San Francisco become the better franchise in a longtime rivalry, its presence in the World Series a clinching piece of evidence.
(Ed Note: LA Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke wrote this prior to the Giants winning the World Series. It rings even truer today.)
The truth hurts. It blinds with the sight of thousands of flapping orange towels. It deafens with the blah-blah-blah about Buster and Bochy and Belt. It batters with every roundhouse kick by that thick third baseman known as Kung Fu Panda.
The truth hurts, but we must accept it, because, like the awful smell of garlic fries that fills the crowded corridors of that cutesy San Francisco ballpark, it’s not going anywhere.
The Giants have become a better franchise than the Dodgers.
“Who said that?” screamed Tom Lasorda when I gave him the news.
The numbers say it. The scores say it. History says it. October says it. Everything says it.
In the only standings that matter to many fans, in a rivalry that has lasted 129 years, the Giants have become a clear No. 1, and the Dodgers are a stunning No. 2.
“Never, never, never,” barked Maury Wills when I gave him the news.
It’s happening right now. The Giants’ appearance against the Detroit Tigers in this year’s World Series has clinched it. After lollygagging behind the Dodgers seemingly from the moment they followed them to the West Coast in 1958, the Giants have finally passed them with all the power of a Mike Piazza, er, Joe Morgan home run.
The Giants have now appeared in 19 World Series, one more than the Dodgers. If the Giants defeat the Tigers, they will have won seven world championships, one more than the Dodgers.
The Giants have appeared in four World Series — four ( — since the Dodgers’ last Fall Classic appearance in 1988. If the Giants beat the Tigers, they will have won as many world championships in three years — two — as the Dodgers have won in the last 31 years.
You want numbers? In their 2,373 meetings, the most between any two franchises, the Giants have won 24 more games.
You want stars? There are 66 players with Giants affiliations in baseball’s Hall of Fame, a dozen more than those with Dodgers ties. The Giants players have won the most-valuable-player award 13 times and the Dodgers have won 11, but since 1989, the Giants have had seven MVPs and the Dodgers have had zero. The Dodgers can claim their traditional pitching superiority by winning the Cy Young Award battle, 10-3, but since 1989, both teams have won two.
And, oh, if you’re going to challenge those numbers because of Barry Bonds’ alleged steroid use, don’t forget that Eric Gagne did a banned substance too.
The Giants are not just winning on the field, but also winning the battle of the field. While the Dodgers have been living in the increasing squalor of their past, the Giants have built one of the coolest parks in the game. I rip AT&T Park mostly out of jealousy. I rip Dodger Stadium because it needs to be ripped.
I hate writing this stuff as much as you hate reading it, although maybe not as much as Wills and Lasorda hated hearing it when I phoned the legendary Giants nemeses on Thursday.
Said Wills: “It brings on a little bit of an ache.”
Said Lasorda, loudly: “The numbers do not say they’re better. They’re just as good, right now, maybe, but look at the past and….”
Our phone connection died. I thought the ranting Hall of Famer was so angry he accidentally hung up on me. But he immediately called me back
“Am I jealous of the Giants? I would never use the word ‘jealous,'” Lasorda said. “I’m not giving them credit for anything.”
The feeling is mutual. The Giants fans haven’t really hated a Dodger the way they once hated Lasorda, perhaps because the Dodgers haven’t had a strong leader like that since then, and maybe that is the root of these team’s current differences.
The Giants have had a consistent direction, the Dodgers once thought they didn’t need Mike Scioscia. The Giants have shown a focused philosophy, the Dodgers once thought they needed Juan Uribe.
Since the Dodgers’ last World Series appearance, they have run through eight managers; the Giants have had four. The Dodgers have had seven general managers, and the Giants had had three. The Dodgers have been owned by the likes of Fox and Frank McCourt, and the Giants have been owned by, well, does it matter?
“Seriously, I’m not surprised, because I knew it was close,” said Wills. “We were always No. 1, they were No. 2. We’re still doing well, but on the field the Giants are just executing it better.”
Everywhere, they are executing it better. Look at this season. These Giants spent pennies to pick up glue guy Marco Scutaro, the Dodgers spent gazillions on stars who couldn’t figure out how to play together. The Giants have a pitching rotation featuring three homegrown stars, the Dodgers rotation has Clayton Kershaw and four nights of watching pitch counts and held breaths.
Even amid the latest Giants triumph, Dodgers fans finally have real hope for change. The new owners finally have a history of baseball smarts and deep pockets. Ned Colletti, who learned his craft with the Giants, finally has the money and freedom to make it work. And, if all else fails, there is still Vin Scully, right?
“I never admitted this to anyone, but a couple of years ago I wrote [Giants Manager] Bruce Bochy a nice note on Dodger stationery,” admitted Wills. “I congratulated him for reminding us all how the game is supposed to be played.”
Sadly reminding us of what was once, you know, the Dodgers.Filed under: Archive