So far, both L.A. teams are winning

The Angels' name change has elevated the level of the rivalry with the Dodgers and its fans to absurd proportions.

Updated: June 9, 2005, 7:59 AM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

Rivalries are supposed to grow through great games and on-field squabbles.

Not name changes.

But Angels owner Arte Moreno's prerogative to call his team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim has undoubtedly elevated the level of the rivalry with the Los Angeles Dodgers and its fans to absurd proportions.

It started last year, when the Angels encroached on what had traditionally been considered Dodgers territory. Los Angeles landmarks were virtually branded with the Angels' logo in the team's television advertising in an unabashed effort to try to steal some of the Dodgers' strong market share.

It picked up in January of this year, when Moreno fought hard to replace Anaheim with Los Angeles. Although he lost some of his fight – the city of Anaheim successfully won a stake in the team's new name by pointing out that it was a requirement of the team's lease with the city – getting any part of Los Angeles in the name seemed to leave a bad taste in the mouths of those who root for the blue and white.

In press releases, Dodgers officials have refused to call their area rival the Los Angeles Angels, and fans won't see "LAA" on the Dodger Stadium scoreboard. This weekend, when the teams meet in interleague play, those who root for the Dodgers can be identified by shirts that say, "This is LA Baseball," or by sporting paraphernalia with a more jabbing phrase: "The Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles." All while a bill waits to be approved in the state senate that would require the Angels to place a disclaimer on their tickets and ads that says they actually come from a city 25 miles south of Los Angeles.

Moreno's idea was that the Los Angeles name, which the Angels last had in 1964, would help the team market itself better – the cachet of the big city perhaps adding value to sponsorship deals, a greater television deal and even more fans in the seats.

And maybe it has. The Angels are averaging a team-record 40,520 fans per game and already have drawn more fans in 19 games than they drew for the entire 1972 season, one of their worst years ever. But a battle is defined as having a winner and a loser. In the moniker war, though, both teams are winning.

Last year, each team drew three million fans, something the New York Mets and New York Yankees figure to do in the same year for the first time this season. And the Dodgers and Angels should do it again this year, with the Dodgers averaging a franchise-record 46,077 fans per game and on pace to obliterate its single-season record (3.6 million in 1982).

The ticket-count results in the Los Angeles area prove that there are enough fans to go around.

That should be the case in Chicago, too, where the White Sox have had successful seasons at the box office when they're competitive. If the Cubs played in a 55,000-seat Wrigley Field, perhaps an argument could be made that Cubs fever hurts the chance of the Sox to sell a seat on the South Side. But Wrigley Field has the second-smallest capacity in the majors. Still, the White Sox's blistering start has not exploded the cash registers. The team actually is putting less fannies in the seats per game (22,412), a decline of 8.3 percent over last year.

And then there are those areas that might not be able to fully support two teams – like the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. megalopolis.

This season, eyes are on the Orioles, who are atop the American League East and have the majors' second-best record behind the White Sox. Orioles owner Peter Angelos received a piece of a newly formed TV sports channel after claiming that putting the Expos in Washington, D.C., would cannibalize his team's efforts to make a buck. Although the Birds and the Nationals won't be playing this weekend, it's worth noting that the Orioles are averaging 28,812 through their first 22 home games. That's 27 fewer fans than they were averaging at this point last season.

Maybe a future team called the Washington Orioles of Baltimore is in order.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter