With the Los Angeles Dodgers making a big-time move and bringing in reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer on Friday, the rivalry between LA and San Diego is primed to be the best in baseball in 2021.
So focusing on that heated rivalry, I wanted to dive into what should be must-see TV this year and what could end up being the battle for National League MVP between Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts.
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I know. It’s probably sacrilegious to debate whether anybody could be better than El Nino. But anyone who doesn’t acknowledge someone like Betts, especially when he plays for a division rival is sticking their head in the sand.
Betts, a longtime member of the Red Sox, made quite the first impression on Dodgers fans in 2020, finishing runner-up in the MVP race, just ahead of two Padres in Manny Machado and Tatis Jr. He made it three-straight Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers and his .927 OPS marked the second-highest mark of his career.
He’s a guy who has dominated on both sides of the ball for years now. A four-time All-Star, Betts has been durable, clutch and one of the faces of the game – long before he came to the Dodgers.
Padres fans should hope for a similar career path for Fernando Tatis Jr.
If you look closely, you can find some similarities between the two. But what could tie the two together is the fact that in Betts’ third season, he finished runner-up for AL MVP, earned an All-Star nod and brought home the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. Guess what? Tatis Jr. is entering his third year and is poised to do the very same – at 22, one year younger than when Betts arrived on the national stage.
Tatis is coming off a fourth-place finish in NL MVP voting and he earned his first career Silver Slugger in 2020. The hype is definitely there – and the San Diego shortstop is ready to take over as the face of baseball. He was recently named the cover athlete for MLB The Show: 21 and has a supporting cast that ranks among the league’s best.
Right now, I think you still have to give the edge to Betts if it comes down to it. Not because I think he’ll outpace Tatis Jr. necessarily, but because he’s done it at a high level year-in and year-out for the better part of a decade now. And if we’re being honest, a similar career trajectory for El Nino would be a pretty swell outcome for Padres fans.