By Spencer Bowen
Full disclosure: Spencer is a die-hard Giants fan. Casey is a die-hard Dodgers fan. Because Antland is a journalistic endeavor full of straight shooters respected on both sides, Casey and Spencer will argue why each other’s team will win the National League West this year. It wasn’t easy on the emotions, but hopefully it’ll be easy to read. Enjoy.
I’d like to address something right off the bat. Yes, I was a public and passionate Giants fan before circa October 2010. I remember Pac Bell’s first year, Barry hit one of his 73 on my birthday, and I still wish Russ Ortiz went one more inning. In fact, I’m told that most of the friends and family members present at my birth (great job, Mom!) abandoned my mother in the delivery room to watch the final game of the 1993 season on some hospital television and that my mom could hear chants of “Giants win, Braves lose” loud and clear. I didn’t have much choice in the matter.
But I’m hear to argue why the Giants will finish second to the Los Angeles Magic Johnsons this fall. A couple of inalienable truths about Los Doyers: Dodger Stadium is pretty great, especially on a Sunday afternoon. Dodger dogs are, indeed, tasty. And LA (like the Giants) has one of the prettiest uniform sets in the game.
And their fans really should arrive before the fourth inning, because barring disaster they’ll be watching a playoff team. And every fifth day they get a truly breathtaking opportunity to watch a witch play baseball.
Given that the Dodgers’ pitcher DL looked like the total population of a small South Pacific island last year and they still won the division, the Dodgers rotation and bullpen appear “v solid,” as the kids say. Giants fans will undoubtably root against him, but the game of baseball will benefit hugely if Julio Urias grows into his prodigious talents. Rich Hill urinates on his own hands, but he still throws a pretty good curveball. Scott Kazmir still exists, and Kenta Maeda is serviceable at his worst and a good no. 2 starter at his best. Kenley Jansen quietly became one of the best closers in the game last year and the Dodgers did well to retain him. And Clayton Kershaw remains the best pitcher in the game. It’s tough to find superlatives to accurately describe Kershaw because he’s usually better than you even think he is. Did you know his ERA was 1.69 last year? One-point-six-freaking-nine! The man is insane, even if I’d still take Bumgarner in a playoff start.
Both the Dodgers’ and the Giants figure to trot out deep rotations. The Giants’ top 3 is stronger, while LA’s full rotation might have the edge if Bochy insists on penciling in the ghost of Matt Cain as his fifth starter. The Dodgers and freshly added frisbee-thrower Sergio Romo have a deeper and more proven bullpen, and most Giants fans know painfully well that relief pitching is increasingly the currency of the realm in the majors. Advantage: Dodgers.
Turns out that Joc Pederson may not actually be that good, but the Dodgers don’t need him to be all-world. However, Pederson’s inconsistency coupled with Andre Ethier’s aging back discs and the mercurial Yasiel Puig in right make the outfield the Dodgers’ most unsettled issue. Manager Dave Roberts has lots of intriguing talent, including the other Thompson brother, but Ethier’s injury clouds the left field situation. It feels like pretty much 50/50 odds that Puig is MVP or gets demoted to the minors. Given the Giants’ own murky left field situation, the Dodgers can get away with some mediocre production until they weather the Either storm. Advantage: push.
Yasmani Grandal is just okay, but otherwise the Dodgers are absolutely stacked. Despite his hairstyle decisions, Justin Turner is annoyingly great at third. Corey Seager is a savant who is still getting better – shockingly. Chase Utley is
really good at dirty slides the perfect middle infield mentor for Seager and now a valuable veteran bench player behind Logan Forsythe. Adrian Gonzalez is one of my all-time favorite players, can hit everyone except Tim Lincecum (which is very much not a problem anymore) and might not even be the first baseman in 2018 because of a 21 year old 6’4” left handed monster waiting in the minors. The Dodgers’ crazy-talented infield is the main reason they will win the West and the main reason why they aren’t going away anytime soon. Advantage: Dodgers
The Cubs are prohibitive favorites in the National League, but a sensible argument can be made that the Dodgers are actually a deeper team. If the Cubs lose one of their top pitchers to injury, all of a sudden the Dodgers can match them player-for-player. In a loaded National League – the Mets, Nationals, Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, and Dodgers can all reasonably aspire to the NLCS – the Dodgers are my pick to win the NL West.
Dodgers. Division champions. Sharpie.