B/R MLB Rivalry Series: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Welcome to the fifth edition of Bleacher Report's MLB rivalry series.
In the weeks to come, we'll highlight some of the biggest head-to-head rivalries in our national pastime and shine light on the past, present and future of those matchups.
So far, we've run through the following rivalries:
- Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
- Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants
- Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
- Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets
Next on the docket is a closer look at one of the newer rivalries around baseball between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers.
This rivalry doesn't have anywhere near the longevity of some of the others we've highlighted since the Diamondbacks have only been a franchise since 1998, but it has still provided us with plenty of memorable moments.
The following provides a look at notable numbers and notes, a detailed breakdown of the rivalry's origins, an overview of some notable trades between the two teams, a rundown of some of the contentious moments that have made the rivalry stand out and finally a preview of the present and future outlook of both franchises.
Rivalry Numbers and Notes
Head-to-Head Record (Regular Season)
- 181-146 (advantage LAD)
Head-to-Head Postseason Meetings
Notable Players Who Made an Impact on Both Sides
- SP Omar Daal
- OF Steve Finley
- OF Luis Gonzalez
- SP Jon Garland
- OF Shawn Green
- SP Zack Greinke
- SP Dan Haren
- SP Mike Morgan
The Arizona Diamondbacks' rise to contention was a rapid one following their inception as a franchise in 1998.
After going 65-97 in their inaugural season, they won 100 games in their second year and by 2001 they were hoisting their first World Series trophy.
That quick ascension made them an obvious rival for the Los Angeles Dodgers as the two battled for NL West supremacy, but it was not until a game on Sept. 13, 2011, that things took a turn.
Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo threw up and in against Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra. Later in the at-bat Parra took Kuo deep, admiring his home run for a long time before beginning his run around the bases.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis had some words for him when he reached home plate and Clayton Kershaw did a fair share of shouting from the dugout, leading to a whole wave of yelling back and forth between the two sides.
It didn't end there, though.
Kershaw was on the mound the following night and he took that as an opportunity to retaliate as he drilled Parra with a 95 mph fastball in the sixth inning, earning an immediate ejection in the process.
That would be the first of several incidents of bad blood to come between the two teams, and we'll touch on those more in a bit.
However, that two-game stretch late in the 2011 season can be looked at as the first real sign of a contentious rivalry in the making.
Notable In-Rivalry Trades
July 31, 2004: Dodgers acquired OF Steve Finley, C Brett Mayne from the Diamondbacks for C Koyie Hill, LHP Bill Murphy, OF Reggie Abercrombie
Steve Finley was the best outfield option on the trade market leading up to the 2004 deadline, and the Los Angeles Dodgers made their move.
The 39-year-old was hitting .275/.338/.490 with 16 doubles, 23 home runs and 61 runs scored in 456 plate appearances at the time of the trade, and he was set to hit free agency at season's end.
He continued playing at a high level following the trade with an .815 OPS that included 12 doubles, 13 home runs and 46 RBI in 58 games.
The deal brought a trio of prospects back to the Diamondbacks, most notably catcher Koyie Hill, who carved out an 11-year career as a backup.
Interestingly, the addition of Finley also led to the Dodgers trading speedy outfielder Dave Roberts to the Boston Red Sox. He would go on to turn in one of the most memorable moments in franchise history with "The Steal" later that October.
Jan. 11, 2005: Diamondbacks acquired OF Shawn Green from the Dodgers for C Dioner Navarro, RHP Beltran Perez, RHP Danny Muegge, RHP William Juarez
After posting consecutive 40-homer, 100-RBI seasons with the Dodgers in 2001 and 2002, Shawn Green saw his production take a noticeable dip as he posted an .813 OPS and averaged 24 home runs and 86 RBI over the next two seasons.
From there, the Dodgers shipped him to Arizona in exchange for a package of four players, in what amounted to a three-team deal.
The Diamondbacks sent Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees in exchange for Javier Vazquez and a pair of prospects, then flipped one of those prospects—21-year-old catcher Dioner Navarro—to the Dodgers as the centerpiece in a four-player package for Green.
Green posted an .832 OPS with 37 doubles and 22 home runs for the D-backs in 2005, before being flipped to the New York Mets at the deadline the following year.
Navarro was also traded again in 2006, going to the Tampa Bay Rays where he would become an All-Star.
Aug. 31, 2009: Dodgers acquired RHP Jon Garland from the Diamondbacks for IF Tony Abreu
The Dodgers held a 5.5-game lead over the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants in the NL West standings when the Aug. 31 waiver deadline rolled around.
Having used seven different starters in the No. 5 spot in the rotation with mixed results, they made a move to land Jon Garland in hopes he could bring some stability to the back of the staff.
He made six starts over the final month, going 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 1.266 WHIP to help the Dodgers capture the NL West title by 3.5 games over the Rockies.
Garland didn't pitch in the postseason and he departed in free agency when the offseason rolled around, but he served his purpose.
Tony Abreu was a top-10 prospect in the Dodgers system prior to the 2006 (No. 9) and 2007 (No. 5) seasons, per Baseball America, but he was never more than a sparsely used utility player at the MLB level.
