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Covering the Bases: Cleveland; Beltways

Friday - 7/11/2014, 5:19pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- Is this the end of Cleveland's 50-year championship drought?

In less than a month, the city has accumulated two of sports' more dynamic personalities in LeBron James and Johnny Manziel. LeBron gained his championship pedigree in Miami and now hopes to bring it back home. One title in Cleveland will mean more than four, five or six in Miami.

As for Manziel, he gave Cleveland a boost when he was drafted by the Browns. So far, he's received a lot more attention for his celebrity partying. People will point to that as his downfall if he fails to produce on the field. Maybe now that he and LeBron share a city, King James can speed up Johnny Football's maturing process.

The Battle of the Beltways may be maturing.

It's far from a bitter rivalry, but the Nationals and Orioles have developed a strong respect for each other. And why not? For the first time since Major League Baseball made them regional rivals in 2006, both teams were in first place by the end of their matchup this past week. That bodes well for the second half of the season. The Nats pitching staff has the lowest ERA of any team in the National League, but the team is just seventh in runs scored and eighth in fielding percentage. I expect the latter two stats to improve with a full, healthy lineup and the team's solid glove work after a rocky start.

It's no surprise that the Orioles rank second in the American League in both home runs and batting average. But they also have the best fielding club, and a much improved bullpen and starting rotation which places them seventh in ERA. The O's are a well-rounded club that could very well pull away with the AL East title. While the Red Sox and Rays pile up losses, the Yankees continue to pile up injuries, including a huge blow in losing Masahiro Tanaka. The Blue Jays may be the Orioles' only challenger this season.

One more stat on baseball in Washington and Baltimore: the region is proving it can support two teams. The Nationals rank seventh in National League attendance this season, while the Orioles are sixth in the AL. Winning will only increase the fan base for both.

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