Dodgers-Giants is better than Yankees-Red Sox

Tonight, for the first time ever officially*, the Dodgers and Giants will meet in the postseason. The only bad thing about that is that it comes in a best-of-five series, instead of best-of-seven.

And it will provide an opportunity to show to a national audience that the greatest rivalry in baseball is not Yankees-Red Sox, but rather Dodgers-Giants.

Why?

For one, it is older. These two franchises have been going at it in the National League since 1890 (and they’d met in the now-considered-an-exhibition proto-World Series in 1889). Benjamin Harrison was president when this rivalry started. At that time, the pitcher stood 50 feet from the batter, not 60 feet and six inches. Brooklyn wasn’t even officially part of New York City yet, but rather a separate entity.

Speaking of Brooklyn, that’s another thing: this is a rivalry so heated it literally spans a continent. Whether representing different parts of New York or different regions of California, the rivalry has been continuous. The locations changed, but the rivalry still remained.

It also has had more changes in fortune. For all the claims of a Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, the fact is that for 86 years it was no more a rivalry than it was a competition between a freight-train and hapless pedestrian: the Yankees would win almost every major confrontation. Even in those times where the Yankees were bad or fell to the Red Sox in the pennant race, the Red Sox were never able to do anything to break the image of being the lesser of the two, their days as the true leader of the rivalry (back when the Yankees were known as the Highlanders) a distant often-forgotten memory. While the two have been on more equal ground since the curse was broken, and at times Boston has actually had the upper-hand, it is unlikely that anyone will ever look at the rivalry again any time soon with the idea of the Red Sox as anything other than the underdog- even as their spending habits and success become increasingly like New York’s.

Compare that to Dodgers-Giants, where the “top” team has changed several times. The Giants dominated the early days, the Dodgers ruled the final years in New York City. The two have gone back-and-forth since arriving in California. Although the Dodgers have won more rings in California (and began winning them far earlier than the Giants), it is far harder to declare that the Dodgers will always be the top dog of the two. They have matched up well throughout history. The overall status of the rivalry is 1,269–1,247–17 in favor of the Giants- only a 22-game difference. By comparison, the Yankees currently lead the Red Sox 1,232–1,033–14, for nearly a 200-game lead.

Perhaps the fact there has rarely been a clear favorite of the two has contributed to the fact that there have generally been fewer players who have worn both uniforms for extended periods of time (Jeff Kent comes to mind as one of the few exceptions). Babe Ruth, Wade Boggs, and Roger Clemens all had extended time with both sides of the Northeast rivalry. Not so in the California showdown. Juan Marichal‘s stint with the Dodgers late in his career lasted just two games. Duke Snider‘s twilight time with the Giants only lasted 91 games in one season. Jackie Robinson, it is sometimes said, retired rather than play for the Giants. Ask about how Roger Clemens did in a Yankees-Red Sox game, and you need to ask what year it was. In Dodgers-Giants, it isn’t as needed.

It is also, admittedly, a far more ugly rivalry. While of course this is a bad thing, it does speak to how intense the rivalry is and has been. For all the talk of the intensity in the Boston-New York rivalry, the honest truth is that it is surprisingly civil and tongue-in-cheek, even among many fans. While there certainly have been ugly moments among both fans and participants, they pale in comparison to that of Dodgers-Giants. If you go to Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park in the opposing team’s jersey, may end up getting cussed at, insulted, and possibly have a beer poured upon you. If you do that in San Francisco or Los Angeles, and there is a legitimate chance you will be physically assaulted (still very, very, small, but far greater than probably any other rivalry this side of European soccer hooligans). I am not making this up when I say that the Dodgers-Giants rivalry can be connected to at least two homicides as well as a few assaults, including one that left a man in a medically-induced coma for months. Pedro Martinez once threw Don Zimmer to the ground, but Juan Marichal once went at Johnny Roseboro with a bat. It was a horrific incident that left Roseboro needing 14 stitches and Marichal’s reputation in the gutter for decades, to the point where Roseboro himself had to appeal to writers to get Marichal into the Hall of Fame. If such a thing were to happen in Yankees-Red Sox, it would be impossible to find out anything else about baseball since it would be the only thing talked about the rest of the year.

