From 2005 to 2011, the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles were nearly identical — both teams continued to finish towards the bottom standings and were the doormats for their respective divisions. But starting in 2012, both teams burst onto the scene winning 90+ games as they each made the playoffs.
This was just the beginning of their individual dominance, with the Orioles making the playoffs in 2012, 2014, and 2016 — winning one division title and advancing to the 2014 ALCS. But by 2017, the Orioles’ core started to crumble and in 2018 they entered a full-blown rebuild and are just now starting to slowly return to relevance.
The Nationals on the other hand were able to keep their window open a bit longer — winning four division titles (2012, 2014, 2016, 2017), and winning the 2019 World Series as the Wild Card. After dominating the NL for almost a decade, the Nationals entered a rebuild this past year and are tied with Oakland for the worst record in baseball.
The 2022 “Battle of the Beltways” is underway, with the Nats and O’s heading into opposite trajectories.
Over the last five seasons (2017-2021), the Nats were viewed as the superior team in the DMV, going 363-341 compared to the O’s 253-455 record. Once the laughing stock of DMV baseball, the Orioles are seemingly on the verge of returning to relevance. Adley Rutschman, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini, and Austin Hayes make up a formidable start to the O’s offense, with plenty of help on the way.
Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, and Kyle Stowers are all at AAA or in the majors and are highly regarded prospects. Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall are two of the top pitching prospects in the game and will hopefully carry the Orioles rotation for the next decade. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg as the O’s boast arguably the best farm system in baseball. Add in that they have the top pick in this year’s draft and the O’s will have a plethora of talent flooding to the majors for the foreseeable future.
Washington, on the other hand, is in the first full year of its rebuild and it is unclear if they will meet its timetable of returning to contention by 2024. Juan Soto, Luis García, Keibert Ruiz, and Josiah Gray are all part of the Nats’ future core, but behind them are plenty of question marks and holes. Despite last year’s firesale, Washington’s farm system still needs work.
Cade Cavalli, Cole Henry, and Jackson Rutledge are viewed as Washington’s future big three, but are all at least a year away. Outside of Brady House and Cristhian Vaquero, the Nats lack elite position player prospects. Washington selects fifth in this year’s draft, their highest selection since they took Anthony Rendon 6th overall in 2011.