The title is partly tongue-in-cheek. The pennant races are heating up and stadiums are full again, so this September actually feels like a real MLB season. And in a year where the Dodgers are trying their darnedest to hoard every big-name player and buy their way to a (sort of) repeat of last year’s 60-game title, the Giants just won’t go away. In fact, they just keep winning, doing so with some serious moxie and late-game drama. They’ve also done their service to all that is good in this country by winning the season series against LA, 10-9.
Beyond the numbers and the standings, however, is a truly wonderful story unfolding. It doesn’t seem like a team with three World Series titles since 2010 would be an underdog. I recognize this and the fact the Dodgers are two behind in that department, with their title being an asterisk anyway. But the way this 2021 Giants team is constructed makes them so easy to root for and like, and it’s the opposite of everything the Dodgers stand for.
First of all, the obvious, low-hanging fruit: the payrolls. Spotrac lists the Dodgers’ mark at $267, while the Giants come in at 10th at just under $162 million. Of course, LA’s number doesn’t even include picking up Max Scherzer because the Nationals are paying him, not the Dodgers. Also consider that Trevor Bauer, who is currently on administrative leave and may never pitch again (hence why the Dodgers just went out and picked up Scherzer like it was nothing), is making more than the entire Orioles, Pirates, and Indians’ rosters in 2021. Overall, Los Angeles has seven players making at least $20 million in salary this season; by comparison, the Giants have just two.
Second, let’s look at recent history. I mentioned San Francisco’s three titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014, but on the flip side, the Giants have made the postseason just once since (2016). The Dodgers have won eight straight NL West titles, but have won just the one asterisk championship. Going back to 2003, the Giants have been remarkably efficient in the postseason, converting three of their four trips into championships (75%); in that same span, the Dodgers are just one for 12 (8.3%).
Third, the players. Okay, I know, the Giants did trade for Kris Bryant at the trade deadline, answering the Dodgers’ massive haul of Scherzer, Trea Turner, and Danny Duffy. But the biggest heroes for the Giants have been the ultimate underdogs this year (no, Albert Pujols is NOT an underdog story because he got cut by the Angels). Darin Ruf has not played a full MLB season since 2016, playing the 2017-2019 seasons in Korea instead. His return has been tremendous, and his biggest moment of 2021 was doubly sweet as his bases-loaded led to another ninth-inning rally against the Dodgers AND sent Max Muncy into what looked like a steroid-induced rage. LaMonte Wade Jr. has had some of the team’s biggest hits in 2021 after playing just 42 games over two seasons with the Twins. Kevin Gausman was aimlessly wandering through his MLB career after he seemed destined for success in Baltimore a half-decade ago and has become San Francisco’s ace in 2021.
The Dodgers are heavily favored to win the World Series and understandably so. For a team facing a 2.5-game deficit with three weeks to go and potentially headed for a do-or-die wild card game, +350 odds might seem too high, but this is one of the best teams — and certainly the most expensive – ever assembled. Show me a Yankees team that went out and picked up this many superstars over a three-year span as the Dodgers have with Betts, Scherzer, Turner (two Turners if you count the re-signing of Justin), Pollock, and Treinen, and I’ll find you a liar who knows nothing about baseball. This is borderline absurd, made even worse by the fact that the Dodgers’ wallet can bail the franchise out for making a terrible investment in such a shady character as Bauer.
What’s amazing is that the Giants can take on such an underdog role after winning three titles in five years, but the Dodgers are so ridiculously loaded that even this year’s overpriced, underachieving Yankees would feel like a Cinderella if pitted against the Dodgers in the World Series (spoiler alert: that isn’t happening because the Yankees are showing their true colors after their improbable 13-game winning streak).
The fact that it’s the Giants and not the overhyped Padres in contention for the NL West title is nothing short of remarkable given that the Giants haven’t even finished above .500 since 2016. The fact that the Giants have stood up to the big, bad, bully Dodgers both on the field head-to-head and also in the standings makes you want to fly 3,000 miles across the country and hug every single member of the San Francisco organization.
How will it all end? Only the Giants can save us now.