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Padres and Dodgers are baseball in 2021

Illustration for article titled Padres and Dodgers are baseball in 2021
Illustration: Getty/AP

It’s something of a surprise that as anticipated as the season series between the Padres and Dodgers was before the season started, the seven games they’ve played have managed to outweigh that anticipation. They’ve lived up to the billing and so much more. Whatever baseball’s problems are on the field, and there are many before we even get to the off-the-field category, MLB can use this rivalry to cover some of that up and also promote everything the game can be.


Of course, as the season rolls on, it might actually be hard to maintain this intensity. Which is a weird thing to say about April games, because they usually don’t look anything like this. Then again, the newness of the season and the Padres still having that new car smell helps jump up the meter. Perhaps the division lead for the Dodgers could grow, or the Padres could settle in comfortably to the wild-card spot, or both, which will take some of the urgency off of this. It’s hard for anyone to keep the intensity in the middle of July or August when there’s not all that much riding on the games.

It would be easy to highlight all the things that are wrong with MLB’s on-field product just through this game, if you were a miserable sod. The teams combined for 32 strikeouts and only 31 hits. Both teams ran through their entire bench before extra innings even started, which the three-batter rule was supposed to take care of. The extra-innings gimmick made for some artificial drama. There were veiled threats from Dave Roberts and Trevor Bauer after the game about Fernando Tatis Jr., as baseball can’t ever truly extricate itself from its caveman past. And this isn’t really a MLB problem, but it also showcased how Dave Roberts manages most games like he’s choking on his own vomit, and possibly someone else’s. Good thing the Dodgers have the most obscenely talented roster and depth in years to overcome that.

But it also has Tatis homering again. It has Dustin May, the Dodgers fifth starter, blowing the Padres away for 10 Ks over six innings. Cory Seager somehow still being the understated baseline of the Dodgers, even with his postseason awards.The Padres’ inability to know when a game is over. If nothing else, the Padres are just going to be a constant side-stitch to the Dodgers for a while.

There’s too much focus on all the things wrong with the game, which ignores that there is a lot right with it. Hey, once upon a time the Celtics and Lakers brought the NBA back from the brink, and they didn’t play 19 times a year. That’s awfully ambitious, admittedly, but baseball needs to dream big if it’s going to pull itself back from its slide into irrelevancy.

We can't be too careful. Two guys in an airport...talking? It's a little fishy.