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Ultimate Standings 2010: No. 56

6/30/2010

Last Year's Rank: 104
Title Track: 109
Ownership: 103
Coaching: 78
Players: 79
Fan Relations: 82
Affordability: 52
Stadium Experience: 43
Bang for the Buck: 5

When it comes to marital strife and Southern California baseball, the Padres, not the Dodgers, are the trend setters. Owner John Moores' 2008 divorce sent the once-successful Friars into baseball purgatory. By 2009, attendance (down 28 percent from '06 through '09) and payroll ($70 million in '06 vs. $43.7 million last season) plummeted, and fans clamored for change.

Enter new CEO/owner Jeff Moorad. The former sports agent purchased the Pads before last season and assumed control of the day-to-day operations immediately. Good thing, too. Moorad's payroll this year is still the league's second lowest, but he's thawing the relationship between Padres management and loyalists. Fan costs were slashed nearly 30 percent, with the average ticket ($15.15) discounted 43 percent relative to league average and a reduction in the price of beer (always a hit). After fans complained they were unable to make afternoon tilts, the team moved the first pitch from 12:35 to 3:35 p.m., allowing the faithful to finish (most of) a day's work and still take in a game.

Early returns are positive (as is the 48-spot jump in our Standings). Season ticket holders renewed at an 86 percent clip, the best number since the team moved to Petco in 2004. Meanwhile, the Padres finished 2009 with a sneaky good 39-35 second-half record, and have hung out near the top of the NL West race this year. It all points to a happy marriage in SD for years to come.