Pinstripes and Dodgers blues as MLB heads back to its roots

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Sporting Tribune's Doug Padilla writes about the classic battle this weekend between the Dodgers and Yankees in New York.

Forever the younger brother in baseball’s royal family, the Dodgers will head back to their roots this weekend to face the past and take stock of their immediate future.

The Dodgers and Yankees will meet starting Friday where the animosity for one another all began, in New York for a three-game series.

Said Yankees manager Aaron Boone to reporters Thursday: “I think it’s going to be an amazing atmosphere,”

Long considered rivals, even as matchups have been relatively infrequent in the 83 years since they first met, this weekend will mark the first time the Dodgers and Yankees have played each other in consecutive seasons since the 1977 and 1978 World Series.

And in a sign of how big brother has long been the tormentor, the Yankees won both of those World Series. The teams have met for the title 11 times in history and the Yankees have won eight of them.

The Dodgers have had their day, though. The last time the teams met for the title, the Dodgers won it all in 1981. And the only team to pull off a four-game sweep in a World Series matchup between the teams was the Dodgers in 1963.

In 19 regular-season matchups since interleague play began, it is the Dodgers with a 10-9 advantage, although the Yankees have won four of the last five and took two of three at Dodger Stadium last season.

But as much as this weekend’s showdown is a remembrance of the past, it is most relevant as a test of who is, and who might be, the best of the best this season. While the Yankees lead baseball with a .776 OPS, the Dodgers were second at .767.

Entering MLB play Friday, the Yankees had the best record in baseball at 45-19, while the Dodgers were the second best in the National League at 39-25.

Lately, though, it has been all about the Yankees, who are 26-7 since the start of May and currently on an eight-game winning streak, while the Dodgers had put together a 19-12 mark.

Looking forward, the weekend also will serve as a potential World Series preview, with a New York vs. Los Angeles battle expected to be a television ratings bonanza, at lest by this era’s streaming and attention-span standards.

While the last four World Series matchups have been the least viewed since 1973, the highest rated, based on average viewership throughout the series, was the 1987 Dodgers-Yankees matchup that was won by the Yankees in six games. Game 1 of that series is the most watched opener ever at 43.51-million viewers.

A Game 1 in a potential Dodgers-Yankees World Series this season is not likely to hit a mark over 40 million viewers, but it would figure to be a significant upgrade over recent viewership with stars like Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge and Juan Soto all on the field.

That collision of star power will be on the field this weekend, and doesn’t even consider other stars like Freddie Freeman, Tyler Glasnow, Giancarlo Stanton and rookie sensation Luis Gil. In Sunday’s series finale, Glasnow and Gil are expected to face off.

One hiccup for the weekend is that Soto is dealing with forearm discomfort and is scheduled to have an MRI on Friday afternoon. He has not yet been ruled out of any games on the weekend.

It should come as no surprise that all three games of the upcoming series will be available to a national audience. Apple TV will carry Friday’s opener, FOX will televise Saturday’s game and ESPN will carry the action Sunday.

For Judge, the weekend could provide a chance at revenge of sorts. It was during last season’s series between the teams at Los Angeles when Judge tore a toe ligament after meeting up with something of an architectural quirk at Dodger Stadium. A concrete curb runs under the gate to the right-field bullpen and Judge kicked it when crashing into the fence while making the catch on a J.D. Martinez drive.

Judge ended up missing 42 consecutive games, while essentially losing out on a chance to defend his MVP Award from 2022. He was reduced to 37 home runs in 106 games last season after he hit an American League record 62 in 157 games the prior season.

The Dodgers will meet up with a pair of former teammates in left-handers Caleb Ferguson and Victor Gonzalez.

Ferguson was traded for minor leaguer Christian Zazueta (3-0, 1.93 ERA in five rookie league starts) and left-hander Matt Gage (3.48 ERA at Triple-A Oklahoma City). Gonzalez was traded, along with infielder Jorbit Vivas, for infielder Trey Sweeney (nine home runs, 37 RBIs at Oklahoma City).

Despite losing the pair of high-leverage lefties, the Dodgers’ bullpen leads the NL with a 3.07 ERA.

The Dodgers bullpen figures to be tested with the Yankees offense second in baseball with 93 home runs and a .440 slugging percentage. What does not bode well is that the Dodgers committed three errors in an 11-7 victory at Pittsburgh on Thursday and gave up an unearned run.

“I don’t want to go into every play,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “but it was the worst defensive game we played all year.”