S Jimmy Rollins had long loved the sound of “Beat L.A.,” the nationwide chant heard in ballparks and arenas directed at one of American sports’ most hated cities.
Growing up in Alameda, his Northern California heritage predisposed him against the way of life south of the Tehachapis. As an adult, Jimmy played shortstop for 15 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. In that position, Rollins chortled in concert with the “Beat L.A.” mob on the banks of the Delaware River during two playoff series wins over the Dodgers.
“Just being from the Bay Area, everything was anti-L.A.,” Rollins said. “We’re not anything like L.A. So anything about ‘Beat L.A.,’ I was with.”
Last December, Rollins found the need to alter his opinion when the Phillies traded him to the Dodgers and Southern California.
Searching for a place to live in the detestable land, Jimmy and his wife, Johari, found suitable accommodations in Beverly Hills. Mrs. Rollins has since informed her husband she has no plans to leave.
“I’m like, ‘No, you just don’t get it,’ me being from the Bay Area,” Rollins said. “But now that I’m out there, I get the people, the L.A. scene, a lot better than I did growing up. It’s really not a bad place. I’m like, wow, I didn’t think I’d like L.A. as much as I do.”
Rollins spoke Tuesday afternoon from the Dodgers’ dugout at AT&T Park in San Francisco, where his new club prepared to engage the defending World Series champion Giants for the first time this year. The Giants entered the three-game series not exactly on a slab, but they had lost nine of their previous 10. Los Angeles, meanwhile, listed by Las Vegas odds magicians as co-favorites to replace San Francisco as national champs, may as well have been hand-carried into the park in golden tents, as once favored by the Siamese monarchy. The Dodgers, after all, had won seven consecutive games.
Giants fans would just as soon see the L.A. club run out of town on a rail, and they had a fabulous time Tuesday night watching their team defeat the Dodgers 6-2. Portions of the 41,386 in attendance first bellowed “Beat L.A.” in the bottom of the second inning, when Brandon Crawford bunted home the first run of the cold and cloudy night.
They picked up the chant again and again as the Giants did most everything right. Tim Lincecum kept the ball down and playable, and the infield turned four double plays. One was a beauty. Shortstop Crawford dove left and to his right flipped the ball from his glove to second baseman Joe Panik, who danced over the flying feet of an onrushing bull named Yasiel Puig to complete the twofer. Justin Maxwell, in a spot start in right field, slid into a wall to make a great catch in the top of the eighth. In the bottom of the inning, Maxwell blasted a shot a couple of first downs beyond the left-field fence.
It wasn’t the first time this season Rollins heard the chant. He got a dose of it in Scottsdale, in the Giants’ first spring training game against the Dodgers.
“I started cracking up,” Rollins said. “I was like, ‘So that’s what it sounds like, huh?’ Now, I’m on this side of it. It’s a fun side. Trust me, growing up it’s something I never would have thought.”
The offseason acquisitions of Rollins and second baseman Howie Kendrick made the Dodgers tougher and their infield better. It added 24 years of major-league experience to the roster. Kendrick, in his nine years with the Angels, compiled a .293 batting average and made one All-Star roster. Rollins, in 15 seasons with the Phillies, was named to three All-Star teams. He won one National League MVP award, four Gold Gloves and one World Series ring.
Rollins hadn’t so much as had lunch with Kendrick before this season but said he and his new double-play partner are hitting it off “like we’ve been playing together our whole careers, the way we talk, the way we think.”
Who knows how long they’ll stay together in Los Angeles? They’re both in the final year of their contracts. The Dodgers have an upcoming shortstop in Corey Seager, who is almost ready. Their likely second baseman of the future, Alexander Guerrero, already is with the big club.
The baseball chemists who concocted the Dodgers included the elements of Rollins and Kendrick in an effort to pour a championship mixture right now. Does that put pressure on them? Not really, Rollins said.
“I wasn’t brought here to be the hero,” he said. “I was brought here to help be the glue, to connect people.”
“Every club should aspire to that, and we happen to be a team that has a legitimate chance to win the World Series,” Rollins said.
One expectation is sure to be audibly fulfilled when the Dodgers and Giants finish their series this afternoon in San Francisco:
Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.