Play ball!


THE OWNER of a Bethesda marketing firm - a dyed-in-the-wool baseball fan from way back - has cut back on his tickets to Baltimore Orioles games for this season so that he can buy some Washington Nationals tickets. Even as the Nats open their first season on the road in Philadelphia today and the O's open their season at home, a newly reborn rivalry has been joined.

We opposed the decision of Major League Baseball to move the former Montreal Expos franchise just 35 miles from Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. Dividing a large baseball market inevitably translates into fewer resources with which to compete on the field. But that deal is done, and it's now time to play ball. And so, like baseball fans everywhere, we welcome the competition.

For the O's, of course, this is a whole new game. Owner Peter G. Angelos has received unusual guarantees that his ballclub will not suffer financially. If he has not always invested wisely the O's considerable resources in the past, a split market means there now is less margin for such errors. Recently, the team seems more efficient at the business of nurturing, signing and retaining talent; we hope that MLB's payoffs are used to build on this renewal.

Our only real regret is that the O's and Nats won't meet each other in interleague play this season. More than 30 years ago, before Washington lost the hapless Senators, they regularly served as doormats for much-stronger Oriole ballclubs. Waiting a year for this regional rivalry to resume on the field can only make it even sweeter when the O's once again walk all over the Nats.

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