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Ranking the 25 biggest rivalries in MLB

Home » MLB » Biggest MLB Rivalries: Top Rivalries in MLB

With well over 100 years of history, it’s only natural that the biggest MLB rivalries have played a key role in the sport. Of course, that always begs the question of what are the biggest baseball rivalries of all time.

Are they the rivalries that exist today or are they the historic MLB rivalries that existed long ago but may not have stood the test of time? 

Biggest MLB rivalries

The only thing we know for sure is that it wasn’t easy putting together a list of the top rivalries in baseball. Granted, many of the greatest rivalries in MLB history are obvious, especially the ones that carry over into today.

But a close examination of this topic requires a trip down memory lane and a history lesson. With that in mind, here is our ranking of the 25 biggest MLB rivalries in league history.

25. Nationals vs Braves

After relocating from Montreal, the Nationals have had to start most of their rivalries from scratch. But they’ve managed to develop a good one with the Braves.


After all, in the 2010s, the Nats took over as the “It” team in the NL East, a title the Braves are accustomed to holding, helping to jumpstart a rather underrated rivalry.

24. Tigers vs White Sox

The sports rivalries between Detroit and Chicago run deep, and the one between the Tigers and White Sox is no different. While they didn’t always play in the same division, both franchises have been around since 1901, which means they’ve been playing each other regularly for well over a century.

There have been countless big moments between them during that time, making it easy to include this as one of the biggest MLB rivalries ever.

23. Rangers vs Blue Jays

Right around the time that the Rangers and Blue Jays met in the postseason in consecutive years in 2015 and 2016, this was one of the biggest MLB rivalries, no questions asked. There were bat flips, brawls, and punches thrown.

Whether this rivalry stands the test of time is another issue. But things were so bitter and so intense between the Rangers and Blue Jays for a few years that it must be mentioned.


22. Angels vs Dodgers

The Freeway series is far from the most bitter geographic rivalry in baseball. But with the Anaheim-based Angels now referring to themselves as the Los Angeles Angels, there are definite bragging rights when these teams meet, which gives this rivalry some potential for the future.

21. Reds vs Guardians

Cleveland and Cincinnati have long had a rivalry, so when interleague play came along, this quickly became one of the biggest baseball rivalries to arise because of it.

Unlike most baseball rivalries, this one actually has a trophy called the Ohio Cup associated with it. There may not be a ton of history to this matchup or a lot of interest outside of Ohio, but within the Buckeye state, it’s a big deal.

20. Rangers vs Astros

How could the two MLB teams in Texas not have a rivalry with one another?

Back when interleague play first started, MLB made sure these two teams played each other every year. Things have only kicked up a notch when the two teams were put in the same division in 2013. That familiarity has bred some contempt with these teams, making it one of the biggest baseball rivalries in the league nowadays.

19. Giants vs Athletics

For what it’s worth, this isn’t the most intense geographic rivalry you’ll see in baseball. However, we shouldn’t forget that this was once a Philadelphia-New York rivalry, as the A’s were in Philly and the Giants in New York.

They ended up as rivals in the Bay Area and have a largely friendly relationship. Then again, they did meet in the 1989 World Series, which got things a little heated. Of course, the A’s swept the series and fans from both sides came together after Game 3 was interrupted by an earthquake.

18. Royals vs Cardinals

Thanks to interleague play, the Show-Me Series has grown as a rivalry, at least within the state of Missouri. Keep in mind that these two teams played a great World Series against one another in 1985 that went seven games.

That set a strong foundation, giving the Royals and Cardinals a little history against one another, allowing the rivalry to grow after interleague play began.

17. White Sox vs Twins

Even though the White Sox and Twins have been American League foes since 1901, this rivalry didn’t pick up much steam until the 21st century. It was around that time that both teams started to become more consistent threats in the AL Central, leading to a ton of competitive and contemptuous games.

On top of that, there have been well over 2,000 games in this series, so it’s hard to deny that there is a serious rivalry here.

16. Cardinals vs Reds

Even though the history between these teams dates back to the 1880s, the most heated moments in this rivalry have happened more recently, in 2010 or later.