Which leads to perhaps the number one reason why Dodgers-Giants is better than Yankees-Red Sox: it hasn’t been done to death by the national media. ESPN, MLB Network and other outlets go all-in on Yanks-Sawx, to the point where even those interested grow sick of it. Not so the California rivalry. It is the often-forgotten gem of the three biggest rivalries in baseball (the other one of the big three is, of course, Cubs-Cardinals). Perhaps it is because of East Coast Bias, or perhaps it is because they haven’t faced each other in the playoffs until now. Regardless, starting on Friday night the secret will be out: Dodgers-Giants is the superior baseball rivalry.

*(I say officially because the 1951 tiebreaker series that ended with Bobby Thomson‘s famed home run was technically regular season, the equivalent of a Game 163 in modern times. In addition, they met in some pre-modern World Series that are generally not recognized by MLB.)

Prediction vs. Reality: Game 4 of the 2012 World Series

Throughout the 2012 World Series, I’ll be taking a look at what I thought I’d be writing alongside what actually happened.

What I thought I’d be writing before the series: Well, it’s over. The 2012 Major League Baseball season- started in Japan in March- has ended. And the Tigers have come out on top, winning in six games for their first title since 1984.

It was a little scary near the beginning of the series, as Verlander got dusted up before buckling down for the Game 1 win, but then San Francisco won the next two games,  as the Tigers’ seemed rusty after the long layoff after the ALCS. But they soon had shaken off that rust, winning the next three games to win the series…

What actually happened in the series: Well, it’s over. The 2012 Major League Baseball season- started in Japan in March- has ended. And the San Francisco Giants have come out on top, sweeping the Tigers for their second title in three years.

The culprit, perhaps, was the long layoff after the ALCS, something that the Tigers’ hitters only started to shake off in Game 4, far too late and not enough to make a difference beyond forcing extra innings. However, to simply say that the Tigers were rusty would be doing a disservice to the San Francisco Giants, the new champions. They outpitched, outhit, outfielded and outmanaged the Tigers, taking advantage of every opportunity they received and squashing what few rallies the Tigers were able to muster. Whether it was Sergio Romo, any of the starting pitchers, Marco Scutaro, Buster Posey or “Kung Fu Panda” himself, Pablo Sandoval, they always seemed to come through when they needed to.

And that is why they are the champions.

More on the series and the 2012 season in the coming days.

Prediction vs. Reality: Game 3 of the 2012 WS

Throughout the 2012 World Series, I’ll be taking a look at what I thought I’d be writing alongside what actually happened.

What I thought I’d be writing (about the time the bases were loaded): Well, this series will go at least five games, as the Tigers finally came up in the clutch, roaring back from an early deficit to win Game 3 of the World Series. The Tigers still have a long way to go if they intend on winning this series- especially as they will, no matter what, have to play one more game in San Francisco, but they saved this series from the irrelevance that sweeps often bring to playoff series.

What actually happened: As soon as the Tigers failed to score with the bases loaded, it was clear to almost everyone that this is probably going to be a sweep. The Tigers have nothing: much like the Yankees they defeated and the Orioles that the Yankees defeated (and, for that matter, the Rangers the Orioles defeated), they just don’t have the key hits when they need them. This isn’t to say that the Tigers have had a bad series: they were competitive in both Game 2 and Game 3, but they have failed to hit, flailing at the Giants’ pitches, grounding into double plays with regular frequency, and failing to capitalize on the few mistakes San Francisco has made.

On paper, one would think that if a team could come back from a 3-0 deficit in the World Series, it would be the pitching-rich Tigers. However, that idea is flawed when one remembers that A) They still would have to win four straight games, B) They’d need to remember how to hit, C) The Giants’ pitchers have been dialed in and D) They’d have to win two games on the road. But enough about that, the Tigers need to first win one game… and that “one game” will have to come against Matt Cain.

It’s a shame that the 2012 baseball season has seemingly come down to this: it was, by almost all measures, a great success that saw surprising teams, great performances, and attendance that was up overall from last season. Now, though, the sport’s grandest showcase could end in four straight games in a snoozer of a series that only people in San Francisco are enjoying.

But that’s baseball: sometimes stuff like that happens. And, it should be noted, the series still isn’t over. So maybe, just maybe, the 2012 MLB season has one last big surprise left in it.

Maybe.

