2008 8:18 PM | Report abuse

I would bet that the o's ratings are skewed by the Sox and Yankees games.

Posted by: george | June 30, 2008 9:14 PM | Report abuse

The Orioles might have higher ratings, but the Nationals are more popular on the Web. From Google trends:,+orioles&geo=usa&sa=N.

Posted by: Nick | June 30, 2008 11:01 PM | Report abuse

I haven't tried to care for the O's, I really haven't. I just can't do it. Not a sliver of me gives a crap.

Go nats.

@arlington pimp: are you me? I don't live in arlington but have been a royals fan since 77. Fun to see the nats and then royals beat the o's on walk-offs back-to-back nights, huh?

Posted by: .390 | July 1, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

.390: I guess I COULD be you. Absolutely the best to see back-to-back late wins over the O's by first the Nats and then the Royals. Dude, Greinke is man-crush worthy! If KC can win this series, it'll make my Fourth of July soooo sweet.
[Note to Nats management: Nice technicality, having Teddy beat the bird in Saturday's race; we were wondering how you were going to handle Teddy and his inevitable "win." Well played. Keep Teddy's no-win mystique alive.]

Posted by: Arlington Pimp | July 1, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

RCN, my cable provider, decided to stop carrying MASN2 and not tell anyone about it, as far as I can tell. So I haven't been able to watch any Nats games that weren't on MASN or Channel 20 this year.

If Angelos weren't giving the Nats the crumbs from MASN's broadcast capability and hiding the telecasts down rabbit holes where no casual viewer could ever discover them, the Nats' ratings would be higher. Higher than the O's, the featured team on Massa Angelos' Sports Network? I couldn't say. But the Nats ratings would be higher.

Posted by: Lindemann | July 1, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

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