Like most sports, the best rivalries in baseball are inter-divisional. It takes a lot for two teams that only play a few times a year to develop a genuine disdain for each other. Heated battles are one thing, but for an authentic rivalry to develop between fan bases, there has to be something more. We’ve seen it in the American League in recent years with the Yankees and Astros, and now something similar — perhaps even better — is developing in the National League.
From the Braves’ perspective, hating the Dodgers is effortless. They are the evil western empire. Whoever they want in free agency, they get, but it’s more than that. They also might be the best in the league at drafting and developing talent, which is a primary reason why they’ve been able to maintain such a high level of success over the last two decades.
When the Braves made it to the postseason for the first time since 2013 in 2018, it was the Dodgers waiting for them in the divisional round, and they welcomed Atlanta to playoff baseball. Outside of one spectacular moment from Ronald Acuna, Los Angeles dominated the Braves, winning the series three games to one.
Two years later, the teams would meet again, this time in the NLCS. The Braves were no longer newbies, as they were coming off their third straight NL East title and first two playoff series wins since 2001. The monkey was off their back, and they played like it, winning three of the first four games of the series. But the Dodgers responded, taking the final three games on their way to their first World Series (Mickey Mouse) title since 1988.
In order to really have a rivalry, both sides have to win. Entering last season, there was no reason for the Dodgers to look at the Braves as anything more than their little brother. That’s not the case anymore. The two teams would meet again in the NLCS, and we all know the result. Once again, the Braves took three of the first four games, but this time they were able to avoid a meltdown, sending the Dodgers packing in six games on their way to their first World Series title since 1995.
But still, in order to really be considered one of the best rivalries in baseball, there has to be more than just epic postseason series. There needs to be real bad blood between the teams or fan bases. I’m not really sure that existed before the last postseason, but there’s no questioning beating the Dodgers and vice versa will mean a little something more this time around.
The elephant in the room is Freddie Freeman, who chose to sign with the Dodgers this offseason after 12 seasons with the Braves. That’s left Atlanta fans with a sour taste, but it seems like Freeman isn’t too fond of how the relationship ended either. Without ever reaching out to Freeman, Alex Anthopoulos pulled the trigger on a trade for A’s first baseman Matt Olson, who then immediately signed an eight-year extension with Atlanta. In a blink of an eye, Freeman’s Braves’ career was over, and it wasn’t even his decision.
Atlanta adding long-time Dodger Kenley Jansen to their bullpen should only add more fuel to the fire, but one of the most underrated parts of this developing rivalry is the insufferable LA media. I’m not sure who told the LA Times their shit doesn’t stink, but their pompous attitude throughout the last two National League Championship Series could not be anymore insufferable. Nobody cares that you live in Los Angeles, nobody cares that you pay more in taxes than Adrian Peterson does in child support, and nobody wants to read your shitty articles belittling southern culture. The only thing that matters is holding the trophy up at the end, something the Dodgers haven’t done in a legitimate season since 1988.
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