There’s been a lot of back and forth between the Cards and Reds, creating some clear animosity. But there have also been a few times where things spilled over into bench-clearing brawls that got ugly, helping to make this one of the biggest MLB rivalries of the 21st century.

15. Red Sox vs Rays

Somewhat surprisingly, the Rays have gravitated the most to the Red Sox as a rival during their brief history. When the Rays had their breakout season in 2008, it was the Red Sox they beat in seven games in the ALCS.

That series helped to jumpstart what is now one of the biggest baseball rivalries in the American League. Since then, there have been frequent altercations and brawls between the two teams. Just about every game involving the Red Sox and Rays is intense and has a chance to boil over at any time, which is exactly what you want from a great rivalry.

14. Cubs vs White Sox

Despite both franchises being over a century old, the Cubs and White Sox didn’t meet as Windy City rivals until 1997. But it’s impossible not to include the battle between the North Siders and the South Siders as one of the biggest baseball rivalries.

While the Cubs and White Sox don’t have the same history as some other geographic rivals, there is no love lost between the two fan bases. The lines have been drawn in the sand, which is why this rivalry has been quick to grow and still has a ton of potential.

13. Dodgers vs Diamondbacks

It took a little bit of time after the Diamondbacks started as a franchise, but the D’Backs and Dodgers have built a rather intense rivalry. The bad blood started with some dustups on the field in 2011 and continued when the Dodgers jumped into the pool at Chase Field in 2013 to celebrate their division title.

After they met in the 2017 playoffs, things between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks heated up even more and only seems to be getting hotter.

12. Reds vs Pirates

These teams probably aren’t each other’s biggest rivals. But there’s no denying that there is a ton of history here. Both teams have been around since the 1880s, so they are longtime National League foes. It’s also a rather short trip from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, not to mention the existing rivalry between the Bengals and Steelers on the football field.

For a while, they were in different divisions, but since 1994, the Reds and Pirates have been division rivals. They’ve also met in the postseason half a dozen times since 1970, so they can’t seem to stop running into each other.

11. Brewers vs Twins

Unfortunately, this is a rivalry that has declined in recent years because the Brewers moved to the National League. There are several rivalries between Minnesota teams and Wisconsin teams across a variety of sports, and back when these teams played in the same division, this rivalry was a big deal for both ends.

Of course, meetings between the Brewers and Twins are a little less common nowadays. However, that doesn’t mean the games have less meaning.

10. Phillies vs Pirates

The origins of this rivalry can be traced back to the 1880s with over 2,000 all-time meetings. Perhaps things cooled a little after the Pirates and Phillies ended up in different divisions after realignment in 1994.

However, teams from Philadelphia will always be rivals with teams from Pittsburgh. With over a century worth of history between these two franchises, this is still an important rivalry and one that will never die.

9. Yankees vs Mets

There’s usually some debate as to whether or not this qualifies as one of the biggest MLB rivalries. But New York sports fans are some of the most intense in all of sports when it comes to bragging rights, so there’s no question this is a rivalry.

It’s usually a big deal when the teams play one another with fans of both sides always represented in the stands. The 2000 World Series helped to jumpstart things, but there has been no shortage of memorable moments over the years, which is why it has to qualify as one of the more noteworthy rivalries in baseball history.

8. Braves vs Mets

When it comes to the NL East, this has long been the greatest rivalry. The 1990s and early 2000s were particularly fierce between the Mets and Braves, which is why it was such a big deal to see them come together in that famous post-9/11 game in 2001.

The Mets were the only team to seriously challenge Atlanta’s supremacy in the NL East during the 90s, which fueled the rivalry. There was also that whole John Rocker situation, which added a ton of fuel to this fire in this ever-burning rivalry.

7. Brewers vs Cubs

It’s weird that with Milwaukee and Chicago so close geographically that this wasn’t much of a rivalry until the Brewers moved to the National League in 1998. But it’s taken off in a big way since then and become one of the biggest MLB rivalries.

Since they play in the same division, games always mean something. Plus, because of the proximity, visiting fans are always willing to make the trip and invade the other team’s home ballpark.

