Monday, February 28, 2005

Bargain Basement Bullpen

The Angels bullpen, widely regarded around baseball as one of the elite, will be one of the lowest paid according to today's LA Times. In today's edition the Times estimates that the entire Angels bullpen will be signed for a total of around $3.5 million for 2005 led by newly acquired set-up man Esteban Yan's $1 million dollar salary but followed closely by Scot Shields' $925,000. Francisco Rodriguez agreed to terms on Monday for his 2005 contract which will pay him $440,000. The Times reported that Brendan Donnelly will sign today for around $420,000 and Kevin Gregg is expected to get inked to a $360,000 contract. Throw-in either Matt Hensley or Scott Dunn at around the major league minimum $316,000 and you have some slick financing that should be the envy of other teams. By contrast, the Yankees will pay their bullpen $24 million with Tom Gordon ($3.75 million) making more than all of the Halo relievers combined.

Even more amazing is the Angel players' attitudes towards their, comparably, meager salaries. K-Rod, when asked if he would prefer if the Angels signed him to a long-term deal now instead of waiting until next off-season said "Of course, I would love to sign a three- or four-year deal, but this is not the right moment," Rodriguez said. "I have to be patient. I can't focus on money right now. I've got to be focused on my job. If I have a good year, the money will come." Huhwhat? Then Brendan Donnelly, a guy who could be expected to have a huge chip on his shoulder for struggling through the minors for ten years before hitting it big with the Angels was quoted thusly by the Times: "Percy said it best — it's not anyone else's fault it took me 10 or 11 years to get to the big leagues," Donnelly said, referring to former Angel closer Troy Percival. "I can't compare myself to anybody. What the Angels are paying me is more than I ever thought I'd make, and it's still a damn good living."

Amen brother. Nice reality check from the primadonnas and swollen egos normally crying about not getting enough. It's nice when someone who lives in the fantasyland that is professional sports still can appreciate that most of us will never see $420,000 a year in our entire lives and if we did we would likely not be complaining about how unfair it is.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Stark: Angels 3rd Best Line-Up in AL

ESPN's Jayson Stark has come out with his rankings of the toughest American League line-ups based on responses from "four pitchers, three scouts and nine GMs or assistants" to the question "Which team has the best line-up in baseball?" The unnamed group of analysts slot the Halos at number three behind (surprise, shock, awe) the Red Sox and Yankees respectively.

Best quote: "One thing about this offense: It hasn't read "Moneyball." No team in the big leagues struck out less last year than the Angels -- but these guys also walked 200 fewer times than the Yankees or Red Sox."

Maybe Halo hitters will be a bit more patient at the plate in '05?

The Rangers and (surprise) the Indians came in at #4 and #5 on the list.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

USA Today: City of Angels....and Dodgers

The USA Today Sports section featured article today attempts to cover the battle for "the hearts -- and wallets -- of baseball's second-biggest market". The USA today does their perfunctory job of glossing over the controversial Angels name change and comparing the teams in their own superficial way:

Tale of the tape: Dodgers vs. Angels

Dodgers

Category

Angels

1890, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Born

1961, in Los Angeles

1958, to Los Angeles

Moved

1966, to Anaheim

6 — 1955, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988

World Series titles

1 — 2002

16, including five in a row from 1992-96

Rookies of the year

1 — Tim Salmon (1993)

12

MVPs

2

Jake Daubert (1913),
Dazzy Vance (1924),
Dolph Camilli (1941),
Jackie Robinson (1949),
Roy Campanella (1951, '53, '55),
Don Newcombe (1956),
Maury Wills (1962),
Sandy Koufax (1963),
Steve Garvey (1974),
Kirk Gibson (1988)

Don Baylor (1979),
Vladimir Guerrero (2004)

18

Years of 3 million-plus attendance

2

$430 million, in 2004

Most recent sale price

$183 million, in 2003

Fernandomania, 1981

Phenomena

Rally monkeys and Thunder Stix, 2002

Broadcaster Vin Scully

Beloved figure

Late owner Gene Autry

Fox

Unbeloved former ownership

Disney

The "Nation's Newspaper", as usual, presents a shallow case-study that does not answer the question of why there is suddenly a "battle" and exactly what is at stake for each team.

