This weekend's interleague slate includes five of the "natural rivalries," which gives us a good excuse to rank them. So here they are, from worst to first (with series wins in parentheses) ...
10. Florida Marlins (42) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (37)
Somewhere in the Sunshine State, at this very moment, there is a 10-year-old boy (or girl!) who is eagerly awaiting the release of the 2012 schedule, so he can mark those six days on his calendar when the Marlins and the Rays will meet once again to renew their intense (in our 10-year-old's mind) rivalry. If you know this boy (or girl!), please send me his Twitter handle. I want to hire the kid.
9. Twins (36) vs. Brewers (31)
Yes, there is a rivalry. At least I believe there is. It's not Vikings vs. Packers, but the Minnesota-Wisconsin border is long and Madison doesn't feel far from the Twin Cities.
8. Baltimore Orioles (19) vs. Washington Nationals (17)
Regrettably, this rivalry essentially replaced Blue Jays vs. Expos, which was a battle for the hearts of the second-largest country in the world. Granted, there's something to be said for the icy hearts of the Beltway, too. But this rivalry's just too new and the teams too unsuccessful to rank any higher than this.
7. Texas Rangers (37) vs. Houston Astros (29)
This one should be more intense than it is, particularly given the different characters of the two cities, only four hours apart (or three, if you drive like a real Texan). Then again, maybe the rivalry is downplayed because secession necessitates solidarity. Or maybe Rangers and Astros just need to play more often.
6. Cleveland Indians (37) vs. Cincinnati Reds (35)
It's real, and it might even be fantastic if you're an Ohioan. But perhaps because the Indians and Reds haven't played in a World Series, this story winds up in the same place as most stories from Flyover Land: neglected if not completely forgotten.
5. Orange County Angels (48) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (35)
All the better because the Angels actually called Dodger Stadium their home from 1962 through '65. Also, they called themselves the Los Angeles Angels from '61 through '64, took the name California Angels in '65, and called Dodger Stadium "Chavez Ravine" before moving to Anaheim in '66. The Angels have been in their current home since then, but did become the "Anaheim Angels" in 1997. Got all that? Good. Now stop, because everything that's happened in the last six years is an affront to right-thinking humanity.
4. St. Louis Cardinals (38) vs. Kansas City Royals (28)
Most of these franchises' respective fans are good-natured, but the rivalry is certainly heart-felt. Older fans from around the state grew up listening to the Cardinals on KMOX; younger fans grew up with the expansion Royals, and came to love them in the 1970s and '80s (when they were good). The issue finally came to a head in 1985 when the Royals beat the Cardinals in the World Series, and to this day hundreds of Cardinals-friendly taverns have this photo hanging on their walls.
3. Oakland Athletics (45) vs. San Francisco Giants (41)
Bonus points for the 1989 World Series, and more bonus points for being able to literally see one ballpark from the other. In the old days, the Giants could see the Yankees from across the Harlem River. But that was a long time ago.
2. New York Yankees (47) vs. New York Mets (34)
It's too bad this series hasn't been more even, in which case the abject passion of the New York baseball fans might push this rivalry to No. 1. Or perhaps if the last Subway Series weren't now 11 years ago.
1. Chicago White Sox (43) vs. Chicago Cubs (38)
It doesn't get any better than this. South Side vs. North Side. New Comiskey Park vs. Old Wrigley Field. Robert Taylor Homes vs. Wrigleyville. What makes this one all the better is the closeness of the series, over the years. The only thing missing is a Chicagoland World Series. Maybe next year ...