18 June 2007

The Battle for the LA Fan

by Joshua Worley

Having just endured the end of a 5-1 season series victory by the Angels over the Dodgers, I decided to tackle another battle of these LA rivals. This time, it's a question of which of these teams a baseball fan living in the LA metropolitan area should choose as his or her favorite team. Twenty years ago, ten years ago, even five years ago, the answer to this question would have been obviously the Dodgers. But the Angels have clearly closed the gap, to the point that the outcome of this battle is in doubt. I believe that overall both franchises are top-rate, so really the prospective fan can't lose, whichever choice is made. Still, which is the better choice? Is the unthinkable possible, another Angel victory over the Dodgers?

I've broken the battle between the teams down into several categories, not all of equal importance. I've tried to give out fair grades to each team in each category, though of course I am a Dodger fan.


Stadium

Dodgers -- A-
Angels -- B

I haven't been to Angel stadium, which makes it hard for me to give it a grade. By most accounts it's a nice place to watch a ballgame, and how can I really know until I've been there? Nevertheless, it's a no-brainer to give the Dodgers the advantage here. There are three important factors to keep in mind. 1) Since it was built Dodger Stadium has been the gold standard of ballparks, especially of non-retro ballparks. 2) Angel stadium has those stupid rocks in the outfield. 3) Angel Stadium is in the middle of Anaheim, while Dodger Stadium is in Chavez Ravine, with mountains visible beyond the outfield walls.

Dodger stadium gets dinged slightly because of all the extra advertising now, as well as difficulties in parking and navigating the food lines.


Announcers

Dodgers -- A
Angels -- C-

I have to wonder why anyone would watch the Angel version of the telecast when the Angels and Dodgers play, when they could be listening to Vin Scully instead. It's not as if Vinny is a homer, either. He calls the action simply and directly, and never makes anything about himself. He tells wonderful stories, and also knows when to be quiet and let the game and the crowd noise tell the story itself.

I can deal with Physioc and Hudler, I guess. I'll occasionally watch the end of a close Angel game and not feel an irresistible urge to mute them. They're like most announcing teams these days: the loud annoying homer and the stupid, goofy analyst.

Announcing is easily the Dodgers biggest advantage. But ... how long will this advantage last? This is a tough thing to even write, but realistically, will Vinny be calling Dodger games 10 years from now? I wouldn't put it past him, but still, it would be misleading to not mention that at some point we may be talking about Charlie Steiner and Steve Lyons as the primary Dodger announcers, and then this category becomes more or less a toss-up, more about personal taste than anything else.


Tradition

Dodgers -- A
Angels -- C

Maybe I've underestimated Angel tradition, but it would be pretty goofy to claim they have the Dodgers beat in this category. It's only starting in mid to late 70's that the Angels could begin to lay claim to any sort of tradition that would resonate for any but the most hardcore fans, and the Dodgers of the 70's and 80's clearly beat the Angels in the same timeframe. Prior to the 70's it's all Dodgers.

Another factor in tradition is that the Dodgers have a great, long-term rivalry with the Giants of San Francisco that doesn't depend on both teams being successful. The Angels are building a good rivalry with Oakland, based mostly on their parallel runs near the top of the AL west. But if one of these teams isn't playing well, will Angels vs A's still have much juice? I doubt it.


Recent Success

Dodgers -- B-
Angels -- A-

The Angels clearly have the Dodgers beat here, with the 2002 World Series Title being exhibit A, though I will say that it's pushing it a bit to call that recent history. The Dodgers have usually been a winning team in their last six years, including playoff appearances two of the last three years. Unlike the Angels, they haven't done anything in the playoffs. Both teams are doing well so far this season.


Future Success

Dodgers -- B+
Angels -- B+

Both clubs have a lot of good young players in the pipeline. Which team has the better prospects depends on who you ask in my experience, so I'm calling this a draw. I think the Angels have more hitting and the Dodgers more pitching on the way, but one really never knows how prospects will work out before-hand. Both teams have fairly large payrolls as well, and are willing to go after free-agents. Both LA teams should be competitive in the near future.


League

I'm not going to give grades here, but merely point out the obvious: some people like the DH, and some people can't stand it. I hate it, so there you go. I've found in talking to people that fans of National League teams nearly always prefer not to have the DH, while fans of American League teams more often than not support the DH but are more likely to disapprove of it than NL fans are to approve of it.


Ownership

Dodgers -- C
Angels -- A

Right here is the heart and soul of the argument in favor of the Angels. By acclamation Arte Moreno is the best owner in baseball, or tied for the best, anyway. The fans love him, and he seems to understand that serving the fans is the best way to build and maintain a great franchise. Ownership is really the only area in which I'm jealous of Angel fans. The only mark against Moreno is his ridiculous name change to the Angels, though I will admit there are solid economic reasons to re-emphasize the Angels presence in the greater LA area market.

