The Dodgers-Padres Rivalry Is Good for Baseball
The Dodgers are seemingly unstoppable. They have won the NL West eight years in a row, have appeared in the World Series three times in the last four years, and won it all last season. With MVP winners Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger anchoring the lineup, a revamped bullpen, and a rotation full of Cy Young candidates, the Dodgers looked like a lock to continue their run for the foreseeable future headed into last offseason.
Who would stop them? The Giants, years removed from their dynasty with a roster of declining veterans? The Rockies, who just traded their best player, Nolan Arenado? The underwhelming Diamondbacks?
What about the Padres?
The Padres made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade last year with a young, exciting team but were knocked out by the Dodgers in a lopsided series. Sick of being a pushover in the division, they decided to take matters into their own hands.
San Diego dominated the offseason, trading for pitchers Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove and signing infielders Jurickson Profar and Ha-Seong Kim within a matter of weeks. To top it off, they handed their young superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. an enormous extension worth $340 million in what may have been the biggest gamble in franchise history.
Seemingly overnight, the Padres became the darlings of the baseball world, and their newfound fans proclaimed them to be the top dog in the NL West.
The Dodgers had noticed their moves, though. While the Padres were busy upgrading their roster, Los Angeles countered by signing reigning Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer to a contract with a record-breaking yearly value. What was already considered to be the best rotation in the sport was now even better.
With the Padres’ players and fans talking a big game all offseason, things were bound to spill onto the field once the season started. The first meeting of the season between the two Cali rivals certainly did not disappoint in that aspect.
Even in a limited capacity crowd at Petco Park, the fans created a playoff atmosphere for a regular season game. After a series of lead changes, the Padres dramatically tied it up again in the bottom of the ninth when Eric Hosmer hit a single to score Manny Machado with two outs. The 10th inning featured a bench-clearing shoving match. The 11th saw Tatis strike out with the bases loaded to continue the game. Finally, in the 12th, Dodgers relief pitcher David Price hit a sacrifice fly off Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth that was caught in left field by starting pitcher Joe Musgrove. Insanity.
The rest of the series was able to reach the bar set by the first game with primetime gems from Yu Darvish and Clayton Kershaw and more late-inning magic from both sides. The Dodgers ended up taking two of the three games but surely left San Diego with more respect for its newfound rival.
Both teams and fans should realize how great this rivalry is for baseball. The sport has been lagging behind the NFL and NBA in terms of must-watch players and matchups, and pundits and fans alike have criticized baseball for its tepid efforts at marketing its stars. The Dodgers and Padres have forced the league’s hand through unfiltered competitive spirit.
Many of baseball’s biggest rivalries, including Dodgers-Giants, Cubs-Cardinals and Yankees-Red Sox, have been lackluster in recent years because both clubs have not been good at the same time. The budding Dodgers-Padres rivalry has 16 regular season matchups to go, and the majority of both sides’ best players are either in their primes or just entering them. Regardless of who comes out on top this year, the rivalry should provide constant entertainment for fans and massive ratings for the league for years to come.
Adam Babetski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.