Hanley Ramirez, left, and the Dodgers head into 2013 looking to battle the Giants for the N.L. West title, while Derek Jeter and the Yankees may find themselves racing the Red Sox to the cellar of the A.L. East.
The Giants are coming off their second World Series title in three years and the Dodgers recently signed a $7 billion TV deal that has them spending money like the Yankees. The Yankees, meanwhile, are reeling from injuries, and the Red Sox are coming off their worst season in 46 years.
Given the fortunes of the four franchises, one has to wonder if 2013 could represent a tectonic shift in the baseball landscape: Can Giants-Dodgers supplant Sox-Yanks as baseball's premiere rivalry?
Both rivalries have plenty of history. They've featured dozens of Hall of Famers, countless dramatic moments, bloody brawls, epic collapses, and a hatred among the fan bases fueled by provincial contempt.
Since 1995, Sox-Yankees have provided some of baseball's best moments. They finished 1-2 in the standings 11 times, won seven World Series, met in the playoffs three times and dominated sports media.
"I'm sure that L.A.-San Francisco thing is real," said Jason Rosenberg, founder of the blog "It's About the Money, Stupid," who was raised in the '70s when the Yankees owned the Red Sox. "But to compare anything to Red Sox–Yankees, in terms of intensity, regional bragging rights, just sheer disdain for one another... I can’t imagine anything being more fierce."
Jose Ramirez of the "Sox Therapy" blog on Baseball Think Factory thinks the rivalry was at its fiercest in the late '70s.
"In '76-'77-'78, you had not only a really intense rivalry in the standings, but the teams genuinely didn’t like each other," Ramirez said. "You had Fisk and Munson, Lee and Nettles — it was two teams that both on and off the field didn’t like each other. In '03 and '04, as intense as it was, I don’t think there was that true hatred, animosity. I don’t think Jeter and Nomar hated each other."
For all the history between the Sox and Yankees, the Dodgers and Giants rivalry is actually 18 years older. In 1958 the teams crossed the country together, from New York to California, to keep the fire alive. But in recent years, the teams were rarely good at the same time, which impacted the rivalry.
"Over the years, it dulled a little bit," said Craig Vaughn, a lifelong Giants fan and founder of THE San Francisco Giants Blog. "Partly because the Giants weren't very good. And so it wasn’t until more recently, especially this year with the Dodgers going on this unreal spending spree, that we're gonna finally start seeing two teams that are both good at the same time, and that's how real rivalries get going. "
Mike Petriello, founder of Dodgers blog Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness, thinks the recent lack of spark in SF vs. LA is due mostly to what a mess the Dodgers have been—both on and off the field. But he sees the renewal of the rivalry as a secondary concern.
"The Dodgers have huge expectations and even bigger payroll, and I think fans are mostly focused on winning," Petriello said. "And if that means they knock the Giants out of first place, that's a pretty nice ancillary benefit. But I think Dodger fans just want their team to win, I think that's more important than anything else."
Vaughn tries to sounds a similar tune, but the longer he talks, the more it becomes clear that the new-look Dodgers have made this Giants fan eager for the season to start.
"I wouldn’t say it'll be getting better for me personally, but it's gonna be getting better for the fan bases," Vaughn said. "Hopefully starting to rival what the Yankee fans and Red Sox fans get to experience every year. When Hanley Ramirez was trotting around the bases last year after he hit a home run off Romo, doing that stupid eye goggle thing, I still don’t even know what that was, but I was offended by it. I'm looking forward to more feelings of, 'I don't like that guy,' and that's gonna make me want my team to beat them that much more."
It's early yet, but right now it seems likely that come September the stakes will be much higher when the Dodgers head to San Francisco than when the Sox host the Yankees.
Two other factors could lead to the demise of Sox-Yankees and the rise of West Coast baseball: the Toronto Blue Jays and Anaheim Angles. Both have added a ton of talent over the last off-season, and hte Blue Jays are a popular pick to win the A.L East, and many expect the Angeles to go to the World Series.
"Baseball ebbs and flows," Ramirez said. "The A's and the Royals back in the '70s were the pinnacle of baseball, the Dodgers the Orioles — they've all had their time. So right now you'd be naive not to think the way the Giants and Dodgers are doing things they have the means to be an absolute powerhouse out there. I think that has to be acknowledged."