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Are the Dodgers the most popular team in the National League?

March 23, 2011 | 11:11 am

The Dodgers posted a losing record last year, for the first time in five years. Manny Ramirez was indifferent, injured and ultimately waived. Joe Torre left a contract extension on the table. The McCourt divorce proceedings enveloped the season, with damaging revelations about how the owners spent money on themselves that might otherwise have gone to improve the team.

Does this sound like the most popular team in the National League? If the standard is the sale of licensed merchandise, the answer is yes.

According to this news release from Major League Baseball, the Dodgers trailed only the (shock) New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the sale of officially licensed products last year.

The Philadelphia Phillies ranked fourth, followed by the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. The Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers rounded out the top 10. MLB did not release rankings for the other 20 teams, including the Angels.

If your initial assumption is that Ramirez jerseys still sold well last year, then guess again. The release also includes the top 20 best-selling MLB jerseys last year, and Ramirez's name is not on that list.

Derek Jeter ranks first, followed by Joe Mauer, Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Cliff Lee and Albert Pujols. The NL West is represented by two players, both from the San Francisco Giants: Tim Lincecum at No. 10, and Buster Posey at No. 19.

On the surface, it would not appear to be good news that none of the Dodger players were popular enough for that list. But the list of team sales rankings offers hope for the Dodgers' future.

If fans are still buying Dodgers gear at a league-leading rate, then even an incredibly turbulent year does not appear to have permanently damaged the team's stature (or brand, as the MBA-types say). When the Dodgers' ownership situation is resolved, and when the team wins again, Dodger blue ought to generate plenty of green.

-- Bill Shaikin