On Wednesday after the Dodgers lost to the Giants, a Dodgers fan was stabbed to death a couple blocks away from AT&T Park in San Francisco. NBCLA has extensively covered the stabbing, and you can learn more details here.
I had been working on a post discussing the Dodgers-Giants rivalry since the Giants last played in Los Angeles, but when I woke to news of the incident it no longer felt relevant or appropriate to put it up. After thinking about this event, and the Brian Stow beating at Dodger Stadium in 2011, I feel that the irresponsible, insensible actions of a few should not, and do not, define either of these fan bases or the rivalry as a whole.
Growing up a Dodgers fan, the rivalry with Giants was something that I understood before I had a strong grasp on the rest of the league. In my eyes it was the biggest rivalry there was, so when I first heard other kids or sports programs say that Yankees-Red Sox was the biggest rivalry in baseball I scoffed at the idea.
With that bias entrenched in me from such a young age, it was a little surprising to hear Don Mattingly downplay the rivalry when the Giants came to Los Angeles in September. He said, "I think there is a little bit extra there (playing against the Giants), the players kind of just recognize that" and left it at that.
He thinks that the players may get an extra push from the crowd, but mostly, rivalries are made on the field.
"It happens playing each other so many times, being in a race, and fighting back and forth for positioning, trying to get where you got to go, and trying to get in the other's way," Mattingly said.
Mattingly made another observation before the September series that seems pretty obvious.
"When both teams are good, they just keep pushing it. So there is a little bit extra there."
This was the big difference in the eyes of Mattingly and the players.
The two squads had not played each other for over two months before the last series in Los Angeles, and a lot had changed. On July 8 they were separated by a mere three games, since then the Dodgers went 49-23 to propel them to the top of the division while the Giants went 34-37 and are now just two games from last place.
So maybe those are the reasons that the Dodgers do not feel the tension of the rivalry, but fans certainly do not see it the same. The last seven match-ups between the two teams have been sold out or close to it, and the crowds at both stadiums have been as loud and rambunctious as ever.
The Dodgers are in first place with a 17-game lead over the Giants, but that is not enough for the fans because they still have a bad taste in their mouths from San Francisco's World Series title in 2012. And Giant fans always make things worse by reminding whomever they speak to that their team has two titles in the last three seasons.
Just goes to show that it does not matter where either of these clubs are in the standings, Dodgers vs. Giants will always lead to a packed-house of raucous, wild fans.
This rivalry will never end, there is simply too much history involved. Players and managers will be different from year-to-year, but fans do not change teams. Don Mattingly may never truly understand the significance of the rivalry, but lifelong Dodger fans sure do.