The Dodgers and Angels will not be able to draw much more than the 3 to 3.5 million fans that poured into their respective stadiums last season. The Angels have shown why they are in this fight, to get more broadcast money. But the Dodgers reasons are still somewhat of a mystery.

I would hazard to guess that Frank McCourt has taken this “Los Angeles Angels” thing personally. That has led to what Moreno calls “a nice market rivalry”. But as the Dodgers make improvements to their stadium McCourt was quoted in the USA Today article as saying “I’d rather spend my money on improving the ballpark than on lawyers or public relations campaigns”. Easy to say when you paid $247 million more for your club with the built-in PR. Moreno has to create his from scratch. Actually, it’s worse than from-scratch since the negative image was already there.

My hope is that southern California baseball will remain healthy and better thanks to two owners who probably don’t like each other too much battling it out. But from a business perspective the upside for the Angels is far greater than it is for the Dodgers.

Angels Name Change: A Historical Perspective or Why This is All Gene Autry's Fault

In reflecting on why the Angels feel compelled to have changed their name back to Los Angeles Angels in January, I began to wonder why the Angels do not do better financially than they do. What happened in the development of this franchise that led us down this particular road of respectability on the field but financial uncertainty? Some of the answers are obvious to Angel and Dodger fans but remain a mystery to those from outside the greater LA area. The Angel and Dodger faithful know that the Dodgers are about tradition and winning but the Angels (until '02) had been about choking, missed opportunities and playing like a small-market team. It seems perfectly normal that the Dodgers would command double what the Angels do in broadcast right fees. But when you look beyond the history and emotion and as the raw numbers, the Angels draw just as many fans in person and on TV. Are these fans less attractive to potential advertisers? Are the demographics of Angel fans skewed significantly from those of Dodger fans? The answer, which is clear to those who frequent both Angel & Dodger Stadiums, is no. They stack-up fairly similarly but yet the discrepancy in broadcast pay scales remains. Why this is so takes a broader understanding of the history of these two teams and the very dissimilar paths they travailed to both wind-up with division titles and 3 million fans through the turnstiles in 2004.

The Dodgers were a 67 year-old World Championship team BEFORE they ever moved from New York to California in 1958. They brought a lot of history with them and then went on to win five additional World Championships between 1959 and 1988, which cemented the Dodgers with a loyal base of fans in both Los Angeles and Brooklyn. It was that rare case where a relocating team was a winner right before they moved and right after which allowed them to retain many old fans while making new ones. Everybody loves a winner. The reasons for the Dodgers moving were more political than financial but as seems to happen often in history, the two were somewhat intertwined. Dodger owner Walter O'Malley wanted to build a new stadium for his team in Brooklyn. But it was made clear but Big Apple politicos that this was not going to happen. If he wanted a stadium the government would build it and rent it to him. Once O’Malley found that no land was ever going to be made available to him he started looking west and in a helicopter ride over Los Angeles pointed to Chavez Ravine and asked a City Councilman riding with him, "Can I have that land there?" To which the City Councilman replied "sure".

The Angels came into existence in 1961 and after playing one year in a minor league park (Wrigley Field) the Halos moved on to share a stadium with the Dodgers. The Angels (and the rest of the AL for that matter) were not respected and considered the Junior Circuit of baseball by National Leaguers and their fans. O'Malley was firmly against allowing any other teams to move into the Los Angeles market, designating all of the Southland as his turf. Only after a $350,000 payoff from Gene Autry and pressure from other owners did O'Malley relent but his distaste for any team in Southern California that was not named "Dodgers" was apparent. After quickly outgrowing the minor league facility in 1961 and not having an alternative place to play, the Angels agreed to become a tenant of the O'Malley owned stadium in LA (the Angels refused to refer to it as "Dodger Stadium, calling the ballpark "Chavez Ravine" during their home stands) from April 17, 1962 until September 22, 1965. But it was clear that O'Malley and the Dodgers considered them intruders as stories of separate and unequal facilities and increasing rental rates led the Angels to their eventual home in Anaheim by 1966. Even before the Angels moved to Anaheim in 1966, they changed their name to "California Angels" to differentiate themselves from the Dodgers. But Autry threw the proverbial baby out with the bath water when he elected to sever ties with the City of Angels. He unknowingly made his team a geographical question mark to fans in other states. Much like the Golden State Warriors, many people did not know what major city the Angels played near. San Diego? San Francisco? Sacramento? Perhaps an emotional decision to distance themselves from the Dodgers started the Angels down a path of small market-minded baseball. The rest of course is history; the Angels bungled their way through the late Sixties and Nineteen-Seventies as after-thoughts to the Dodgers. Mainly because Autry would not invest in free-agents or a barren farm system and claimed the team did not generate any profit.