I think McCourt is improving, and to damn him with faint praise he could have been a lot worse. The Dodgers still play at Dodger Stadium, Vinny is still announcing, payroll has not been slashed, and the on-field team seems to have a bright future. On the other hand, two General Managers have been unfairly fired, Ross Porter was fired, ticket prices and parking prices have been raised by obscene amounts and the transition to the new parking system was handled atrociously.

The thing is so many of the other categories can be influenced by what kind of owner you have. If you can't trust the owner, then as a fan you're in deep trouble. Angel fans never have to worry. Dodger fans do, though. Nevertheless, I didn't give McCourt an F. He hasn't committed an unforgivable sin like leaving Dodger Stadium. He'll keep getting his chances. What other choice do Dodger fans have?


Uniforms

Dodgers -- A
Angels -- B-

I think the lettering the Angels use is ugly, but I know some people like it so I won't hold it against them. But there's no competing with the classic, elegant look of the Dodgers with the script blue lettering and the small red number on the front of the uniform. I like both teams' cap logos: both are simple, yet immediately recognizable.

One problem with the Angels is that they've changed their uniforms a lot over the years, which hurts the tradition of a team, the connection to the past. Look at old pictures of Dodgers, even from Brooklyn, and it's basically the same uniform. Not so with the Angels. The worst Angels uniforms ever were likely the pre-Moreno versions that had the Angel wing on the A in Angels, and the powder blue home plate in the logo. Just awful. If they were still in these unis they'd get an F in this category.

I know some might scoff at this category being important, but the uniform is sometimes the only constant of a team from year to year with player movement. The uniform is how the team presents itself to the world, and the fan will likely be wearing small bits of the team uniform. It matters.


General Manager

Dodgers -- C
Angels -- C+

Both GMs gave out inadvisable long term deals to centerfielders, but right now Colletti's seems much worse. Stoneman has often been criticized for being unable to make the big trade, while Colletti has usually been praised for not trading away the promising kids. Both seem to adhere to the high batting average philosophy of offense, though this doesn't mean that they don't want power hitters or high OBP hitters either. Neither is as bad as Bowden or as good as Beane. I give Stoneman the slight edge here just based on Pierre vs Matthews, and because of Colletti's pattern of buying high and selling low.


Summary

By my grades, the Dodgers win 4 categories, while the Angels win 3, with one draw and one undecided. But this raw tally is meaningless. It really comes down to what is important to the fan making the decision. Neither team has any real deal-breakers in any category: for instance, neither team plays its games in a dump like Tropicana, or has Jim Bowden as its GM. The Dodgers are more likely to appeal to a fan with a real appreciation for the history of the game, while the Angels are more likely to appeal to the fan who doesn't think beyond the current decade. The trump card for the Dodgers is that they offer the better experience over the airwaves and probably* at the stadium. The trump card for the Angels is their owner, and the trickle-down effect from the owner. I know that some would now say that the fan experience has become better at Angel Stadium, and this is because of Moreno and McCourt. *( the owner effect is why I said probably )

I'm not willing to say that McCourt has failed yet, that he can't turn things around and on balance become a good owner. He's so far avoided the worst pitfalls. So based on a future about as bright as the Angels future, and their clearly superior history, the Dodgers still come out ahead.

But not by much, and not at all for some people, and that's okay. LA is big enough and diverse enough for two great franchises to co-exist.

2 comments:

damien said...

I agree right now the Angels seem to have a great team.I don't care much for grades on these things but when it comes to ownership, what the hell makes Moreno so good? His biggest praise is he lowered beer prices! He promised a BIG BAT and didn't get one, where is the media outrage for not spending the money for that big name? The McCourts are not perfect but I think they get a bad rap because they came in on the heels of the FOX administration who in a matter of a few years distroyed decades of tradition and trust between fans and the orginization. The McCourts took a flyer on a young GM (DePodesta) who made bad moves but the McCourts realized it and ran him out of town. He also is bring back former Dodgers to be involved and restore some tradition.Until Moreno accomplishes something lets not call him a great owner, remember he has just as many post seasons under his belt as the McCourts.And just as many rings!

Erin said...

Does it matter at all that Anaheim is not Los Angeles? For my money, you might as well be debating whether someone should be a Padres' fan or a Dodgers' fan. This debate isn't even worth having, even if the Angels are trying to convince all of us that they really are in Los Angeles. It's a marketing ploy, plain and simple. If you're from Los Angeles, and want to root for a baseball team, you pick the Dodgers. If you live in Orange County, pick the Angels. It's not tough.

The whole thing is insulting to real fans of both teams, as far as I'm concerned.

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