Nov. 22, 2014: Diamondbacks sold RHP Mike Bolsinger to the Dodgers
Facing a roster crunch, the Diamondbacks sold right-hander Mike Bolsinger to the Dodgers shortly after the 2014 season came to a close.
Injuries forced him into significant action for the Dodgers last season and he went 6-6 with a 3.62 ERA, 1.363 WHIP and 98 strikeouts in 109.1 innings spanning 21 starts.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks struggled mightily to field a passable rotation on their way to a 4.37 starters' ERA, which ranked 23rd in the majors.
Bolsinger no doubt could have helped that situation.
Contentious Moments in Rivalry History
We've already touched on the two teams' squabbles late in the 2011 season that served as the origin of sorts for a more contentious rivalry, but that was only the beginning.
The game on Sept. 14 in which Clayton Kershaw was ejected for hitting Gerardo Parra was the last meeting between the two teams for the 2011 season.
But they picked up right where they left off in their first meeting of the 2012 season.
The first of a quick two-game series on May 14 was a matchup of aces with Ian Kennedy taking the hill for the Diamondbacks and Kershaw on the bump for the Dodgers.
Kershaw stepped into the batter's box for the first time in the third inning, and Kennedy immediately tried to send a message, with Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic providing the breakdown:
Diamondbacks right-hander Ian Kennedy, apparently looking to exact revenge on Kershaw, buzzed him with a first-pitch fastball leading off the third inning.
Three pitches later, Kennedy tried again, this time throwing behind Kershaw, who turned to look at the Diamondbacks dugout. He had no problem receiving the message the Diamondbacks were sending.
Things didn't escalate any further in that particular season, but it was clear that relations between the two teams were strained to say the least.
Things finally reached their boiling point during a June series in 2013, when a bean-ball war erupted and benches eventually cleared.
Kennedy was again at the center of it all once again, as he hit Yasiel Puig in the face with a pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning of a game on June 11 to get the ball rolling.
Dodgers starter Zack Greinke retaliated by pegging Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero in the top of the seventh, and the benches emptied.
Order was quickly restored, but not for long.
Kennedy greeted Greinke with a first pitch fastball at his head in the bottom of the seventh inning and the benches cleared once again.
The subsequent brawl resulted in six ejections and featured Dodgers manager Don Mattingly throwing Diamondbacks coach Alan Trammell to the ground and Dodgers coach Mark McGwire taking on Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and coach Matt Williams in separate altercations.
Things remained heated between the two teams the remainder of the season and the Dodgers only fanned the flames further when they celebrated clinching the NL West title in Arizona by swimming in the outfield pool.
The feud has cooled off in recent years, due in no small part to Kennedy no longer playing for the Diamondbacks, as he was the instigator on more than one occasion.
The Dodgers losing free agent Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks this past offseason provided an interesting wrinkle to the rivalry, but the on-field shenanigans have ceased for the time being.
The Present and Future of the Rivalry
Many expected the Dodgers and Diamondbacks to be duking it out for NL West supremacy this season after Arizona shored up its biggest weakness by adding Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to the starting rotation.
Instead, the Diamondbacks have been arguably the most disappointing team in baseball.
With a 46-66 record they currently sit 17.5 games behind the Dodgers in last place in the NL West standings.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have pulled into a tie with another rival in the San Francisco Giants for what should be an exciting battle the rest of the way.
The Diamondbacks sacrificed a good deal of payroll flexibility to sign Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million deal and some significant young talent to acquire Miller in a trade with the Atlanta Braves.
That has set them back financially and taken a good bite out of their farm system, which I ranked in the No. 24 spot following the trade deadline.
That being said, there is still a terrific offensive core in place for the Diamondbacks, centered around Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and the injured A.J. Pollock, whose absence has also played a significant role in the team's struggles this season.
If young starters Braden Shipley and Archie Bradley can take the next step and Miller can sort out the issues that have plagued him this season, the starting rotation still has a chance to be a strength as well.
At any rate, this is a team that will once again be looking to contend next season considering the current makeup of the roster, so expect the front office tandem of Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa to be busy once again this winter.
As for the Dodgers, they officially caught up to the Giants with a win on Tuesday, bridging a gap that had been as wide as eight games in late June.
The health of ace Clayton Kershaw is a major what-if as far as their hopes of making a deep postseason run are concerned, but they appear to be in a good position to make a fourth consecutive playoff appearance at the very least.
As for their future outlook, the Dodgers have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball and a seemingly endless stream of money at their disposal.
The farm system took the No. 6 spot in our latest rankings, with left-hander Julio Urias, first baseman Cody Bellinger, right-hander Jose De Leon and outfielder Alex Verdugo now the headliners after Corey Seager graduated to MLB stardom.
The payroll currently stands at $265 million, the largest in baseball, according to Spotrac. Their spending is not expected to curtail anytime soon, either, as the team continues to chase its first title since 1988.
The Diamondbacks may be out of the postseason hunt this year, but they have a chance to make that push for contention next season with some offseason retooling.
A return to relevance by the D-backs could reignite the rivalry, as the Dodgers are not expected to disappear from the postseason conversation anytime soon.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.