Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants Could Rekindle Rivalry in Playoffs

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer IAugust 11, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 07:  Secondbaseman Ryan Theriot #5 of the San Francisco Giants tags Dee Gordon #9 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at second base for an out in the first inning during the MLB game at Dodger Stadium on May 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Gordon was tagged out trying to steal second. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are, as of this writing, tied for first place in the National League West. They each have 49 games left and chances are neither will be one of the Wild Card teams, so this is a fight for one playoff spot.

As exciting as is the prospect of these old rivals racing to the end for a spot in the postseason, it is a little bit of an old hat. When the two teams played within the boroughs of New York City, they often battled for playoff positioning.

In fact, the 1951 tie-breaking playoff ending with Bobby Thomson's home run is probably the greatest and most famous finale to a season ever.

And in California, the two bitter foes fought head to head and also played spoiler. Joe Morgan's homer ended the Dodger's hopes in 1982. The Dodgers blew out the Giants to end the dreams of a 1993 pennant. The Dodgers spoiled Barry Bonds' 71st homer in 2001 by eliminating the Giants.

And of course Steve Finley crushed any hopes for the 2004 Giants by launching his walk-off, Division-clinching grand slam for the Dodgers on the last weekend of the season.

The next great chapter in their rivalry is a head-to-head postseason matchup. And the way both teams are developing, the potential of an electric new chapter of their rivalry is possible.

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The Dodgers have a home grown MVP candidate in Matt Kemp, who exudes a superstar quality worthy of Hollywood and a flair for the dramatic. They have Clayton Kershaw, a Cy Young winner brought up through their own system. And with the new ownership led by Stan Kasten and having Magic Johnson front and center, they are willing to import stars and high caliber players into the fold.

The Giants have a fun-loving personality with great characters. Any team that gets All-Star performances from a guy named Buster Posey and another one known as the Kung Fu Panda (Pablo Sandoval) is fun to watch.

Add in their fabulously deep pitching staff led by perfect game hurler Matt Cain and they would have remarkable matchups with the Dodgers. If Tim Lincecum turns his career around, they will have the most marketable player in the game. If Bryan Wilson comes back, they will have the funniest.

To have these two rivals with these two casts in the NLCS would be the best thing for baseball in the current decade.

When the Wild Card playoff system was first played to completion in 1995, it brought about the attractive possibility of inter-division rivals playing for the pennant. And the when they happened, they were not disappointing.

The Yankees and Orioles met in 1996 and Jeffrey Maier became a celebrity.

The Marlins and Braves faced off in 1997 and Livan Hernandez struck out 15, aided by Eric Gregg's wide zone.

The 1999 NLCS between the Braves and Mets was one of the wildest playoff series in history. It featured Robin Ventura's walk-off grand slam single and Kenny Rogers walking the bases loaded for the pennant.

The Cardinals and Astros met in back-to-back NLCS in 2004 and 2005. It featured walk-off shots by Jeff Kent and Jim Edmonds, not to mention Albert Pujols series extending homer against Brad Lidge.

The Rockies and Diamondbacks were unlikely opponents in 2007 with Colorado streaking to the World Series. The Rays and Red Sox battled in a spectacular 2008 ALCS with a great Red Sox comeback cut short by David Price.

And last year the Cardinals and Brewers faced off in an unlikely rematch of the 1982 World Series.

But nothing could compare in terms of drama and tension to the Yankees and Red Sox meetings. The ancient rivals first met in the controversial 1999 ALCS where sloppy play and a few bad calls crushed the Red Sox hopes.

In 2003 and 2004, the two faced off for back-to-back, heart-stopping, historic seven game series. Between the Pedro Martinez and Don Zimmer brawl to Grady Little's decision to Jorge Posada's double and Aaron Boone's homer, the 2003 series was monumental.

In 2004, the 3-0 hole and Dave Roberts' steal, Bill Mueller's hit, Keith Foulke's clutch pitching, the bloody sock, the slapped glove and David Ortiz's homer, the rivalry came to a mind-boggling climax.

All the while, clips of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bucky Dent, Jim Rice, Ron Guidry and Reggie Jackson were shown to give the great games a historical context as well.

Since then, the Red Sox and Yankee games have seemed anti-climactic. There needs to be a new historic rivalry to play on the stage of a trip to the World Series.

That's where the Dodgers and Giants fit in. These teams and their personalities and their histories on display in the League Championship Series could be the fresh rivalry that could come to a boiling head this decade.

Clips of the past could be shown. Old heroes would arrive at the stadium. And a great rivalry that spans decades and a continent could have its Aaron Boone homer or Dave Roberts steal.

And for people tired of the Red Sox and Yankees hype, they can have a whole new rivalry to be engrossed by.

Giants and Dodgers for the pennant. It could feel like 1951 all over again.

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