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Goodbye, Super Bowl, hello ... baseball? In dead of winter? Well, yeah

Football's over, and L.A. fans' usual transitions to spring—Lakers, UCLA hoops, etc.—lack sizzle. Enter Dodgers, and Angels. It's a baseball town now.

February 03, 2014|By Bill Shaikin
  • In a few weeks, the boys of summer (clockwise from top, Clayton Kershaw, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig) will begin spring training in the middle of winter.
In a few weeks, the boys of summer (clockwise from top, Clayton Kershaw,… (Los Angeles Times and Associated…)

It's baseball season.

For the sports fan in Los Angeles, the change of seasons used to be as reliable as nature. After the Super Bowl, we would turn our attention to basketball, to anticipate a championship run from UCLA, then from the Lakers.

In June, when Kobe and his friends were done for the season, all eyes would turn to baseball.

Not this year. The Lakers already are done for this season — though, even in their abysmal state, they are still more compelling than the Clippers. Nothing about the Bruins screams "Final Four."

The Ducks are the best team in the NHL, but they needed to play the Kings at a baseball stadium to stir the casual sports fan. The "Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!" chant at Dodger Stadium was cute, and thanks for coming.

The Winter Olympics? Is that Nordic combined and snowboard slopestyle, or Nordic snowboard and combined slopestyle?

No, friends, this is a baseball town, and this is baseball season.

Baseball here has never been this glorious. Fans in other cities could go a lifetime without seeing the star power harnessed here this year.

The Dodgers have baseball's best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw.

The Angels have baseball's best player, Mike Trout.

The Dodgers have baseball's most electrifying player, Yasiel Puig.

The Angels have a three-time most valuable player, Albert Pujols.

The star-studded supporting casts include Josh Hamilton of the Angels — no one ever has gotten more votes for an All-Star game — and Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is showtime.

This is not exactly a secret. The Dodgers and Angels combined to sell 6.76 million tickets last year, the most for any sport in any market in North America.

The New York Yankees and Mets sold 5.42 million tickets.

The Dodgers led the major leagues at 3.74 million, almost as many as the Chicago Cubs and White Sox combined (4.41 million).

The Dodgers won, of course. They got so close to the World Series — two victories away — that the team sold a record number of season tickets last year and will again this year.

The Angels did not win. However, for the first time in three winters, they actually shored up their weaknesses rather than added to their strengths. They hit well last year, even without much from Pujols and Hamilton. If those guys resemble their former selves, and if the pitching holds up, the Angels will be fun to watch.

As bad as the Angels were last year — their worst season in a decade — they still managed a .481 winning percentage.

The Lakers are at .340.

The Angels never have been that awful. The Dodgers? Once, in 1905, when they were known as the Brooklyn Superbas and they had three guys named Doc on the roster.

Little wonder, then, that Magic Johnson announced last week he would stop torching the Lakers on Twitter.

It is not about beating a dead horse. It is about the calendar turning to baseball.

Johnson is part-owner of the Dodgers, and spring training starts Saturday.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

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