But the Angels actually should have done a better job of becoming successful early and the blame must fall directly on Gene Autry for not taking advantage when he could have. Autry owned both television station KTLA (Channel 5) and radio station KMPC (AM 710) in LA along with other television and radio stations along the west coast. But Autry never took advantage of the synergy his products had beyond the obvious broadcast rights. By all indications the Angel broadcast rights were a sweet deal for the stations as Autry was a broadcaster first, owner second. He saw the Angels as a way to drive revenue for his TV and radio stations, not vice-versa. While the Dodgers were investing in Latin recruitment in the 1970's and winning World Championships (and the loyal fans that come with them) the Angels operated as a nickel-and-dime operation, making money for Autry's other business units but never generating the cash flow they themselves needed. As a result the Angels became what Autry said they were, a small to medium sized market team that rarely attracted free-agents and was overlooked by advertisers. Of course, what did KTLA care if the Dodgers got more money from KTTV when KTLA executives knew they were making more money thanks to the low-ball broadcast rights they paid the Angels. Since the money that KTLA made went to Autry, he was not about to cry foul on behalf of the Halos. In 1982 Autry sold KTLA for $245 million which, coincidentally, was the first year the Angels made a big splash in trades/free-agency by trading for Reggie Jackson and was also the Angels first division Championship year. But that success may have emboldened Autry to spend money on questionable free-agents and trade acquisitions such as George Hendrick, Lance Parrish, Claudell Washington, Dave Parker, Von Hayes and Gary Gaetti. As an added bonus the Angels squandered many of their best minor league prospects in the process. This series of misadventures led to more of an investment in their farm system and a distaste for high-priced talent. The Angels seemed resigned to being, at best, a mid-market team until Autry finally sold out to Disney in 1997. Disney had their own disastrous foray into free-agency with the Mo Vaughn debacle that seemed to sour them on spending any more money either. But miraculously after taking a stand against anymore high-priced free agents, the Angels did eventually win a World Series in 2002 thanks largely to their home-grown players that the Angels were able to retain after their trading spree of the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The Angels actually had strong brand-name recognition in the Southland prior to their first game in 1961 thanks to the Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels that had won 15 championships and were extremely popular. The Angels were even referred to as the "Yankees West" thanks to their proclivity for winning titles. But the arrival of the Dodgers sent the PCL Angels packing in 1959 to Salt Lake. But the major league Los Angeles Angels were not far behind in 1961 despite not having an owner. Gene Autry bought them as an afterthought when he went to the Major League Baseball owner's meetings to try and grab the broadcast rights for the new ball club and instead was talked into bidding for the team itself. Then the Angels were uncharacteristically successful for an expansion team, producing a winning record in their third season. What would have happened had the Angels build on that momentum and invested back into the team to field a club that would have been competitive with Sandy Koufax's Dodger teams of the mid-sixties? What if Autry had marketed the team aggressively and allowed more broadcast profits to go to the Angels who could have used it to build a minor league system in the Dodgers mold and then continually raised the broadcast rights as they became more successful? Odds are we would not be wrestling with why the Angels had the worst TV deal in baseball save the Expos last season. Why Seattle & Milwaukee command a larger broadcast fee than the Halos and why the Angels will be scrambling to put together a cohesive TV package in 2006 with Channel 9 jumping ship to broadcast Dodger games.

