Has Dodgers-Diamondbacks Rivalry Overtaken Yankees-Red Sox as MLB's Best?

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Has Dodgers-Diamondbacks Rivalry Overtaken Yankees-Red Sox as MLB's Best?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire and Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson exchanged words during a benches-clearing brawl last June.

The rivalry between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers is the "new kid on the block" among some of the more notable ones in baseball. But it sure has picked up steam in a hurry over the past few years.

The start could be traced back to a relatively meaningless September game in 2011 when a Diamondbacks batter was buzzed by an errant pitch from Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, who threw a lot of them that season, walking 23 hitters in 27 innings. That batter, Gerardo Parra, launched a home run later in the at-bat and then took his time as he made his way around the bases.


Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw hit Parra with a pitch the next night, which prompted his ejection. There was no brawl and no further conflict—at least not right away.

It wasn't until the following May, the first time Kershaw had faced the D'backs since the altercation, that the battle resumed. 

Ian Kennedy, the starting pitcher for the D'backs, threw a pitch well inside to Kershaw, who responded by throwing high and inside to Kennedy later in the game.


Again, things didn't escalate beyond that—at least not right away. 

More than a year later, things finally did. Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, who was playing in just his 9th big league game and had already made a tremendous impact with 16 hits, including four homers, was hit in the face by a Kennedy pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning.

A half-inning later, Dodgers starter Zack Greinke hit catcher Miguel Montero with a pitch. Benches emptied but things remained calm. It was nothing more than a good old-fashioned stare down between the clubs out near the first base bag. 

It didn't end there. Kennedy went head-hunting again, nearly connecting with Greinke's face with a pitch during the very next half-inning. 

Enough was finally enough. The boiling point had finally been reached. Benches emptied and the two sides weren't interested in a stare down this time around.

 


It was the Dodgers who had the laugh last, though. 

As if erasing a 9.5-game lead that the D'backs had built up by June 21 and then running away with the division wasn't enough, the Dodgers clinched the NL West title with a win in Arizona on September 19 and then celebrated in the Chase Field swimming pool located just beyond the right-center field wall.
 


Several Diamondbacks players and club officials, including president and CEO Derrick Hall, took exception to the Dodgers' manner of celebration.

Hall responded sarcastically in an email: "I could call it disrespectful and classless, but they don't have a beautiful pool at their old ballpark and probably wanted to see what one was like.

Utilityman Willie Bloomquist called it "disrespectful and classless". 

Even with an incident-free two-game series in Australia between the teams last month and Kennedy, one of the central figures in the feud, now pitching for the San Diego Padres, we can't say for sure whether the bad blood has died down. 

It has become quite obvious that these teams can't decide when things will be "even." I doubt any of them are keeping count. These teams hate each other right now and, as long as no one gets seriously hurt, it's great for baseball. 

Baseball has many storied rivalries. The Yankees and Dodgers have faced off in the World Series 11 times. The Red Sox and Yankees began with the "Curse of the Bambino" in 1918 and the rivalry has intensified over the last few decades. But right now the Diamondbacks and Dodgers have, arguably, baseball's most interesting rivalry. 

A four-game series between the Yankees, who spent $438 million to land four impact players this past offseason, and the defending champion Red Sox started yesterday. It has to top the "must-watch" list for any baseball fan. But it's harder to sell it as a heated rivalry when the Yankees' starting lineup on Thursday included six players who weren't even with the organization last season and a starting pitcher, Michael Pineda, who missed the past two seasons recovering from shoulder surgery. 

Of the players currently on the Diamondbacks' 25-man roster, 20 of them were active when the Dodgers clinched the division title on their home field last September. A majority of that group was involved in the June brawl. The Dodgers roster hasn't changed much, either.

Tonight they'll go head-to-head at Chase Field for the first time since the swimming pool incident. Things haven't started off well for the D'backs, who have already dropped two games to the Dodgers and are 3-8 overall. If they're going to even things out in the standings, this weekend would be a good time to start.

As for which team needs to "even" things out in the ongoing feud, that's anybody's guess. You'll just have to watch and find out.

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