It’s not exactly cordial between those fans either. Over the years, there have been more than a few times that the Cubs and Brewers have battled for supremacy in the NL Central, adding to this short-lived but intense rivalry. In 2018, things went to the next level when they needed to play a tie-breaker game against one another after the season, ensuring that this rivalry will only heat up moving forward.

6. Yankees vs Orioles

Recent history has made it tough for these two teams to forge an intense rivalry, but the long-term history between the Yanks and O’s is something special.

After all, they have more than 100 years of history together playing in the American League and the AL East together. Back in the 1960s, things were intense between the Yankees and Orioles as they fought each other for pennants and bragging rights. There was also a good spell in the 90s, especially when they met in the 1996 ALCS.

5. Mets vs Phillies

Practically from the time the Mets were born, there was scorn between them and the Phillies. After all, New York and Philly are close in proximity and have deep rivalries in a number of sports, although the Mets and Phillies form one of the most intense of those rivalries.

The 1980s were filled with contentious moments and several bench-clearing brawls between the two clubs. In the early 2000s, the rivalry reignited again with both fisticuffs and verbal jousting between the Mets and Phillies. Even when things cool down, it doesn’t take much to light a spark, which is the sign of a great rivalry.

4. Cardinals vs Cubs

Two of the oldest franchises in baseball have been rivals since the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago White Stockings tied the 1885 World Series with three wins apiece and one tie. That tie is symbolic in a way because they’ve been getting in each other’s way ever since. They’ve spent countless decades competing in the National League and eventually the NL Central together.

There is also a geographic element of the rivalry, not to mention a proud lineage for both franchises. Both teams have contributed so much to baseball history and both always want to prove that they are better than the other. It’s almost a rivalry that can’t be put into words, which surely makes it one of the biggest MLB rivalries of all time.

3. Yankees vs Dodgers

Younger fans probably have no idea about the history that exists between the Yankees and Dodgers.

While they can’t be considered modern rivals, rewind the clock a few decades and this was the biggest rivalry in American sports.

Keep in mind that until 1958, the Dodgers played in Brooklyn, making them intra-city rivals with the Bronx Bombers. Plus, these were the two pre-eminent franchises in baseball for several decades.

Between 1941 and 1981, the Yankees and Dodgers met in the World Series 11 times. One could fill a book with every notable moment from those series. Nowadays, they play on opposite coasts but still compete when it comes to spending money and going all-out to win another championship.

2. Dodgers vs Giants

Today, most people only think about the Dodgers and Giants as California rivals. But it’s important to recognize that this rivalry dates all of the way back to the late 19th century when both franchises were in New York.

At that time, the Giants played in Upper Manhattan while the Dodgers called Brooklyn home. They even moved to California the same year to help keep the rivalry alive.

Outside of the 1889 World Series, the Dodgers and Giants didn’t meet in the postseason until 2021. However, there have been countless times that the two teams battled for a pennant or a division title and other occasions where one got to play spoiler for the other. The intensity of this long-lasting rivalry lingers to this day and will likely never be extinguished.

1. Yankees vs Red Sox

There are a lot of great rivalries that could take the top spot, but the Yankees and the Red Sox are just a little better than the rest when looking at the biggest baseball rivalries.

The rivalry dates all of the way back to the trade involving Babe Ruth that began the so-called “Curse of the Bambino.” The rivalry has also stood the test of time and remains as relevant as any rivalry in the majors today.

Of course, it helps that these are two of the most successful franchises in the American League and have also had some unforgettable meetings in the postseason, most notably the one-game tie-breaker game in 1978 and the 2004 ALCS that saw the Red Sox overcome a 3-0 deficit.

Over the years, there have been on-field fisticuffs between the players, not to mention venom spewed among the fans, helping to build other rivalries between New York and Boston franchises, which is another reason why the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry stands out among all others.

2 thoughts on “Ranking the 25 biggest rivalries in MLB”

  1. When you look at close, important games between division leaders over the past few years, hard to ignore Twins- Guardians as one of the better rivalries.

  2. Jeffrey Morrison

    “Outside of the 1889 World Series, the Dodgers and Giants didn’t meet in the postseason until 2021.” Really, I think “Shot heard around the world” qualifies for the postseason.

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