The fact of the matter is, in advertising as in life, perception is reality. Reality is that the Angels play in the second-biggest television market in the country. Reality is that they draw ratings and fans in numbers equal to the Dodgers. Reality is that they are paid like they play in one of the smallest markets because they are perceived as an "Anaheim" team. The Angels have no one to blame for that perception other than themselves (and former ownership). The reality of fielding a very competitive team in a beautiful park in one of the biggest cities in the world does not square with the revenue being generated on the broadcast side.

So this is the pickle that Arte Moreno finds himself in. How to correct forty years of bad PR and mismanagement of his team's image. Channel 9 broadcasts to Los Angeles. They refer to themselves as a "Los Angeles" station. The fact that their signal happens to spill over into Orange County however has not eluded them. They still actively campaign for advertisers in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino and elsewhere to bring them their advertising dollars in hopes of reaching ALL southern California residents (or at least as big as ratings allow). Is Disneyland going to suddenly say, "hey we're an ORANGE COUNTY amusement park, we can't advertise on an LA radio station!" Of course not, because the reality is that Channel 9 broadcasts to all of southern California. The reality is that there are no "Orange County" only TV stations (unless you count some public access and Channel 56). The broadcast market is "Los Angeles" and baseball teams survive on broadcast money, ergo, the baseball teams need to be associated with the same name as their respective television market. This is not Orange County vs. Los Angeles. Hell, it's not even the Dodgers vs. Angels. They have proven that both teams can win divisions and draw over 3 million fans in the same year. Success is Los Angeles baseball is not mutually exclusive. Both teams can and have won in all areas except broadcast revenue. The only way the Angels will get paid in direct proportion to the ratings and number of fans they deliver to their broadcast partners is if they fix the misperception that they are small market. This was a goal stated early-on by Moreno and the quickest and most sensible way to do it is to align the Angels with the market that the TV stations say they service.

The name "Los Angeles" is just that. It is not the soul of the team and it does not represent anything except the given name for the overall television market the Angels play in. Orange County residents need to get over their inferiority complex and quit taking this personally. This isn't personal, it's business. It's about fixing a team's image so that they can put in place mechanisms for their own long-term economic survival. It's about overcoming decades of bad business decisions. Had Disney not had the misguided notion to rename the Angels "Anaheim Angels" to better build a partnership with the "Anaheim Mighty Ducks" and Disneyland then none of this may have happened. The Angels could still be the "California Angels". But with five professional teams in the Golden State it is a little presumptuous for the Halos to claim California as their own. It is far more sensible for them to be the Los Angeles Angels. A name that they once had and likely, should never have abandoned. One reason for the name “Los Angeles” ringing so hollow in the ears of many Angel faithful is that it is an out-dated synonym for the market-place. Unfortunately, there simply is no good all-encompassing geographic name to cover the Southland. There is no single city or county that covers the geographic area that the Angels serve. So we must default to the original name for simplicity's sake. The name that advertisers relate to when talking about the market because advertising = revenue = better team.

What the Angels need is someone in White Bear Lake, Minnesota who can look on his schedule and know when he trudges into the Cities for a Twins game this summer he will be seeing a team that represents the Los Angeles area. He knows that his little team is taking on the big, bad Los Angeles Angels and that should they prevail it will be a huge upset for small market clubs. It's so United Airlines can buy ad time on Channel 9 and everyone in that company understands they are marketing to a 10 million people and not the 300,000 inhabitants of Anaheim. When this type of thinking is prevalent about the Angels then they can command the big dollars that will be used to keep big name players in Halo red. Like it or not, this team represents more than Anaheim and more than Los Angeles. Given a choice of the two to associate with, a smart businessman will choose “Los Angeles”. Of course, due to the Anaheim contract the Angels will use both.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bonds Last Remaining Lunatic in Cactus League

UPDATE: The Phoenix Business Journal has reported that Arizona Governor Janet "I love Softball" Napolitano has created "The Arizona Baseball and Softball Commission". The goal of the commission is to expand the Cactus League and promote baseball and softball tournaments in the state to help bring more tourist revenue. Looks like the exodus of baseball stars to the Grapefruit League may have officials worried. Perhaps we can arrange to trade the White Sox and Royals for the Twins and Dodgers. Why the Blue Crew insists on staying in Vero Beach while the majority of their fans could make spring treks to Arizona with much greater ease escapes me.


