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MORNING BRIEFING

Dodgers can ignore economy as long as fans keep pouring in

December 04, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

The Team Marketing Report, which tracks the costs of attending baseball games with information provided by most teams, says it cost a family of four last season $229.14 to attend a Dodgers game.

OK, so these are tough economic times, as Jamie McCourt and Ned Colletti have recently told us, so I anticipate an announcement any day now the Dodgers will go easier on families this season.

Twelve dollars for parking, let's say, rather than $15, would be a good start. Parking was $8 when the McCourts bought the team in 2004.

Or, how about soft drinks, which sell on an average of $5 at Dodger Stadium, going for a buck or so less?

An average hot dog -- and aren't they? -- sell for $5 at Dodger Stadium. Why not $4.50?

It cost a family of four to attend an Angels game $140.42 last season according to the Team Marketing Report, or roughly $89 less than what it takes to buy the Dodgers experience.

Imagine a family having to pay $229.14 to watch the Dodgers before Manny Ramirez arrived.

THE ANGELS are raising ticket prices -- the average ticket last season costing $20.78 and now a little less than $22. The Dodgers, with an average ticket price of $29.66, will not raise season ticket prices.

"We're seeing more and more teams remaining static on ticket increases and trumpeting it, even though they raised ticket prices a year ago," said John Greenberg, the baseball expert for the Team Marketing Report. "For example, the Dodgers raised the price on a number of tickets a year ago, in some cases as much as $15 a ticket.

"But you can't very well raise ticket prices every year if you're not going to the World Series regularly, so some teams elect not to raise prices every other year while telling their fans, 'Look what we're doing for you.' "

In the five years the McCourts have been in charge, the cost for a family of four to attend a Dodgers game, according to Team Marketing Report numbers, has increased almost 57%.

Dodgers fans haven't objected, though, more than 3 million every year buying tickets, the quality of the team or the cost of the experience seemingly given little consideration.

But that brings us to the recent comments made by the wife of the owner, the Screaming Meanie, who complained when she first came to town that reporters write down everything she has to say, and the team's general manager.

We begin with the Screaming Meanie, who probably wonders what the poor people are doing tonight.

The other day she stated the obvious: Wouldn't it be better to build baseball fields for kids rather than make rich athletes richer? Later she explained she was just saying it to say it.

Teams in such places as Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have taken it one step further, and rather than talk about it, have refused to pay big money to athletes. And then finished last.

Everyone would like to see more baseball fields, or more of anything to help kids. The Dodgers have been joined by a charitable foundation to build some, and good for them.

But does that mean signing fewer high-priced free agents with the implication that left-over money will then be earmarked for the good of mankind?

It's gibberish, just cheap talk for the sake of a better image. The Dodgers are in the business of attracting fans with a good product on the field, and donations to charity are a wonderful byproduct of it all.

So the Screaming Meanie is out to lunch on this one, and probably at an expensive restaurant, too, but what about Colletti, who is also talking tough economy?

This is where it should get really scary for Dodgers fans.

"It's going to be a fluid situation," Colletti explained in how the Dodgers are going to rebuild. "We weren't the same team after the trading deadline last July, and we're going to be a different team now, then again in March and then again next July."

In short, the Dodgers believe they have discovered the magical formula for success, which is taking advantage of tough times and struggling teams who might be looking to dump good players somewhere down the line.

It worked last season when the Dodgers took on Casey Blake and Ramirez four months into the season, and now with the National League West looking even weaker to date, they know they can probably bide their time until spring training or the trading deadline to once again acquire any missing pieces.

In the past they've been burned at this time of the year, signing Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre and Jason Schmidt to mention a few busts, and so don't be surprised if the Dodgers show more patience and restraint while shopping this off-season.

They will certainly sign some free agents -- those who agree to short-term contracts, but that probably suggests no real big names. Was Jones a real big name when the Dodgers signed him?

OK, so maybe the Dodgers will claim they have added a big name to their lineup when the announcement comes.

But in the meantime, the tough economy is now the Dodgers' ally. They believe it will get them what they want at a price that works in their favor, and no matter how long it takes to wait out the process, they know there will still be more than 3 million fans in attendance in Dodger Stadium.

Won't there?

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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