Thom Loverro: Battle of the Beltways now has relevance

By |
Sports,MLB,Nationals,Thom Loverro

As the Washington Nationals prepare to host the Baltimore Orioles this weekend at Nationals Park for the 2012 Battle of the Beltways, let's pay tribute to that illustrious list of players who have worn both the Nationals and Orioles jerseys:

Jeffrey Hammonds, John Halama, Tony Batista, Willie Harris, Corey Patterson, Daniel Cabrera, Jerry Hairston, Nick Johnson, Luis Ayala, Endy Chavez, Alex Cintron and Luis Matos.

It's hard to believe that Sidney Ponson was never a National, isn't it? He seemed like a Jim Bowden natural.

The list doesn't read like an All-Star roster, but if you were picking players from both the Nationals and Orioles 2012 squads, you might be able to put together the best team in baseball.

After all, you would be selecting from two division contending rosters.

The series between the Nationals and Orioles has never been more interesting than this weekend. Typically, it's a battle of cellar-dwelling teams with interchangeable spare parts.

But some of the future superstars of the game will be in action this weekend at Nationals Park -- Adam Jones, Stephen Strasburg, Matt Wieters and Bryce Harper among them.

The spice of the 2012 Battle of the Beltways, though, is the drama and relationship between the men not on the field -- Davey Johnson in the Nationals' dugout and Peter Angelos in the Orioles' owner's box.

Johnson's career identity is as an Oriole. He played eight seasons there, from 1965 to 1972, on four American League pennant winners and two World Series championship teams.

He returned in 1996 as manager for two tumultuous seasons, taking the Orioles to the American League Championship Series both years, winning AL manager of the year in 1997 and battling Angelos, his boss, almost as soon as he took the job until he resigned after the 1997 season.

Angelos recently told the Baltimore Sun that he and Johnson "were friends" when Johnson managed the Orioles.

"The contention that we didn't get along was false," he said. "Personally, I have a lot of affection for the guy. He was a great manager, and I was sorry to see him go."

That statement is as funny as some of the conversations I had with Angelos during those two seasons Johnson managed the Orioles. He used a lot of words to describe his feelings for his manager those days. "Affection" was not one of them.

Even after winning the AL East in 1997, Angelos found himself forced to respond to questions about Johnson's job security before the playoffs began.

"Obviously in every relationship there are differences, but I think he has done a good job," Angelos said.

That's the "attaboy" Johnson got from his owner. New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner sent Johnson a telegram congratulating him.

Yes, the 2012 Battle of the Beltways has a heavyweight main-event feel to it this year, both on and off the field.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Thom Loverro

Sports columnist
The Washington Examiner