Prediction vs. Reality: Game 2 of the 2012 WS

Throughout the 2012 World Series, I’ll be taking a look at what I thought I’d be writing alongside what actually happened.
What I thought I’d be writing: Something that started with “Madison Bumgarner has allowed the Tigers to get back into this series, as his late season struggles continued…”

What actually happened: Madison Bumgarner is back and the Giants appear to be a team of destiny, catching every break and, what’s more, taking advantage of those breaks. Plenty of teams can have a 3-1 bunt fall miraculously fair, stopping perfectly to load the bases, but not every team can then get not one but two runs, despite there being a double-play immediately after said miracle-bunt.

And then, not only that, but their pitching (starting and bullpen) has been brilliant so far. One wonders, for example, whether Prince Fielder would have been sent home if the Tigers had shown more power this series so far. That said, you could argue that it was the right move- only heads-up plays by the Giants’ fielders (especially Marco Scutaro and Buster Posey) were able to get him at the plate. It was a nice call by the umpire too, one that I worry might have been blown until I saw the replay.

Right now, the Giants are most definitely in the driver’s seat: they have defeated the undefeatable (Verlander) and silenced the Tigers’ mighty bats. And, it should be noted, they haven’t even had their two best pitchers (Cain and Vogelsong) go yet. Game 3- Sanchez vs. Vogelsong- is a must-win for Detroit. If the Tigers don’t win tomorrow, it might not simply mean that the Giants will be the World Champions, it will mean that a sweep could be in the making.

Prediction vs. Reality: Game 1 of the 2012 WS

Throughout the 2012 World Series, I’ll be taking a look at what I thought I’d be writing alongside what actually happened.
What I thought I’d be writing: Justin Verlander is the new face of baseball. He’s won the Rookie of the Year, he’s won one Cy Young Award and will probably win another, he’s won an MVP, he’s thrown two no-hitters, he reportedly is dating SI covergirl Kate Upton, and now he can add to his list of accomplishments the title of “Mr. October,” as he wrecked the San Francisco Giants with a complete-game shutout where he struck out 12 as the Tigers won 7-0 in Game 1.

Barry Zito did better than most probably expected, but he couldn’t duplicate his NLCS Game 5 performance, giving up 4 earned runs….

What actually happened: The Giants won 8-3 in Game 1 and Pablo Sandoval is Mr. October. He may not have the same pedigree as the previous hitters to go deep thrice in one World Series game (Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols are Hall-of-Famers or will be one day, while “Kung Fu Panda” won’t), but he probably did it against the best pitching. While Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols did it against three different pitchers and Babe Ruth did it before the flame-throwing pitcher had become commonplace, Sandoval did it with two home runs against the greatest pitcher on the planet, a previously-thought untouchable Justin Verlander. His third home run, against Al Albuquerque, must have seemed downright mundane compared to his earlier exploits.

Meanwhile, on the mound, Barry Zito has continued his resurrection, going 5.2 innings, giving up six hits and only one earned run, while himself driving in a run against Justin Verlander. If you thought that this would happen- and that he would be replaced in the game by Tim Lincecum (the first time since 1983 that a Cy Young winner relieved another Cy Young winner in the World Series)- then you are a liar.

Of course, this now puts the entire series into question. While many thought that the Tigers might be rusty, few thought that rust would hit Verlander, especially as hard as it did. What was supposed to be the 29-year-old’s coronation has now turned into a possible wake for the 2012 Detroit Tigers, who now must come back from this 1-0 deficit while dealing with the now-questionable starting pitching and a relief corps that has it’s former anchor (Valverde) in shambles. Thankfully for the Tigers, Game 2 will be against Madison Bumgarner, who was bad down the stretch and struggled in his previous postseason start this year. If the Tigers can get a jump on him and Doug Fister can play with minimal rust, they still have a good shot at making this a tied series heading back to Detroit.

Nuggets of Info heading into the World Series

Here are little nuggets and factoids as we head into the World Series:

  • The last time the Detroit Tigers won the World Series, it was 1984, when they defeated the Padres in five games. On that Padres team: Bruce Bochy, now the manager of the San Francisco Giants. In fact, the last player to get a hit in that series was Bochy, who singled in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5.
  • With this World Series, the Giants have faced every member of the American League’s Original Eight with the exception of the Browns/Orioles.
  • Not many players from the 2006 Tigers and 2010 Giants are still on their teams. Only Justin Verlander, Omar Infante and Ramon Santiago were on the 2006 Tigers, and the only regular position players from the 2010 Giants who still are on the team are Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval (and Sandoval wasn’t even on the postseason roster in 2010), although there are still plenty of pitchers left from 2010.
  • Barry Zito is a career 8-6, 2.91 ERA pitcher against the Detroit Tigers.
  • Prince Fielder is a career .274 hitter with 5 HR against the San Francisco Giants.
  • Notable players who have had significant time with both franchises: Darrell Evans, Larry Herndon and Harvey Kuenn.
  • The “Ex-Cub Factor” is sometimes said to be able to predict the winner of the World Series, by saying that the team with more ex-Cubs will lose. In this case, the Tigers will win, as they have no players who had an official appearance with the Cubs. The Giants, meanwhile, have two ex-Cubs (Xavier Nady and Angel Pagan).
  • Not like it matters, but in all-time interleague match-ups, the Giants have won 7 of the 12 meetings.

And now you know.

The Continuum’s 2012 World Series Preview

It’s the 108th World Series! If this were the Super Bowl, we’d give it a cool Roman numeral name, like World Series CVIII, but that’s not how it works, so it’s just called the “2012 World Series”.

On paper, it could be either a treat or a blow-out. The Tigers could maul the Giants like they mauled the Yankees, taking advantage of their superior pitching and their more powerful hitters.

But, on the other hand, the Giants will be fresher and have more momentum, having only just recently finished their series against the Cardinals. This might not seem like much, but consider that in history, there have been three times where a team that swept their LCS faced a team that went the distance in an LCS in the World Series. All three times, the team that had to go the distance won. In addition, San Francisco has the more settled bullpen, and they will have home-field advantage, primarily because various Giants (most notably the now-exiled Melky Cabrera) beat up on Detroit über-ace Justin Verlander in the All-Star Game.

So how will it turn out? Check out my analysis after the jump:

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The 3-in-1 hit Was Fine

So, like a demolition crew, the Giants won 9-0 last night in a eventually rain-soaked Game 7. The game’s signature play, however, was Hunter Pence’s double during the third inning. You can see a GIF of the play over at Deadspin, but in essence, as the bat broke into two the barrel hit the ball not once, not twice, but thrice. This, of course, caused some weird spin to come onto the ball, badly confusing Cardinals’ rookie SS Pete Kozma, who made a bad first move that allowed what could have been a double play to instead be a double that burst the game open.

Some online have said that there is a rule that anybody who hits the ball twice or more with the bat is out and the ball is dead. See rule 6.05 H:

(The batter is out if…) After hitting or bunting a fair ball, his bat hits the ball a second time in fair
territory. The ball is dead and no runners may advance.

 

Looking at this, you would think this would mean that Pence should have been out. But, well, that’s only if you don’t read a comment below that:

Rule 6.05(h) Comment: If a bat breaks and part of it is in fair territory and is hit by a batted
ball or part of it hits a runner or fielder, play shall continue and no interference called.

 

Pence’s bat broke, and this is part of the reason why it hit the ball several times, as it trampolined back into the ball. Therefore, the play is valid.

Now, of course, there would have been no way for the umpire to have seen the bat hit several times anyway, as the umpire didn’t have the super-slow-motion replay that FOX’s broadcast had. And, besides, this type of unintentional multi-bat-hitting isn’t what the rule is there for. Instead, it is there to stop, say, a guy bunting a ball in the air and then playing fungo with it.

And now you know.

Humor: The Laws of Game 7s

Tonight is one of the greatest events in any sport: a Game 7. While I messed up and assumed that Adam Wainwright was starting tonight, it does not change the fact that it’s a Game 7. Win or lose, do-or-die, victory means the World Series, defeat means an early tee-time or a day out hunting something other than hanging curveballs.

So, with all of that in mind, it’s time to go over the LAWS OF GAME 7.
(Note: This is humor, and not all of them are meant to be serious.)

Rule One: All Hands on Deck

This is a rule for the managers. During Game 7, all hands are on deck. And I do mean all. Everyone needs to be ready to pitch: starters, relievers, outfielders who were stud pitchers back in High School… remember, there is no tomorrow if you lose. If you have to teach your backup catcher a knuckleball on short notice in the 24th inning, you do it.

Rule Two: Nothing else is on television during a Game 7.

There’s a debate on tonight. The Bears and Lions are playing tonight. Neither will be seen on my television, unless there is a rain delay. Apologies to the President of the United States and the esteemed ex-governor of Massachusetts.

