Why aren't the Los Angeles Dodgers easier to hate?

Hi! - Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals send Joe Kelly to face the $200 million men in Game 1.

For a team that cost $200 million to put together, the Los Angeles Dodgers are surprisingly likable. Usually that happens when an expensive team collapses under the weight of its own injuries and becomes, in practice, a cheaper one, but even though they found themselves starting Skip Schumaker in center field in the NLDS that's not it.

It's not (just) Vin Scully, either. It's just an expensive team that happens to have a lot of likable—if also hatable—players on it: Yasiel Puig, whose start was absurd enough to mask a .214/.333/.452 September; Zack Greinke, who remains fun to watch even as his interviews have gotten less hilarious and more spiky; an inexplicably motivated Hanley Ramirez. You can tell, somehow, that they're not good at being the Yankees yet; they're trying their best to be the National League's hated oligarchs, but they still need 20 starts from Chris Capuano and a career-high on-base percentage (.331!) from Juan Uribe.

In the regular season, then, they never had that ruthless-automatons feeling that makes an expensive team into an expensive team worthy of our fear and loathing.

Which is where the postseason comes in. The Dodgers are built for the postseason, in the latter-day-Phillies parlance of the word, and consistent postseason success (as the Phillies and Cardinals have both learned) is a good shortcut to universal revulsion from us the blog-reading public, who craves 1) their team winning 50-0 every time and 2) barring that, as much novelty as possible.

As if to get straight to our most pressing anxiety, as Cardinals fans, these Dodgers are also set up for the NLCS—Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Hyun-jin Ryu, one after the other, followed up with midseason acquisition Ricky Nolasco. Greinke and Kershaw give the Cardinals a significant advantage

There's not much the Cardinals can do about Greinke and Kershaw, but Hyun-jin Ryu gets even deeper into the collective Cardinal-fan psyche: Despite a mediocre start in the NLDS, the Dodgers have given every indication that they plan to start their rookie-of-the-year candidate again in Game 3. Meanwhile, the Cardinals just haven't said anything about Shelby Miller, who seems as essential to the Cardinals' postseason plans as Jaime Garcia at this point.

If Mike Matheny knows more than I do about Miller's health... then Miller probably shouldn't be on the roster. But all we can say from here is that Miller was basically the same good-ERA-bad-peripherals pitcher down the stretch as Joe Kelly, and before that he was an actual great pitcher.

I don't like that the Dodgers remind me of that. This newfound sense of self-loathing is not quite enough to make me hate them, but it's a start.

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