Battle of the Beltways Has Meaning

Charles E. Sutton | 5/17/2012, 11:01 p.m.

This weekend the Washington Nationals will host the Baltimore Orioles in a series that has been dubbed the "Battle of the Beltways".

The series between these two franchises has never been more interesting. Usually, it's a competition of last-place teams with rosters full of marginal players. But this time, each team features some of Major League Baseball's future superstars. Stephen Strasburg, Matt Wieters, Bryce Harper and Adam Jones are well on their way to being some of the best players in the league.

The intriguing element of the 2012 version of the Battle of the Beltways, though, is the relationship and drama between the men not on the field. Namely, Nationals manager Davey Johnson, and Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Johnson's playing career identity is as an Oriole. He played eight seasons in Baltimore from 1965 to 1972 on four American League pennant winners and two World Series championship teams.

In 1996, he returned to Baltimore as manager for two rocky seasons, leading the Orioles to the American League Championship Series both years, winning American League Manager of the Year in 1997 and fighting with Angelos, the owner, almost as soon as he took the job until he resigned after the 1997 season.

Recently, Angelos told the Baltimore Sun that he and Johnson "were friends" when Johnson managed the Orioles.

"The contention that we didn't get along was false," he said. "Personally, I have a lot of affection for the guy. He was a great manager, and I was sorry to see him go."

Many baseball fans who are familiar with the Johnson-Angelos relationship find Angelos' comments about Johnson interesting, to say the least. In the past, Angelos has used many words to describe his feelings for his manager. "Affection" was not one of those words.

After winning the American League East in 1997, and before the playoffs began, Angelos found himself needing to respond to questions about Johnson's future as manager. "Obviously in every relationship there are differences, but I think he has done a good job," Angelos said.

That's the encouragement Johnson got from his owner. On the other hand, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner sent Johnson a telegram congratulating him.

So, finally, the 2012 Battle of the Beltways has real meaning. Let's enjoy . . .