The Dodgers-Mets Matchup Is a Marquee Attraction, and Latinos Will Play Leading Roles

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When baseball fans take a glimpse at the matchups leading up to this year’s Fall Classic, the series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets will be a blockbuster affair that will spike television ratings from coast to coast. Sure, I know the organizations themselves draw from huge sports markets, but these teams have a unique rivalry that is sure to spark an interesting plot.

Back in 1988, the Dodgers and Mets clashed in a memorable seven-game affair packed with intense drama. The Mets had the stacked squad that featured Dwight Gooden, David Cone, and Darryl Strawberry, winning 100 games during the regular season. But Tommy Lasorda’s bunch pulled off a major upset behind iron man Orel Hershiser and a gutsy Kirk Gibson.

This time around, the boys from Queens will be the underdogs against the Dodgers, the Hollywood darlings that bank the big league’s highest payroll, in excess of $271 million. For a club that resides in the Big Apple, the Mets owners look like cheapskates by fielding a team for around $101 million. But forget about the money. The interest that should be savored in this Los Angeles-New York sequel will be the Latino cast in both dugouts. In my view, it will be the performances of Latino participants that will decide which team advances in this tournament.

The Dodgers rely heavily on Adrian Gonzalez, certainly the most famous Mexican-American in Chavez Ravine. But like most veterans at season’s end, Gonzalez is banged up right now with a series of ailments. Yasiel Puig, who storied Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully calls the “wild horse,” is also recovering from injuries that have rained on his parade. Still, we know what the dynamic Cuban can do when he gets hot and he loves the big stage. So does Puig’s countryman Alex Guerrero, the game’s wealthiest pinch hitter. Will the disgruntled Guerrero make a big slash in a cameo role, or will he continue to collect splinters on the bench? It’s also showtime for Yasmani Grandal, the former University of Miami star who is always full of surprises.

Come to think of it, this could be a series dominated by Cubans, especially if the Mets’ celebrated slugger Yeonis Cespedes continues to go yard. New York’s roster, however, like its citizens, is a bit more diverse. Venezuelan rookie Wilmer Flores is also an exciting fan favorite with a powerful bat, and the media loves him because he speaks perfect English. Dominican defensive whiz Juan Lagares is known for his circus catches in the outfield that could tip the outcome of a game. Even Panamanian Ruben Tejada, the Rodney Dangerfield of Citi Field, has been getting some respect lately and he deserves it.

The Mets’ starting pitchers, like the Dodgers duo of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, have been stellar throughout the regular campaign. Aside from Matt Harvey, though, New York’s rotation has scuffled lately. That makes me wonder if 42-year-old Bartolo Colon, the rotund athlete seen in web gem reels, can be the staff savior for a one game spectacle. Colon is definitely a cool cat, but I’m not so convinced about Jeurys Familia. Will the Mets’ flamboyant closer get the postseason jitters, or pass an important final audition?

The story lines are endless when it comes to a Dodgers vs. Mets showdown, and I predict that it will be a dog fight to the bitter end. Forget about buying tickets unless you want to be a scalper’s victim. Just grab a beer, pull up a chair, and enjoy.