Although it's hard to call any year in baseball better or worse than another, I think we can all agree that in terms of eventfulness, 2012 has to rank as one of the best ever. In the past twelve months, we've seen it all, from the Marlins being exciting for about forty-five minutes before returning to dust, to the Nationals (not to mention the A's and O's) becoming one of the game's best, after years of comic relief.
But forget the Marlins and the Nats, forget Posey and Dickey, forget the Triple Crown vs WAR, forget the forever changed playoff format and forget what should be the best Hall of Fame class since the original. The far and away biggest storyline of 2012 is...wait for it...
The Dodgers and the Giants.
Twelve months ago, baseball felt bad for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Think about that for a second. Here are the Dodgers' headlines from twelve months ago: The Dodgers spent their offseason signing Aaron Harang and Adam Kennedy while they read about their American League counterparts in the paper. A year ago, the Dodgers were a footnote in an article entitled, "Free-spending Miami Marlins Really Mean Business" (it's the fifth one down).
Little did we know at the time, but those footnote-Dodgers were really maniacally laughing as they read about those "free-spending" Marlins and Angels. A year later we've been shown the true colors of free-spending and those colors are blue and white. Free-spending isn't buying the two biggest names on the market, it's adding over $300 million in financial commitments midseason—not to win, but to show that "it's not about money, it's about sending a message."
Spending is about sending a message to your fanbase that you're willing to commit to the success of your franchise. Free-spending is about sending a message by wearing clown make-up and hysterically cackling as you set millions of dollars on fire to show the other owners' that their players work for you now. The Dodgers' new ownership is desperately trying to convince the world that there is a new class of evil empire in baseball and it makes the original look like penny-pinchers.
What's the biggest rivalry in baseball?
Meanwhile about 350 miles north, the San Francisco Giants are World Champions for the second time in three/fifty years. All the while, their fan base has exponentially ballooned in size, passion and obnoxiousness.
From outnumbering Padres fans in Petco to essentially rigging the All-Star voting (they voted their stars into the lineup and nearly voted in everyone else on the team despite mediocrity), Giants fans have shown that they're to be taken as seriously as their decorated on-field counterparts.
About 3000 miles East, the Red Sox are now the punching bags of the A.L. East while the Yankees' starting catcher is heading to Pittsburgh for that sweet free agent money (never thought I'd say that). The $300 million dollar man lives in a penthouse on the operating table as Yankees listen to offers on Granderson and rumors about Cano leaving after 2013 swirl.
For God's sake, as of now, the Yankees starting catcher is a battle between .600 OPS Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, who has played 21 games above double-A (where he batted slightly over .200) and missed most of 2012.
This all isn't to say that the Dodgers are the new Yankees and the Giants are the new Red Sox because, after all, the Giants and Dodgers were the Yankees and Red Sox before there were Yankees or Red Sox. This is just to say that the biggest rivalry in baseball, and all of sports I surmise, is for the time being the Giants vs the Dodgers. No matter where ESPN keeps its headquarters, national interest is moving west and it's about damn time.