- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2006

Now for the real Battle of the Beltways.

Forget those insignificant regular-season meetings between the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles. With both clubs sinking faster than Paris Hilton’s neckline, why not have a worst-of-seven series to determine the lousiest major league team in our rounders-depleted region?

Imagine the excitement. In fact, you might have to imagine it.

In the middle ‘50s, after the St. Louis Browns limped east to Charm City, Washington and Baltimore fought annually to escape last place in the American League. That was a long time ago, but these skirmishes were so riveting that the Redskins and Colts had trouble even getting their collective names into the paper during early October.

Of course, the Redskins and Colts were lousy then, too.

The Nationals (54-69) and Orioles (55-68) are virtually locked in limbo, meaning so far underwater that the modest .500 mark seems like a mirage. This sort of thing is nothing new for the O’s, who are flapping toward their ninth consecutive losing season largely because of owner Peter Angelos’ personal arrogance and baseball ignorance, but you have to marvel at the Nats’ speedy descent. After all, they misled us by going 81-81 in their first season — though that 31-50 second half gave ample indication they soon would be drowning in despair.

It shouldn’t be difficult to set up a postseason series between the clubs given that neither will have anything better to do. They would have to pay their players overtime because you can’t ask guys making a lousy $5 million or $10 million a year to work an extra week for nothing, but the TV revenue should more than make up for that. Just think how much MASN and Comcast would shell out for the right not to show the proceedings.

To keep things in the proper spirit, the teams undoubtedly would wear retro uniforms for postseason activity. The Nats could take the field in outfits worn by the 1904 Senators (38-113). The O’s could look right sharp in unis sported by the 1939 Brownies (43-111). After all, what you see is what you get.

Frank Robinson and Sam Perlozzo shouldn’t have to manage in the series either — heaven knows they’ve suffered enough already. The Nats could summon up the ghost of Joe Kuhel, who observed upon being canned as skipper of the 1949 Senators (50-104), “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken [er, feathers].” And the O’s could turn things over to the biggest loser in recent baseball history, Peter Edward Rose. You can bet these two would have some dandy tactical duels.

All that remains is for Angelos and Ted Lerner to kiss and make up. Perhaps some conciliatory comments would be in order.

Angelos: “Ted, I hope you understand that the reason I tried so hard to keep a team out of Washington had nothing to do with money — I simply wanted to make the Orioles’ incompetence available to more fans. And by the way, I love your malls.”

Lerner: “Peter, we’re perfectly willing to let bygones be bygones. All we ask is that you trade us Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada for Marlon Anderson and Cristian Guzman.”

You see how easy it could be? Long before the first frost, the Nats and O’s could be chilling fans with amazing demonstrations of bad baseball. Just think of the awesome pitching matchups — say Ramon Ortiz (9-11, 5.31 ERA) against Bruce Chen (0-7, 6.70). And with hitters like Brian Schneider (.236) and Kevin Millar(.239) hacking, every ball hit would be a threat to get out of the infield.

Yes, sir, I’d really like to see these people have a chance to underachieve under pressure. And just to make it interesting, we could have the losing team surrender home-field advantage for Grapefruit League games next spring.

Excuse me, I meant the losing-est team.

Making predictions on such a series is risky because the only way to properly assess bad baseball is by the smell, and I imagine both teams would impose a gag rule, literally, on the media.

Actually, though, I’m reminded of the famous quote from Chicago sportswriter Warren Brown when he was asked to evaluate the 1945 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs, both liberally loaded with underage and overage stiffs in the last World War II season: “I don’t think either one of them can win it.”

And as far as the 2005 Nationals and Orioles are concerned, amen brother!

Got a question about the Nats? Mark Zuckerman has the answers. To

submit a question, go to the Sports Page

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