I've been to a lot of great Giants/Dodgers games - one of my first five games as a human being was the Joe Morgan game, for one - but there will always be a special place in my heart for the game after Raul Mondesi was arrested for driving drunk. I'm not a big fan of hecklers that get personal, like the ones who were all over Chuck Finley when he was having domestic issues with Tawny Kitaen. But drunk driving is the exclusive province of morons and is totally fair game. The strains of "What's a matter with Mondesi? HE'S A DRUNK!" can still make me smile close to a decade later.
Why hate the Dodgers? Logically? You got me. They're just a silly little sports team in a silly little sports world. The corollary, though, would be "Why get emotionally invested in the Giants?" There isn't a logical answer. But if you're going to pick one, the other has to follow. If you love the Giants, you hate the Dodgers. One without the other is like only believing in half of the theory of gravity.
The Dodgers were good enough to make the playoffs season, but they didn't really improve too much over the offseason. They lost J.D. Drew, which isn't a minor thing. Colletti has a touch of the Giants' rookieophobia, and blocked James Loney and Matt Kemp; the difference is that the Giants never really had any good reasons not to have it.
Still, it's a good team. I don't trust Andre Ethier to be much better than he was in the second half (.277/.337/.429) of last season, and I don't trust Nomar to stay healthy. I'm hoping Jeff Kent finally ages and Jason Schmidt is the same player he was in the last months of 2006. But looking at the sum of their parts, it's a good and deep team with a lot of movable parts on offense. Luis Gonzalez plays the outfield like old Mr. McGregg - with a leg for an arm, and an arm for a leg - but he still gets on base and hits a good amount of doubles. Wilson Betemit is still just 26. Just about every position player has a tangible upside. Even Juan Pierre could have one of those wacky years where he hits .330.
Schmidt isn't exactly a sure thing, but he's a sickening bargain in today's market. Schmidt, Derek Lowe, and Brad Penny could all fall on their face, but there aren't too many trios in the NL you'd prefer to go into a season with. Chad Billingsley and Randy Wolf are a pair that would be nice to have in the back of almost any rotation. It isn't a rotation that is a clear favorite over the Giants or Padres, but it's a good one.
The Dodgers also have some interesting arms in the bullpen, and some hard-throwing youngster from deep in their system could surprise the league. Some of the veteran arms could come through as well.
I'm hoping the team will fail. I can sketch out about three hundred different ways they can. Wolf pitches five innings, Schmidt is a 4.80-kind of mess, all of the rookies that helped last year go the way of Ron Kittle; those kinds of things aren't out of the question at all. I just wish I could guarantee a lack of success, but I can't. It isn't a bad team. Evil, yes. Bad, no.
The same could have been said about the 1997 Dodgers, though. I concede nothing.
Lineup rank in the NL West: 1st
Rotation rank in the NL West: 2nd
Bullpen rank in the NL West: No idea