Sorry, Angels -- L.A. is, and always will be, the Dodgers' town
Sue: Hey man, you're not from here, alright. You don't know how it is. I grew up in L.A.
Sue: Whatever, man.
LOS ANGELES -- "Whatever, man." That's usually what comes to mind when most in Los Angeles think of Anaheim. As in, "Did you hear the Angels are playing the Red Sox in the ALDS?"
"Whatever, man. The Dodgers are in the playoffs."
Hard as it might have been to believe at almost any point during the season, it is the 84-win Dodgers and not the 100-win Angels who are still in the playoffs. The Angels were eliminated from the postseason on Monday night by the Red Sox but you'll have to forgive the good people of Los Angeles if they gave a big, fat, "Whatever, man" after the game. While there were some in Southern California who dreamed of a possible Freeway Series between the Dodgers and Angels, most Dodgers fans couldn't have cared less what their haloed rivals down south did. In fact, the sheer drama of watching Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers take on the Red Sox in the Fall Classic remains the dream scenario for most in Hollywood.
Even USC football coach Pete Carroll could hardly contain himself when thinking about a Los Angeles-Boston World Series matchup. "Can you imagine if it comes out to be the Dodgers and the Red Sox?" said Carroll. "Are we waiting for that or what? Manny will go freakin' crazy."
The Angels' name may come from Los Angeles, the team's original home from 1961 to '65, but they've always been second-class citizens to the Dodgers. It began when they shared Dodger Stadium, famously referring to the blue and white ballpark as "Chavez Ravine," to the moment they packed their bags and moved 30 miles south to Anaheim, a Mickey Mouse town in more ways than one, filled with tourists and conventioneers.
While the Angels, managed by former Dodgers catcher Mike Scioscia, have been far and away the more successful team this decade -- winning one World Series and four AL West titles while the Dodgers had won just a single postseason game until this year -- their success has hardly registered a blip in L.A. Even the Anaheim Ducks, who have won a Stanley Cup and advanced to at least the conference finals in three of the past five seasons, have a hard time getting anyone outside of Orange County to notice them, despite the Kings missing the playoffs over that same time. The fact is, Anaheim is not Los Angeles, as much as the owners of those teams want it to be. After all, wouldn't you rather own a team in the second-largest city in the U.S., rather than the 10th-largest in the state of California?
Angels owner Arte Moreno went so far as to rename the Anaheim Angels the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2005 in order to attract some more attention from media and advertisers, but the only thing he's done is upset the local fan base, which views Los Angeles and its fans with the same disdain as San Francisco and the Giants. Moreno, however, understands that in the minds of Angelenos anything more than an hour drive outside of Los Angeles might as well be San Diego or San Francisco. It was one of the main reasons why thrifty Clippers owner Donald Sterling turned down an opportunity to move to Anaheim about 15 years ago, even though it would have meant sold out crowds at a brand new arena instead of empty seats at the decrepit Los Angeles Sports Arena. How does that old saying go? Location, location, location.
On Monday, a few hours before the Angels were to face the Red Sox in Game 4 of the ALCS, the Los Angeles Times popular and controversial columnist T.J. Simers was in the Dodgers clubhouse talking to Manny Ramirez. Not only was Simers or fellow columnist Bill Plaschke not at Fenway Park for the Angels game, but neither had covered the first two games of the ALDS in Anaheim. They were in Chicago with the Dodgers as the Times blew out coverage of the Dodgers in the NLDS, nearly pushing the Angels off the front page of the sports section on Thursday after both played their respective first games.
"Are you telling me that we actually put the Angels out front?" asked Simers. "It must have been a mistake. What's happening? One of our editors maybe moved to Orange County. It's a Dodger town. I'm sorry. That's just the way it is. The Lakers will be out front in some cases and they're not even playing regular-season games yet. Hats off to the Angels, but they're just not L.A.'s team."
He's right, they're not. The Angels may have experienced some success in recent years, but prior to 2002 they had only been to the post-season three times. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have made it to 15 postseasons and won five World Series titles during their 50 years in Los Angeles.
"You have to remember people in this town grew up passing the Dodgers from one generation to the next," said Simers. "This is L.A., this is not Orange County. This is about folks who grew supporting one team as a kid and they are loyal to the Dodgers. The Angels are something that happens down south. No one is upset about the Angels. They're just the Angels. No one thinks about them."
The apathy toward the Angels spread into the Dodgers clubhouse, as many players admitted they hadn't been following the Angels and didn't really care how far they got in the postseason. "We're not really worried about the Angels, we never have been," said Matt Kemp. "They're the Los Angeles Angels, but we're the Los Angeles Dodgers. We've always had the support of the city and the best fans in baseball, and now we just want to win them a World Series."
Tommy Lasorda, swinging a bat in the dugout as the Dodgers worked out on Monday, simply laughed when asked for an explanation of why the Angels have never been able to crack the Los Angeles market despite their recent success.
"The only Angels are up in heaven," said Lasorda. "And they're all ex-Dodgers."