MLB rivalries: A list of the biggest rivalries in baseball

MLB rivalries: A list of the biggest rivalries in baseball

Kenneth Mwenda
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:27 PM

MLB rivalries typically start when two teams simultaneously reach their peak levels of success and find themselves competing against one another year after year for supremacy. Each team is eager to win the match they compete together since it is such a determinant. It is always significant when these pairs get together, especially for the fans.

MLB rivalries: A list of the biggest rivalries in baseball
New York Mets fans cheer during the game between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets at Citi Field on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, in New York, New York. Photo: Daniel Shirey
Source: Getty Images

Sports are great because of rivalries, and MLB is full of rival teams and envious fans. Since the MLB's inception in 1869, some teams have been battling it for over a century. A rivalry becomes more tense and hostile as a result of the emotions experienced by players and spectators during a game, and eventually, there is nothing but utter hatred between them.

What is the biggest rivalry in the MLB?

Due to baseball's long history and rich tradition, the below ranked MLB rivalries have developed over the years. The only thing we can be certain of is that compiling a list of the best is not simple. Of course, many of the most famous in history are clear-cut, especially those that persist.

However, a thorough investigation of this subject requires a look back in time and a history lesson. With that in mind, here is our list of the top ten MLB rivalries in league history.

10. Boston Red Sox vs Tampa Bay Rays

Best MLB rivalries in 2023
Pitcher Josh Fleming, #19 of the Tampa Bay Rays, beat Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox to the bag for the out during the fifth inning at Fenway Park on October 5, 2022. Photo: Winslow Townson
Source: Getty Images

Surprisingly, throughout their brief history, the Rays have developed the strongest rivalry with the Red Sox. When the Rays had their breakthrough year in 2008, they defeated the Red Sox in the ALCS in seven games.

That series enabled to reignite what is now one of the biggest baseball rivalries in the American League. Since then, the two teams have frequently engaged in altercations and brawls. Every game between the Red Sox and the Rays is generally intense and can potentially explode at any moment.

9. Milwaukee Brewers vs Chicago Cubs

Greatest MLB rivalries of all time
Higgins, #48 of the Cubs, steps on first base ahead of Willy Adames, #27 of the Brewers, for the out in the sixth inning at Wrigley Field on August 21, 2022. Photo: Chase Agnello-Dean
Source: Getty Images

It is strange that, despite Milwaukee and Chicago's proximity, they had little rivalry until the Brewers joined the National League in 1998. But since then, it has significantly grown into one of the biggest MLB rivalries.

The games always have significance because they compete in the same division. Additionally, due to the close proximity, visiting fans are always eager to travel and invade the opposing team's ballpark.

Also, relations between those fans are not exactly friendly. The Cubs and Brewers have competed for control of the NL Central on numerous occasions over the years, adding to this fleeting but intense rivalry. When they had to play a playoff tiebreaker game against one another in 2018, things took things to the next level, guaranteeing that this rivalry will only intensify.

8. New York Mets vs New York Yankees

Top ten MLB rivalries
Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets in action against Anthony Rizzo #48 of the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 23, 2022, in New York City. Photo: Jim McIsaac
Source: Getty Images

Whether or not this counts as one of the fiercest MLB rivalries is frequently up for discussion. There is no doubt that this is a rivalry because New York sports fans are among the most competitive in all sports when it comes to bragging rights.

The Mets are the Yankees' biggest rivals, and it is typically a big deal when the teams compete with supporters from both sides present. It all began with the 2000 World Series, but there have been plenty of memorable moments, making it one of the more notable rivalries in baseball history.

7. New York Mets vs Philadelphia Phillies

List of MLB rivalries
Mark Canha #19 of the New York Mets reacts as catcher J.T. Realmuto #10 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on at Citizens Bank Park on August 21, 2022. Photo: Rich Schultz
Source: Getty Images

There has been contempt between the Mets and the Phillies since their inception. In fact, despite their close physical proximity, New York and Philadelphia have intense rivalries in a number of sports, with the Mets and Phillies forming one of the most heated ones.

Many tense situations and bench-clearing fights occurred between the two clubs in the 1980s. Early in the new millennium, the Mets and Phillies engaged in physical altercations and verbal jousting, reigniting the rivalry. It does not take much to start a spark, even when things are calm, which signifies a strong rivalry.

