And then, the Dodgers got involved. Having already lost out in their bid to sign outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who wound up going to the Chicago Cubs, and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who wound up staying with the Cubs, the Dodgers made a last-minute push for the speedy Pierre – even though he bore no resemblance to the middle-of-the-order power bat they were looking for. Knowing that their last-minute push was almost a too-late push, the Dodgers came up with an offer that blew away anything the Giants were willing to give Pierre. The result was a five-year, $44 million contract that Pierre signed Nov. 24 and a happy home for a guy who has always been one of the game’s happiest players anyway. “The Dodgers were an intriguing team, number one because of the weather,” Pierre said. “But it was also because they had a guy like Rafael Furcal.” Before being traded to the Cubs before last season, Pierre spent three years with Florida, where he and fellow speedster Luis Castillo combined to form a rare but lethal speed combination at the top of the Marlins’ lineup. The result was that the two fed off each other, served as dual catalysts for the Marlins’ offense and played a key role in the club’s run to a World Series championship in 2003. Pierre recognized almost immediately that he and Furcal could form a duo just as dynamic. Add that to the fact the Giants’ offer no longer was competitive, and Pierre was headed to Los Angeles. That left the Giants to sign veteran Dave Roberts, the former Dodgers center fielder and UCLA standout. Pierre and Roberts are similar players. Each one is a left-handed, top-of-the-lineup hitter who possesses little power and a weak throwing arm. Each one uses speed on the bases and in the outfield as his primary weapon. But Pierre is five years younger, a little faster and has a slightly higher career on-base percentage. Roberts, on the other hand, is a whole lot cheaper. The Giants got him for three years and $18 million – just more than half what they were prepared to give Pierre. So, while this weekend’s showdown will feature many subplots – the rivalry, Barry Bonds’ home-run chase, the return of Jason Schmidt (he isn’t scheduled to pitch) – alesser storyline will be the comparison of those two center fielders, which could provide an early indication of which team got the best deal. From his point of view, Pierre clearly got the best deal for himself. “I’m happy here, and that’s the No. 1 thing,” he said. “I knew a couple of the guys who were already here. I just liked the way everybody went about their business in spring training. It’s a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. They welcomed me here. For at least the next five years, and hopefully beyond that, I’m going to go out and play my heart out for the Dodgers organization.” Pierre’s arrival comes at aperfect time for the Dodgers, who are dedicating this season in part to the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. Although he has a slighter build, Pierre, when viewed from a distance, looks remarkably similar to Robinson in a Dodgers uniform because of the way he wears it: the bottom of his pant legs pulled high on his calves, which not only reveals solid blue socks underneath but also creates a baggy effect in the upper part of his uniform pants. Pierre said while his look goes almost unnoticed and is rarely commented on by others, it is fully intentional. It is his personal tribute not only to Robinson, but to all the players from the old Negro Leagues. “I usually wear my pant legs pulled all the way down in batting practice,” he said. “But when it’s game time, I always pull them back up.” Somehow, that look just wouldn’t have been the same in orange and black. [email protected] (818) 713-3675160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SAN FRANCISCO – Juan Pierre was always going to be at AT&T Park tonight, patrolling the stadium’s cavernous center field in the opener of a three-game series between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. His first career dance with free agency was always going to bring him here, for the latest renewal of one of the game’s classic rivalries. It’s just that he was supposed to be wearing a Giants uniform. “I don’t even want to get into that,” Pierre said. “They were a team that was talking to me, and I’ll leave it at that.” In fact, by the middle of last November, Pierre’s free-agent flirtation with the Giants had gone far beyond talking. It had almost reached the point of agreement on what reportedly would have been a three-year, $30 million contract.