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HomeUncategorizedRanking MLB's 7 Best Rivalries Right Now

Ranking MLB’s 7 Best Rivalries Right Now

Ranking MLB’s 7 Best Rivalries Right Now

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    The Astros-Yankees rivalry has it all.

    The Astros-Yankees rivalry has it all.Al Bello/Getty Images

    To the average person, rivalries might not get any better than Hamilton vs. Burr, Holmes vs. Moriarty, The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones or Star Trek vs. Star Wars.

    To which the average baseball fan might retort: “Psh, what are those compared to the best rivalries in Major League Baseball today?”

    It is in support of this average fan that we’ve made a fresh ranking of the seven best rivalries in MLB right now. There’s no objective measure for this, so we got subjective in weighing how much drama each rivalry has both on (i.e. parity) and off (i.e. bad blood) the field.

    And when we say “right now,” we do mean right now. We’ll start by acknowledging some legacy rivalries, but this is about rivalries whose peaks are in the present.

Honorable Mentions

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    Boston's Alex Verdugo

    Boston’s Alex VerdugoAdam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

    This is obviously the O.G. of MLB rivalries, and one with enough history for a 20,000-word entry on Wikipedia.

    It is, however, a rivalry that’s had its ups and downs over the years. With the Yankees having dominated three of the last four season series and the two clubs not on the same contention level in 2023, it’s stuck in one of the latter for now.

    Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants

    This is baseball’s other O.G. rivalry. Red Sox-Yankees and Dodgers-Giants might even be No. 1 and No. 1-A among MLB rivalries, and there’s a case that the latter belongs in the first slot.

    Yet, the current nature of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry isn’t all that different from that of Red Sox-Yankees. Their race in the National League West in 2021 was a doozy, but the Dodgers have generally had the edge since 2017 and the two teams are on different paths this year.

    Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals

    There’s history aplenty here, too, and this rivalry might have even been the best in baseball when the Cardinals and Cubs were jockeying for position in the National League Central on an annual basis between 2015 and 2020.

    But that also feels like forever ago, especially now that the two teams are bringing up the rear in the division.

    New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies

    Remember when the Mets and Phillies were constantly at each other’s throats and duking it out for NL East supremacy during the mid-to-late 2000s? Those were some good times.

    But this also feels like forever ago. The temperature of this rivalry has been cooler of late, including last year when the Mets easily handled the Phillies to the tune of a 14-5 record.

7. Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners

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    Seattle's Julio Rodríguez (L) and Houston's José Altuve (R)

    Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez (L) and Houston’s José Altuve (R)Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    The Case for It

    The Astros aren’t accustomed to getting picked on by anyone their own size within the American League West. Since 2017, their intra-division record is 282-154.

    Yet, the Mariners have done better than most at landing punches on the Astros of late. Their 17 wins against Houston since 2021 are the most of any team. And while the Astros did end up sweeping the series, Seattle gave them everything it had in the ALDS last year. All three games were decided by two runs or fewer.

    “I feel like this is just the beginning for all of us,” Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez said after the series ended. “We’re definitely going to keep on going and we’re going to be back.”

    The Case Against It

    Even setting aside the notion that the best rivalries consist of both teams not just landing punches but scoring wins, it feels like this one is becoming obsolete, doesn’t it?

    Indeed, it’s just a matter of time before the Astros’ rivalry with the Texas Rangers is more than just a regional affair. The clubs have basically the same record since they met for their first series of 2023 in April and are separated by just three games in the AL West standings.

6. Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Houston's José Altuve

    Houston’s José AltuveBrian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Case for It

    Elsewhere on the topic of Astros rivalries, what the Mariners have in terms of proximity and recent parity is nothing compared to what the Dodgers have in terms of pure, uncut spite.

    After all, the 2017 World Series wasn’t that long ago. Certainly not long ago enough for the Dodgers and their fans to have forgotten that Houston’s seven-game victory in the series was achieved on a less-than-level playing field.

    L.A. fans made it quite clear that the Astros were franchise-a non grata when they last visited Dodger Stadium in 2021, and Carlos Correa can vouch that even former members of the 2017 Astros are still not welcome at Chavez Ravine.

    The Case Against It

    It’s not just the history of this rivalry that makes the idea of it so compelling. There’s also the ongoing possibility that the Dodgers and Astros will meet in the World Series again for a grudge match.

    But let’s be real. Though the balanced schedule will ensure the Astros and Dodgers meet annually going forward, it will only be once a year. Because of that, this is a rivalry that exists more in the abstract than reality for the moment.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres

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    Los Angeles' Max Muncy

    Los Angeles’ Max MuncyRobert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

    The Case for It

    Never mind worlds apart. You only have to go back to 2017 to find a time when the Dodgers and Padres were galaxies apart. That year saw the former outspend the latter by $181 million and finish 33 games ahead of them in the standings.

    Cut to now, though, and the Padres have the higher payroll and are coming off a historic upset over the Dodgers in the 2023 playoffs:

    Sarah Langs @SlangsOnSports

    The Padres won 22 fewer regular-season games than the Dodgers, and won the NLDS over LA


    Only team to win a postseason series with a larger RS-wins upset:

    1906 WS: White Sox (23 fewer RS wins) over Cubs

    The Padres are thus a team that has not only built to disrupt the Dodgers’ long reign over the NL West, but also one that’s proved itself capable of slaying the dragon directly.