By the way, can you imagine if tonight was an ALCS game between the White Sox and whatever Mitt Romney’s favorite team is (I’m presuming either the Tigers or Red Sox)?

Presumably it would mean stuff like this:

“Mister President, I have a question on China, and, by the way, it’s tied at two in the fifth…”

Rule Three: Everything that has ever happened in a Game 7 is relevant.

Oh, sure, it may seem like past Game 7s are unimportant to this current situation, but they are not. Carlos Beltran, for example, struck out to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, when he was with the Mets. Matt Holliday may end up missing tonight’s game with an injury- he also missed Game 7 of last year’s World Series with an injury. Allen Craig hit a home run in last year’s World Series Game 7. The Giants have never won a best-of-7-series Game 7, falling in seven games to the Angels in 2002’s World Series, the Cardinals in the 1987 NLCS, the Yankees in 1962 and the Senators in 1924! The ghosts of Octobers past will be remembered!

Rule Four: Rain doesn’t matter.

It could rain tonight. But, guess what, the World Series is starting Wednesday, and the Tigers need to know where to fly to. Therefore, as Jayson Stark says:

Rule Five: There are no rules.

And anything can happen. That’s the beauty of Game 7.

Which team could “take” the Tigers? It could depend on how the LCS ends.

Well, thanks to Barry Zito’s vintage performance last night, the Giants have forced the Cardinals back to San Francisco, where St. Louis and Chris Carpenter will have to beat Ryan Vogelsong in Game 6, or, failing that, will have to hope that they and Adam Wainwright can outdo Matt Cain in a climactic Game 7. In other words, it’s a whole new series that could go either way.

Meanwhile, in Michigan, the Tigers, having already swept away the complacent Yankees, are going to stay sharp by scrimmaging their Instructional League team. The Instructional Leagues are semi-formal affairs to get low-level minor leaguers- generally those who played in the short-season leagues- some more experience. It’s a win-win: the Tigers will be able to remain sharp, and the minor leaguers will be able to test themselves against, well, some of the best players on the planet.

So, assuming nobody gets hurt, the Tigers will still be relatively fresh against whoever the National League sends out against them. So, who would have a better shot against Detroit?

I’m not sure, but I feel like it would be the Cardinals. Well, unless if they have to win in seven games, in which case I’d probably go with the Giants. Well, maybe.

Here’s what I mean:
Game 1 of the World Series will be Wednesday, weather permitting. The Tigers will be starting Justin Verlander, probably followed by Scherzer, Fister and then Anibal Sanchez. A formidable group for any team.

If the Cardinals win Game 6 on Sunday, their rotation would likely have Adam Wainwright leading off, followed by Kyle Lohse (or maybe Lance Lynn)  on Thursday and then Chris Carpenter for Game 3 on Saturday. Given the fact the Cardinals have a better bullpen than the Tigers seem to have (so, is Coke officially the closer now?), this would give them a decided series advantage if the Tigers’ starters were to stumble.  But if they have to go 7, they will be stuck with sending Lohse/Lynn in the first two games with their two aces having to be held back for games 3 and 4. Sure, they will still have the bullpen and their playoff-veteran defending-championship lineup, but going against Verlander and Scherzer with your third and fourth starters seems like a recipe for going down 0-2.

By contrast, the Giants, although they will, by necessity, be unable to use Cain and Vogelsong in games 1 and 2 if they advance, will still have some good pitchers who can fill the shoes. Barry Zito, for example, still can “have it” like he did last night, and he is a veteran. Few would argue about him starting a Game 1. Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum both are covered with question marks, but I’d probably rather pick between those two guys than possibly having to send out Lance Lynn against Miguel Cabrera and friends, especially after the number that the Giants offense did against him last night (with significant aid of an errant throw off second base by Lynn).

Finally, although it was admittedly an extremely small sample size, various Giants were able to get to Justin Verlander during this year’s All-Star Game. Again, extremely small sample size (and Verlander admitted later he wasn’t pitching it like he would a regular season or playoff game), but you do have to wonder if that might give the Giants something of a psychological edge.

Or maybe Verlander and the other Tigers pitchers will just embarrass whatever team comes against them, just as they did their 1966 Orioles vs. 1966 Dodgers impression on the Yankees. Actually, that might be the most likely outcome, isn’t it?