The funny thing about rivalries is everyone has a different reason for being a part of one. For. some people it has a lot to do with geography, although it was a bit awkward growing up in Northern California as a Dodger fan. For others, it’s like an SAT “if, then” statement. If you like the Giants, then you hate the Dodgers. Rarely, though do you find that person who can articulate their disdain in a rational manner.
“Because they suck” is not a reasonable explanation.
I once had a boss who was a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, which meant he was a lifelong Los Angeles Dodger hater. But unlike so many of his ilk, he could explain to me exactly what it was about the Boys in Blue that made his blood boil.
It was that the two franchises couldn’t have been more opposite since their respective moves west. The Giants moved into a new park that was always an awful place for baseball. They made horrible personnel decisions (when I wanted to irritate him, I would say the words “Ray Sadecki”) and suffered from terrible bad luck. Bobby Richardson, anyone?
Meanwhile in sunny Southern California, the Dodgers built the crown jewel of Major League ballparks. They staffed it with the likes of Koufax and Drysdale and kept replenishing it with a seemingly endless farm system.
And they won World Series titles. Over and over again.
It’s taken 53 years, but the tables have turned. Stars like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey flowed through the minor league pipeline to end up in picturesque AT&T Park. And for the first time since the two clubs landed on the Pacific coast, the Giants tasted champagne in October.
Yet while the sun still shines about 300 days a year over Chavez Ravine, there’s a dark cloud hanging over the Dodgers. The core that was supposed to lead the Blue Crew into the future isn’t what it once was. Russell Martin is a Yankee. James Loney’s name has surfaced in trade rumors for the past couple of seasons. Matt Kemp (and his eggshell fragile ego) is coming off a disappointing season and Chad Billingsley looks to have reached his ceiling.
That oh-so-loaded farm system hasn’t provided much help. Clayton Kershaw is the last farmhand of note, with his debut in Los Angeles coming in 2008. There don’t appear to be too many on the farm knocking down the door behind him. MLB.com recently published its list of the Top 50 prospects for 2011. Shortstop Dee Gordon was the only Dodger prospect to make the list – at number 44 – and he doesn’t figure to start the year with the big club.
Free agency won’t be the answer anytime soon. Despite general manager Ned Colletti’s constant insistence that the bitter divorce proceedings between Frank and Jamie McCourt have no effect on the team’s personnel moves, ownership wasn’t signing big contracts in the best of times. Fans aren’t going to buy that a highly leveraged owner (whoever it may end up being) swimming in oceans of debt will be willing to open the purse strings for the next big free agent.
It’s a heck of a time for Don Mattingly to make his managerial debut. He’s been a part of two of baseball’s biggest rivalries as a player and a coach but will now get a crash course in what it means to pilot an unsteady ship through extremely rough seas. And just in case he forgets what he’s up against, he’ll get a quick reminder if Giants fans follow through on their promise to fly “Beat L.A.” banners over Dodger Stadium on Opening Day.
Ain’t rivalries grand?