After all, the meeting of the two rivals dates back to their days in New York. So does the Giants' previous World Series title in 1954, before the two teams made the voyage to the West Coast. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have five World Series titles since the move west, the last one in 1988.
But Opening Day means that sort of history is just that -- history. What matters now is the fact that two storied rivals will be hitting the field together to start the 2011 season. They will meet to open the season at 5 p.m. PT Thursday.
For the Giants, it's time to get the feeling that everybody is coming after them, because they are.
"We probably do have a target on our back, but that's a good thing," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Let's go out and defend this championship."
On the mound, two of the game's most exciting twentysomethings will square off, with two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum going for the Giants in his third consecutive Opening Day start, and 23-year-old left-hander Clayton Kershaw taking the ball for the Dodgers in his first assignment in an opener.
Lincecum is entering his fifth season in the Majors, having debuted in 2007 and followed with his two Cy Young-winning seasons. Although 2010 didn't match up in the award category, Lincecum fought through a horrible August to dominate in September and throughout his first postseason.
Kershaw, meanwhile, enters the 2011 season having fully established himself in the Majors, where he debuted in May 2008 at the age of 20. Last year, Kershaw set career bests with 13 wins, a 2.91 ERA and 212 strikeouts.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly actually talked to Kershaw last September about making this start, and Kershaw goes in knowing it's an assignment about which he can be proud.
"I don't take it lightly," Kershaw said. "It's a sign of recognition by the manager, an acknowledgment given to you. It's something I feel honored to get."
The matchup of pitching will give an early glimpse at a key element of the National League West race, which the Giants won by a nose over the Padres a year ago -- with the teams boasting the two best ERAs in the NL taking the division down to the season's final day. The Dodgers focused on solidifying a rotation that is much deeper than Kershaw this offseason, from sewing up Ted Lilly for three years to homegrown Chad Billingsley's contract extension late in spring.
They also managed to snag Juan Uribe from the Giants, taking one of their catalysts in 2010. The Giants countered by signing shortstop Miguel Tejada, hoping he fills voids left by the departures of Uribe and Edgar Renteria.
For the Giants, this begins a tough stretch to kick off the season. San Francisco will play 22 of its first 31 games on the road, including visits to each of its NL West opponents the first three weeks.
"Our schedule is as tough as we've seen in a while," Giants GM Brian Sabean said.
Giants: Opening Day lineup not complete
The Giants had to shuffle their lineup around a little bit with the calf injury suffered by projected starting right fielder Cody Ross late in Spring Training. Ross, who was claimed on waivers from Florida in August and was one of the Giants' top stars in October, will be on the DL to start the season. The Giants were impressed enough with young Brandon Belt's spring that they're putting Aubrey Huff in right and Belt at first to start the season. ... Perhaps as impressive this spring as anyone was Pablo Sandoval, simply by how he fills his uniform. Having dropped a reported 38 pounds with an intensive workout and nutrition regimen this winter, Sandoval enters 2011 in the best condition of his young career. He batted .282 with three homers, four doubles and a triple, leading the club with 12 RBIs this spring.
Dodgers: Mattingly ready for his debut Don Mattingly made it through his first camp as a Major League manager, and now he's prepared to take on the regular season. At the end of the camp at Camelback Ranch, Mattingly was glad to see a healthy end to the spring and felt the Dodgers did what they needed to do in Arizona. "I'm happy with this camp," he said. "We got done a lot of what we wanted to accomplish." ... It appears Mattingly will be going with a platoon of Marcus Thames and Tony Gwynn in left field, meaning it's likely Gwynn will get the Opening Day start against the right-handed Lincecum.
The two rivals last met on Opening Day in 2008, when the Dodgers took a 5-0 victory with left-hander Barry Zito getting the start for the Giants and Brad Penny starting for the Dodgers. Jeff Kent, who played for the Giants for six years before playing for the Dodgers for four, hit a two-run homer in a three-run first inning for the Dodgers. ... The Giants won the season series in 2010, 10-8. ... The Dodgers will visit the Giants during San Francisco's first homestand, April 11-13, after the Giants open their home schedule against the Cardinals.