    The Case Against It

    There are exceptions, and then there are rules. The Padres’ victory over the Dodgers in last year’s postseason was very much the former, as they’re otherwise 6-19 against the Boys in Blue in the regular season since the start of 2022.

    There would even seem to be an inferiority complex within the Padres clubhouse, as Joe Musgrove recently said the team needs to “stop talking about these guys like they’re that unbeatable force.” And for the record, he also (rightfully) wasn’t a fan of the Clayton Kershaw meme fiasco.

4. Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

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    St. Louis' Nolan Arenado

    St. Louis’ Nolan Arenado Joe Puetz/Getty Images

    The Case for It

    It’s OK if you did a spit take upon flipping to this slide. Because while the Brewers and Cardinals are technically rivals within the NL Central, their “rivalry” is so nondescript that it doesn’t even come up on Wikipedia’s master list of MLB rivalries.

    And yet, it’s worth stumping for because of how ridiculously evenly matched the Brewers and Cardinals have been in their head-to-head matchups since 2017:

  • Brewers: 56 wins
  • Cardinals: 55 wins

Between this and the fact that the Brewers and Cardinals have occupied the top two slots in the NL Central in each of the last three full seasons, theirs is a rivalry that at least has the mutual competitiveness thing down pat.

The Case Against It

Though the playoff history between the Brewers and Cardinals includes a showdown in the World Series and another in the National League Championship, the first was in 1982 and the second was in 2011. It’s been a while.

Further, there’s not much here in the way of bad blood. There were benches-clearing incidents in 2018 and 2020, but nothing since then.

3. New York Mets vs. Atlanta

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    Atlanta's Matt Olson (L) and New York's Pete Alonso (R)

    Atlanta’s Matt Olson (L) and New York’s Pete Alonso (R)AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh

    The Case for It

    At last, we’ve come to a legacy rivalry with a rich history and a present that promises to make that even richer.

    The race that the Mets and Atlanta staged for the NL East championship in 2022? It was a good one, alright. Both clubs ended up with 101 wins, with Atlanta claiming the title only by way of victory in a season series that was as close as can be. Atlanta won 10 out of the 19 games and outscored the Mets by only six runs.

    After taking two of three in the first head-to-head series of the year, the Mets are on their way to getting their revenge in 2023. But manager Buck Showalter knew better than to get cocky, saying of Atlanta: “You know they are going to be there all year.”

    The Case for It

    This rivalry would have a bit more heat if it had been renewed in the playoffs last year. Alas, that didn’t happen thanks to upset wins by the San Diego Padres over the Mets and by the Phillies over Atlanta.

    Plus, the rivalry these days is defined not as much by Chipper Jones-flavored beef but by something more akin to mutual respect. Admirable, but also boring.

2. New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

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    Houston's Martín Maldonado (L) and Jeremy Peña  (R)

    Houston’s Martín Maldonado (L) and Jeremy Peña (R)Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    The Case for It

    Like the Dodgers, the Yankees also felt the sting of the Astros’ less-than-level playing field in the 2017 playoffs.

    Also like the Dodgers, their feelings about it are of the hard variety:

    ESPN @espn

    “You cheated and you didn’t earn it.”

    Aaron Judge said the Astros should be stripped of their 2017 World Series title because it doesn’t “hold any value.”

    The difference between the Dodgers and Yankees, of course, is that their confrontations with the Astros are much more frequent and indeed frequently dramatic. Houston has a slim 18-16 advantage in regular-season meetings since 2017, with the two clubs meeting in the American League Championship Series that year and again in 2019 and 2022.

    And with the Astros (31-22) and Yankees (33-23) both tracking toward the playoffs once again, a fourth meeting in the ALCS this year is very much in play.

    The Case Against It

    Vis-à-vis their rivalry with the Astros, let’s just say the Yankees will eventually have to walk the walk as well as they talk the talk. They have yet to beat Houston in the playoffs.

    This is to say nothing of how thoroughly the Astros dominated the Yankees throughout 2022, as they didn’t allow them a single at-bat with a lead in the regular season before sweeping them in the ALCS.

1. New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays

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    Tampa Bay's Isaac Paredes (L), Josh Lowe (C) and Harold Ramírez  (R)

    Tampa Bay’s Isaac Paredes (L), Josh Lowe (C) and Harold Ramírez (R)Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The Case for It

    What makes the rivalry between the Yankees and Rays the best in MLB today? Well, all it has to offer is [waves hands] everything.

    The history of bad blood between them runs about as deep as the Mariana Trench, while their battles on the field have resembled something like trench warfare. The Yankees have a slim 143-135 edge over the Rays since 2008, with each club winning 19 head-to-head games across 2021 and 2022.

    And to hear it from Aaron Judge, games between the Yankees and Rays really are that intense: “We’re facing the best. They’re bringing it every single night; we’re bringing it every single at-bat. There were a lot of gritty at-bats. It’s fun to be a part of.”

    The Case Against It

    If anyone’s thinking there’s currently more bad blood between the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, well, we can’t disagree. And their rivalry is certainly better for it.

    Otherwise, the only “yeah, but” one can apply to the Yankees-Rays rivalry is that they’ve only met once in the playoffs. A crying shame if there ever was one, but the 2023 season is unfolding in such a way that the book may soon expand from one compelling chapter to two.

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.



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