Will Dodgers-Giants Rivalry Mean Something Huge for 1st Time in a Decade?

Jacob ShaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 13, 2014

USA Today

The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers don't need a tight race to hate each other. They barely need oxygen for that.

The dislike comes naturally for these two old, old rivals who cut the same path across the continent and have engaged in more fist-clenching, brow-wiping grudge matches than you could cram into a Web series, let alone an article.

That being said, a tight race doesn't hurt. Especially when it's been a while.

And it has been a while. Since 2005, the Giants and Dodgers have never been fewer than seven games apart when one team won the division. 

In other words, the rivalry has been mostly one-sided, though the winning side has fluctuated. We've seen the Dodgers make postseason runs. We've seen the Giants win World Series.

What we haven't seen since the George W. Bush administration is S.F. and L.A. locked in a good old-fashioned National League West battle.

Will 2014 buck the trend and reignite the rivalry? Maybe.

The Giants started the season on a tear and by June 7 had built a 9.5-game lead. Since then the Orange and Black have returned to earth in a big way—going a paltry 21-34—while the Dodgers (32-31 at the time) have recovered from an uneven start to pace the pack.

Entering play Wednesday, Los Angeles owned a six-game division lead over San Francisco. The Giants have lost five in a row—including a 3-2 extra-inning loss Tuesday to the Chicago White Sox—while the Dodgers have won three straight.

Uncredited/Associated Press

So it's easy to dismiss the rivalry for yet another year. But it isn't over yet.

The two clubs will meet six more times in September, meaning even if the Giants fail to make much headway in the next few weeks, they could still make a move. 

Right now, San Francisco leads the season series 7-6, though all of the Giants' wins against their SoCal nemesis came in the first half.

"Obviously it's something," skipper Don Mattingly told CBSSports.com's Janie McCauley after the Dodgers swept the Giants in late July. "That's all it is at that point because you have a lot of baseball to play. We're going to see these guys again. They're not going anywhere."

True enough. But if San Francisco wants to make the stretch run matter, it'll have to recapture that intangible something. That magic.

If it does, it'll be good for California fans, and good for the game's longest-running tete-a-tete.

Consider: The two franchises first locked horns in 1889 (during the Benjamin Harrison administration) when the New York Giants of the National League met the Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the American Association in a best-of-11 playoff matchup that technically predates the World Series. 

Since then the teams have met in countless fraught situations. They've shared a stadium-full of memorable moments.

They've followed each other across the country, from the Big Apple to the Golden State in 1957. And they've fostered the ultimate love-hate relationship.

LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 2:  Steve Finley #12 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates as his ninth inning walk off grand slam home run clears the fence against the San Francisco Giants on October 2, 2004 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Dodger
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images


The last respectable Giants-Dodgers race, though, came in 2004, when L.A. finished 93-69 and S.F. went 91-71. The scramble came down to the penultimate game, which the Dodgers won on a Steve Finley grand slam. 

Since then, the teams have taken turns basking in the limelight—particularly the Giants, who hoisted a Commissioner's Trophy in 2010 and 2012 but didn't face serious competition from the Dodgers during either run.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, made it to the NLCS in 2013 but never had to fret about the Giants, who finished a disappointing 76-86.

Now, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies all out if it, the division belongs to the Giants and Dodgers.

Or, more accurately, one of them.

That's a decidedly good thing, according to MLB.com's Richard Justice:

Baseball is better when the Dodgers and Giants are both good. They've been going at one another for around 120 years, and the games today have as much emotion and intensity as they did back in the days of Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays. They remain two of the sport's cornerstone franchises, both playing to packed houses, both occupying large places in the hearts and minds of their local citizens.

Oh, sure, one squad could slip in as a wild-card qualifier, rendering the winner-take-all narrative moot. But that comes with a one-game playoff, the mother of all crapshoots.

Clearly, the pressure is on to win the NL West outright—and, in the process, to squash a longtime rival.

The Giants and Dodgers don't need to be in a race to hate each other. For the rest of us, it'd be a lot cooler if they were.