As a lifelong Padres fan I’ve been raised to hate the Dodgers, hate Tommy Lasorda and feel somewhere between enchanted and indifferent about Steve Garvey. But, as my good friend and a lifelong Dodgers fan Joe Q. says, “I never have or ever will care about the Padres and neither will any true Dodgers fan.” And the worst about that quote is – he’s right.
This last weekend the Padres dropped three of four to the team we consider to be our biggest rival: The Los Angeles Dodgers.
But, as I sat watching from my couch I started to really wonder if indeed they are our biggest rival? All the components are there for a Baseball rivalry. Los Angeles is close, we play in the same division, they’ve been in Baseball as long as we have and are consistently a roadblock anytime we’re charging for the postseason.
So, why does it kind of feel wrong?
Well, Padres fans I’m going to burst your bubble here and let loose a truth we’ve all secretly known but never wanted to admit: this is a one-sided rivalry. Yes, I know. It stings. But, the truth of the matter is the only Dodgers fans that care about San Diego are the ones who actually live in San Diego. Of course there is a small faction of Dodgers fans who rent a party bus that travels to San Diego to hate on Padres fans in Petco, but that same group will also travel to Anaheim and sometimes to San Francisco. So, we shouldn’t feel special. In fact we have no reason to feel special. If you were to go to LA and ask Baseball fans about the Padres they will often laugh at you and tell you flat out they don’t care. And this makes us hate them all the more. We’re like the little kid jumping up and down screaming just to get noticed by our big brother and his friends. We wanna hang out too guys! Come on! We’re big and stuff! But, no matter how loudly we stomp they just flick us away. And why would they notice us when we can barely make a real rivalry out of it in our own stadium! This past weekend Petco looked like it was located in Chavez Ravine as opposed to downtown San Diego! The sea of Dodger blue was overwhelming! But don’t get me wrong, I’ll never get mad at Padres fans for staying home when the Dodgers come to town, cause who wants to end up in coma just for liking the opposing team?
Padres V. Dodgers is not (and never will be) Yankees V. Red Sox or Cubs V. Cardinals or Phillies V. Santa Claus. And that’s because as much as we’d love to ignore it the Dodgers already have a rival. A real rival. One they’ve had since the 1800’s and that team is the San Francisco Giants. They both came from Baseball’s hub; they’ve each had superstars the opposing fans could hate mercilessly and managers that were loud mouths and back breakers and legends. I was once saw a game in Pac Bell/Verizon/AT&T Park where the home crowd booed Tommy Lasorda who came out before first pitch to talk about his cancer foundation. The Dodgers and Giants hate each other the way we hate the Dodgers and wish anyone hated us. It just hasn’t happened yet, but that sure hasn’t stopped the Padres front offices from trying to make it happen. We have this ridiculously self-imposed rivalry with the Mariners that absolutely no one cares about. The Mariners are essentially the Padres of the North, so it makes sense that Major League Baseball continues to parade us up there during Interleague play as to say, “Here. Fight with these other guys that no one really pays attention to.”
In fact I asked ten Baseball fans and ten non-Baseball fans who they thought were the Padres rivals, and out of the twenty only three said any team other than the Dodgers. Seven of the ten Baseball fans all sent subtext with their replies that essentially said it’s the Dodgers, but we’re not the Dodgers rivals. But, it was those three non-Dodgers replies that intrigued me because they all said it was The Diamondbacks.
I have a vague memory of a game back in 2001 in which Curt Schilling was throwing a no-hitter at The Murph. They had a 2-0 lead heading in to the bottom of the 8th and Ben Davis was up. He bunted off Schilling for the game’s first hit and the D’Backs then manager, Bob Brenly, was livid. He and Bochy got into it. Schilling and Davis got into it. Everybody got into it. It was kind of a dick-move but the logic was sound. Bochy wanted a win and had Davis bunt in hopes that someone would drive him home, I mean they were only down 2 runs. Schilling and Brenly thought he broke an unwritten code of basically laying off when a guy is so close to completing the no-hit bid. This odd ending to a game (that we lost by the way), sparked a few bean balls, hard slides and chirping between coaches, players and commentators on both sides. It felt good and it lasted the whole season. Unfortunately the Diamondbacks finished that year winning the World Series in one of the greatest game sevens ever played. No one cared about the no-hitter anymore or the chirping or the bean balls. The Diamondbacks had accomplished something we never had in a fraction of the time. When the next season began commentators still talked about the Ben Davis bunt, but more as a precursor for the great season that followed. So, taking this whole thing into account I got stuck on a question I had no solid answer for: why can’t the Diamondbacks be our real rival? The components are there: same division, relatively close, both solid franchises and they don’t have a real rival either! Sure, we’ve been around much longer, but that would give us a leg up in this thing. We’ve had more Hall of Famers, our managers played in the same era, we’ve shared GM’s but almost no players and we seem to be consistently close to each other in the standings every year.
This feels right.
Immediately the majority of Padres fans will dismiss this as a dumb idea because we’ve been told we have to hate a team that feels casual about us. It’s like we have to go for the super hot chick that’s a terrible person when there’s a perfectly fine girl with a great personality who’s actually much better for us just sitting there waiting.
So, why are we spending time hating a team that doesn’t hate us back? Because we were raised to do so? Because it’s easier? Because it’s LA? I would venture to say we’re doomed to sit at the bottom of this love triangle because of that last one: It’s Los Angeles. Who cares about the Angels cause who really cares about Anaheim? Phoenix is well…Phoenix and San Francisco is actually a pretty cool city. We hate LA. They’re smug, they’re Hollywood, they made Baywatch. Our city is superior in every single way, except one, and that drives us nuts. But, all this really means is we hate Dodgers fans not the Dodgers. Sure I dislike the team based on the years of indoctrination, which is the same reason I still go to Easter service. However, for my generation and the generations to come it just won’t ever feel real.
Whether we want to admit it or not The Diamondbacks are the natural team for us as fans to despise. And I think if we give this team and city a shot they might just hate us back, and really really mean it.
So, while your yelling at blindly arrogant Dodgers fans who look at you like Ducky from Pretty in Pink, I’ll be sitting on my couch this week chanting over and over again – BEAT AZ!