LOS ANGELES – Gone are the days of pure hatred, the ones that caused Jackie Robinson to retire rather than play for the rival club, incited epic brawls and sparked beanball wars.

But the rivalry is not dead. Far from it. The fire still exists, as does the success.

Between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, five division titles and three World Series championships have been won in the last five seasons. Each team has had a National League MVP in the last three seasons and a combined five Cy Young Awards in the last seven.

They also play in two of the more gorgeous ballparks in the game—one with an aged charm nestled in a mountainous backdrop, the other a state-of-the-art joint sitting on a bay.

“They have a great place there, but so do we,” Dodgers outfielder Scott Van Slyke said Sunday, two days before the Dodgers’ trip to San Francisco for the teams’ first meeting this season on Tuesday. 

Three World Series runs in five years by the Giants and three consecutive division titles by the Dodgers have given this rivalry a new bounce in its step. But because players shuttle from one team to another on a yearly basis and guys become offseason acquaintances, some of the heat has been extracted from every major league rivalry.

This one is no different, as the two teams have a combined 22 players that are either brand new or relatively new to the rivalry. And aside from Yasiel Puig and maybe Madison Bumgarner, there really are no players on either side that extract authentic venom from the other side, since Buster Posey and Clayton Kershaw are more vanilla superstars.

“Obviously there’s a rivalry,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “You can feel it. There’s intensity that’s different when we play them. 

“As far as players changing teams, that happens all over baseball. So every rivalry is going to feel the turnover. But the fans never change sides.”

And that is where any rivalry truly lives—in the stands, in the bars, among the diehards.

While there have been rare and extreme examples of this rivalry tragically spilling into the fandom—the Bryan Stow beating and the stabbing fatality of Jonathan Denver—fans now argue about things like the Dodgers trying to “buy” a title, or the Giants getting “lucky” in October, and of course, which stadium is a better place to take in a ballgame.

These debates are never truly settled, but Giants fans currently hold the trump card with those three championships that have turned Dodger fans into short-term lovers of the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals over the last five Octobers.

Sitting in the stands of these games, particularly in the outfield bleachers of either stadium, you understand the fervor. While fans usually refrain from wasting beer or souvenirs on players, they loudly spew their hatred with insults aimed at outfielders. And inning after inning, as the visiting team’s fans dare to move about the other team’s stadium, they endure insults unfit for juvenile ears.

“They definitely get a little meaner up there than in other cities,” Van Slyke said of patrolling the outfield at AT&T Park. “And I’m sure their guys hear it when they come here, too.”

The rivalry will evolve in the coming years. The Dodgers and Giants are both pulling in revenue at incredible levels, and while the Dodgers’ ownership has shown a complete willingness to spend it, the Giants’ ownership group has been more reluctant, although they still have a current payroll north of $170 million.

The Dodgers spent part of their last offseason acquiring front-office people to run their club. Andrew Friedman left the Tampa Bay Rays to become the Dodgers president of baseball operations. He then brought in a team of others to fall in line behind him, and together, they are seen as one of the brightest, most analytical front offices in the game today.

Meanwhile, the Giants, known to have a more traditionally run front office, recently reworked their configuration to make former GM Brian Sabean the team’s executive VP of baseball ops through 2019 and former assistant GM Bobby Evans the new GM. Assuming the Giants’ top brass gives the go-ahead to spend more money to keep up with their rivals in the near future, Sabean and Evans will remain the men who determine which players the team will invest in. 

The game’s economics make roster turnover a part of the sport as much as bat flips and beer, but that does not mean rivalries cannot remain heated. And when both teams are fighting for the same kind of success, it is bound to remain as such.

This week’s three-game series in San Francisco is the latest chapter in what has become one of the sport’s best rivalries, on and off the field.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com