And the really delicious part is that both teams should be good not just this season – Davey Johnson plans to retire after 2013, by the way – but for a while. This month Keith Law of ESPN Insider ranked the majors’ 25 best players under the age of 25
: The Nats had Nos. 2 (Harper) and 5 (Strasburg); the Braves had Nos. 3 (Jason Heyward), 19 (Freddie Freeman), 21 (Andrelton Simmons) and 23 (Craig Kimbrel). And who was No. 1 on Law’s list last year
? Justin Upton, who has since turned 25.
To this we say: Hooray. Every sport is better when the home team is good and the visitor is, too. The Dodgers and Giants have been doing this sort of thing since both were based in the five boroughs, and the Cardinals and Cubs have their annual Midwestern merriment, and we know all about Yankees-Bosox because ESPN airs every doggone game. But now, and maybe for the next half-decade, Braves-Nats could trump all ongoing spats in the Grand Old Game.
In the spring of 2010, when Heyward was launching batting-practice shots that wrecked cars parked beyond the outfield fence and Strasburg was loosing 100-mph lasers, Ben McGrath of the New Yorker quoted an unnamed baseball man as saying
: “I think if Heyward were to face Strasburg right now the baseball world would spontaneously combust.”
Heyward’s team will face Strasburg’s team 19 teams in the regular season, and it would serve no purpose for any among us to combust spontaneously in April or June or even September. Because there’s a chance they’ll collide again in October 2013, and we wouldn't want to miss any of that, would we?