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BILL DWYRE

When you add it all up, the Dodgers don't equal the Angels

Both teams had rough years, but when it comes to fan perception, it's the Angels who are doing what it takes to turn the minuses into pluses.

October 18, 2010|Bill Dwyre

The driving distance between Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium is 31 miles. The gap in fan perception of the two baseball teams is light-years.

Let's start with the simple act of selling tickets for next year.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, in charge since 2004, sent out invoices seven days after the end of a miserable season. His public relations chief, Josh Rawitch, characterized the changes as meaning that 60% of Dodgers tickets would be priced the same as last season, and that 35% of single-game and 20% of season-ticket prices would increase.

Angels owner Arte Moreno, in charge since 2003, started putting invoices in the mail Monday for his roughly 6,000 season-ticket accounts, which represent about 25,000 fans. That was 15 days after the end of a miserable season. Moreno's vice president of marketing and ticket sales, Robert Alvarado, characterized the changes for Angels fans as meaning that 80% of season tickets will be "frozen or reduced." He also said, "We don't anticipate same-day ticket-sale price increases," adding that the only increases will come for certain premium-game seats.

Dodgers parking costs $15, Angels $10, with Alvarado saying season-ticket holders will have their parking cut back to $8.

The numbers game could be played on and on.

The Dodgers' average ticket price last season was $28.90, the Angels' was $18.93. The major league average was $26.74. That's according to Team Marketing Report's fan cost index.

Another measure of the FCI is the cost for a family of four, for two adult-price tickets, two children-price tickets, parking, four hot dogs, four soft drinks, two caps, two programs and two beers. That was $221.64 for the Dodgers last year, $131.80 for the Angels. The Angels were fourth-lowest in the major leagues; the Red Sox were the most expensive at $334.78.

In business terms, these are comparable teams.

Once Moreno incorporated "Los Angeles" into his team's name, both are selling in the same marketplace, with amazingly similar success. The Dodgers drew 3,562,320 last season, an average of 43,979 and third in the majors. The Angels drew 3,250,814, an average of 40,133 and fifth in the majors.

Another similarity: When chasing a playoff spot in 2010, both teams stunk.

Yet, the perception is that the Dodgers go into 2011 with a bigger cloud over their heads than the Angels, and it is hard arguing with that. McCourt is embroiled in a divorce so messy it threatens to surpass that of Jack Kent Cooke, who had set the previous standard for marital circuses by a Los Angeles sports owner. Toss Georgia Frontiere in there somewhere too.

Dodgers fans are angry that McCourt and wife Jamie have twice as many homes as decent players. The fans see the future being buried in an avalanche of billable hours.

The Dodgers had a world-class, veteran manager in Joe Torre, who saw the light and left the zoo. The Angels now have the only world-class, veteran manager in town in Mike Scioscia.

McCourt, besieged from all sides by divorce ugliness and fan anger, has stayed underground, even though, in his public position, no matter how difficult, he should be setting his jaw and facing the music all day, every day. That comes with the territory.

Moreno doesn't exactly wander around the press box, slapping backs. But when his team goes numb and the public wants to know what's next, Moreno sits down with The Times' Bill Plaschke and says the four magic words: "I will spend money."

Efforts by the Dodgers to spin the positive on things such as ticket prices are met with cynicism. Less so the Angels. Alvarado characterizes Moreno's approach to his pricing as a "philosophy of looking at affordability that is sensitive to the current economy and communicates loyalty to the fan." He says Moreno's approach is to keep the stadium packed by charging lower prices.

"He wants to build business on tonnage, not exclusivity," Alvarado said.

From this, the Angels say, come things such as being chosen No. 1 in baseball the last six years in ESPN's Fan Friendly Experience poll. This year, the Angels were also No. 1 in that category when all four major sports leagues were included. The Dodgers were 50th, our beloved Lakers 51st.

The Dodgers are a marketing man's dream brand. They live on the lore of Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Tommy Lasorda, Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and dozens more. They were loved in Brooklyn and are loved here. Their fans grumble, but they still show up.

The Angels are the relative new guys in a town that embraces newcomers slowly, especially when the newcomers shoulder their way in from Anaheim. They haven't won nearly as many titles as the Dodgers, but they won their World Series more recently.

The worm turns slowly. Sometimes, not at all.

But if you were a new baseball fan in town, you lived 15½ miles south of Dodger Stadium and 15½ miles north of Angel Stadium and you had to choose, it wouldn't be tough right now.

You'd drive south.

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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