6. Cincinnati Reds vs Pittsburgh Pirates

Greatest MLB rivalries
Kyle Farmer #17 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrates with teammates in the dugout during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on September 28, 2022. Photo: Justin Berl
Source: Getty Images

There is no relationship between the Reds and the Pirates. Since the 1970s, when both teams played four times in the NCLS, with the Reds winning three of those series, this rivalry has been as heated as they come.

With both teams vying for a playoff spot again in the 1990s, the rivalry was reignited, and it is not uncommon to see benches empty at the slightest hint of hostility. You can tell they just despise each other and will remain one of the greatest MLB rivalries of all time.

5. New York Yankees vs Los Angeles Dodgers

Best MLB rivalries of all time
Los Angeles Dodgers' Justin Turner (10) leads off first base as New York Yankees' Mike Ford (36) looks on during a game on August 25, 2019, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Rothmuller
Source: Getty Images

The history between the Yankees and Dodgers is likely unknown to younger fans. Rewind a few decades, and this was the biggest rivalry in the MLB, even though they cannot be regarded as rivals today.

Remember that the Dodgers and Bronx Bombers were rivals within the city because, until 1958, the Dodgers were based in Brooklyn. Furthermore, these two franchises were the best in baseball for many years.

The Yankees and Dodgers faced off 11 times in the World Series between 1941 and 1981. The notable events from those series could fill a book. Even though they currently play on different coasts, they still compete financially and in their efforts to win another championship.

4. St. Louis Cardinals vs Chicago Cubs

All MLB rivalries
Louis Cardinals' Paul Goldschmidt (46) and Brendan Donovan (33) after hitting a home run in the eighth inning against Chicago Cubs on August 25, 2022, at Wrigley Field. Photo: Brandon Sloter
Source: Getty Images

Despite being only 300 miles apart, Chicago and St. Louis have been in a power struggle since the early 1900s. Since the Cardinals are the second-winningest team in MLB history, they frequently make fun of Cubs supporters, particularly during their lengthy championship drought.

While the Cubs have a slight advantage in the head-to-head series, the Cardinals have been a much more successful franchise overall. The Cubs struggled to compete for years, so defeating the Cardinals was pretty much the highlight of their season.

3. Chicago Cubs vs Chicago White Sox

Best MLB rivalries
Jake Burger #30 of the Chicago White Sox gets doused with water after his game winning single in the 12th inning against the Chicago Cubs on May 29, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Quinn Harris
Source: Getty Images

This is one of the best MLB rivalries of all time. The American League had just been formed when the owner of the minor league St. Paul Saints relocated his team to Chicago in 1900. The new team was renamed the White Stockings and regarded as a threat to the Cubs, the city's existing National League team.

The Cubs and the White Sox are rivals because both teams are based in Chicago and have had difficulty winning in the postseason, usually to the delight of the opposing fans. The local Cubs, who were already well-established, felt betrayed when the White Sox moved in. The two teams quickly established a special series, and ever since, they have each been competing annually to defeat the other team from across the city.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Francisco Giants

Biggest MLB rivalries
Davis #7 of the San Francisco Giants hits an RBI double against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park on September 18, 2022, in San Francisco, California. Photo: Jason O. Watson
Source: Getty Images

Giants and Dodgers never seem to be able to be separated from one another. They are currently NL West divisional rivals despite having shared New York birthplaces. As a result, it is not unusual to find them among our most acrimonious rivalries.

Because of how infamous this rivalry has become, the Dodgers' owner persuaded the Giants' owner to send his team to California rather than Minneapolis, so they could continue to be rivals forever.

1. New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox

Who is the biggest rivalry in MLB?
Brayan Bello of the Boston Red Sox pitches during the first inning of the MLB game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on September 14, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo: Matt Stone
Source: Getty Images

The rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox is frequently regarded as the best in MLB, if not in all of the American sports. However, it is not as old as some ardent admirers might believe.

Babe Ruth's 1919 trade from Boston to New York marked the beginning of the Sox-Yankees rivalry as we know it today, though it was not yet as heated. Relations between the teams and fans deteriorated as the Yankees prospered and the previously successful Red Sox struggled in the eras that followed. When both teams were performing at their peak, particularly from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, the rivalry was particularly acrimonious.

The feelings of baseball go beyond the field. Some of the most intense rivalries in MLB history are contested by spectators, athletes, and even the media. There is nothing they can do; they are just unable to shake off the hate and despise they feel for other clubs.

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Kenneth Mwenda photo
Kenneth Mwenda
Kenneth Mwenda is a business and sports writer with over five years of experience. At Sportsbrief, he contributes to writing biographies and listicles.