Column: Tired of ‘Let’s Go Dodgers’ at Petco? Bring it, San Diego
You say you want a rivalry? Bring it, San Diego.
Bring it Friday, when you can watch your Padres play a postseason game at Petco Park for the first time in 16 years. Bring it Friday, because your Padres deserve to play a home game in front of a home crowd.
You cannot unilaterally declare a rivalry. It is not a rivalry when the visiting team is serenaded by chants of “Let’s Go Dodgers” — long chants, loud chants — in the home ballpark.
The last time you could see the Padres play a postseason game at home, your leadoff hitter was Dave Roberts. He played for your team. He coached for your team. He lives in your county.
“The little brother narrative is real,” Roberts said.
On Thursday, the Padres’ team store was fully stocked with Manny Machado and Juan Soto shirts. I thought, maybe, the Padres and their fans had decided to focus on the postseason, not the Dodgers. But an employee told me the “Beat LA” shirts already sold out.
Dodgers opt to go with a de facto bullpen game for the pivotal Game 3 of the NLDS against the Padres, with starter Tony Gonsolin on a pitch count.
Roberts manages the Dodgers now. He delights in the Dodgers fans that, truth be told, aggravated him when he played here.
“It always seemed like the Dodgers were always well-represented,” Roberts said. “It was certainly frustrating at times.
“But, on the other side now, you feel good when you go down there, because you know you’re going to get support.”
This should not be. You have the best ballpark in Southern California. You have the best ballpark food in the major leagues. You have an owner who refuses even to acknowledge his team plays in a small market, much less use that an excuse not to compete with the Dodgers.
You have Machado and Soto, Yu Darvish and Josh Hader and Blake Snell and, soon, the returning attraction that is Fernando Tatis Jr. You have hometown hero Joe Musgrove throwing a no-hitter. You have a constellation of some of the best stars money can buy, and you have no other major team here to support.
In 2021, the Padres dangled a carrot before you: Please don’t sell your tickets to a Dodgers fan, and we’ll give you a gift. The Padres appealed to you: We have presented you with a terrific team; please come on out and enjoy it.
“We’ve never really thought about it from the perspective of how to deny entry to a Dodgers fan,” Padres chief executive officer Erik Greupner said then.
For this series, the Padres thought about it from the perspective of how to deny entry to a Dodgers fan. The Padres said they would not sell tickets to anyone from Los Angeles County, or anywhere else beyond San Diego County and a selected group of nearby areas. If they had, the Padres said, the tickets would be revoked.
I wanted to ask Greupner to explain how effective that policy could be. He was not available for comment, a Padres spokesman said.
Whether you consider that policy brilliant or embarrassing likely depends on whether you live north or south of Route 74, roughly the dividing line for permission to buy tickets from the Padres.
Whether that policy will be a success depends on you, Padres fans.
“Yes, you can probably make a ton of money on selling those tickets,” said Tony Gwynn Jr., who played for the Padres and Dodgers and now broadcasts for the Padres.
“However, one of the biggest gripes of San Diegans is that L.A. fans come in and saturate the building. Well, they don’t have that opportunity if you’re not giving up your seats.”
You could pay for much of your 2023 season ticket by selling this weekend’s tickets to Dodgers fans. On Thursday afternoon, StubHub showed standing room tickets for Friday’s game selling for at least $225 each, with seats on the field level starting at $315 near the foul poles and more than $500 between the bases.
Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger struggled at the plate and saved two runs in Game 2 of the NLDS against the San Diego Padres but will be benched for Game 3.
However, the Padres are optimistic you will show up, not cash in. The Padres sold almost 3 million tickets this season, fifth in the majors. The Padres outsold the New York Mets, a 101-game winner that plays in the largest market in the league.
Snell, the pitcher who starts Friday for the Padres, said he expected the crowd to be “crazy.”
“I think we’re going to see something we haven’t really seen there before,” Gwynn Jr. said.
Crazy is good. The next championship your city wins will be your first, and your Padres — like the Dodgers — are 10 victories away.
It would be so much fun to turn this into an actual rivalry. Bring it, San Diego.
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