While I'm certain there are some aspiring crazies working their way up their respective team's depth charts, Barry Bonds is now the sole remaining lunatic left in the Cactus League. Arizona has always played second-fiddle to Florida in terms of showcasing colorful characters for the simple reason that big-spending east coast teams like the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox have always attracted the most colorful characters with their big payrolls and even bigger PR departments that need interesting players to write about.

In recent years the Cactus League has lost Ken Griffey, Jr, Alex Rodriguez, Curt Schilling and now in 2005, Randy Johnson, David Wells and Sammy Sosa. All good for self-serving quotes and a good amount of pot-stirring. But, alas, they are gone to Florida like a retired parent. Strolling around the ballparks from Tempe to Tucson it is looking more like the 1950's with clean-cut players who strike more of a resemblance to Gary Cooper than Alice Cooper. Who did the Cactus League get this year in exchange for the talented malcontents shipped to the Sunshine State? Well the Angels exchanged the newly graduated anger-management attendee Jose Guillen for Steve Finley. Technically Finley was a Grapefruit League guy during his 1/2 season with the Dodgers despite never having to actually train there. They also picked-up Paul Byrd, about as threatening a guy as your average librarian. The team with the most new players, the Diamondbacks, lost Johnson but added Shawn Green, a player who created controversy last season by wanting to observe his faith and not play on Yom Kippur. The Padres lost Wells, a bear of a player who admits in his autobiography (Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches and Baseball) to having taken the mound "half-drunk" while playing in New York and got Woody Williams back instead. Williams is a pitcher so bland he makes Adam Kennedy look like a rock star. Speaking of which the CL still has Sandfrog lead man Scott Spiezio but with the M's acquisitions of Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre he looks to be a bench player at best. Besides, for a rock 'n roller he still comes across as a guy who gets tucked in with warm milk and cookies every night.

But the Cactus League still has the trump card, the epic example of insane ball players: Mr. Barry Bonds. In a rambling press conference, King Barry talked about some things that were bothering him. Things like the dirty rotten lying media. One of Bonds' first comments was directed at former Arizona Republic columnist and current ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez, a very well respected and liked journalist who Bonds acknowledged with "hey Gomez, still lying?" Ohhhkay, I guess Barry's in one of his "moods". Bonds then went on to try and portray himself as a martyr by talking about the difficulty of a black man chasing down Babe Ruth's career home run mark. Uh, I thought Henry Aaron held the record for most home runs. Since when does anyone care when the person in second-place for a particular record gets passed? Are the neo-nazi's trying to protect the Babe's place as the second-most-prolific-home-run-hitter in history? Wow, I must have missed that 60 Minutes episode. Reality check Barry: People hate you because you are a jerk, not because you’re black. Jerks come in all sizes and colors (see: Cobb, Ty) Bonds' pulling of the race-card is a desperate act of misdirection where the issue most people care about is not the fact that a black man is going to pass a white man for second place on the all-time home-run list, but that a roided-out egomaniac with a freak-show size head is going to become the all-time home run King. The fact that one of the good guys, Hammerin' Hank, will be relegated to second-place while the biggest bully in sports will get baseball's most illustrious record.

Jason Giambi gave a vague and ambiguous apology and the fans in Florida along with the media are falling over themselves to cover this "feel good" story of a contrite ball player trying to make good. The media covering Bonds gave him every opportunity yesterday to offer a similar ambiguous apology but in an incredible display of defiance Bonds stared down one reporter who had the nerve to ask if he was sorry and asked "what did I do?" Well according to some Grand Jury testimony it sounds like you injected yourself, rubbed-on and drank prohibited drugs to enhance your body which has allowed you to hit an unbelievable number of home runs. It also has allowed your body to heal from injury much faster giving you more playing time than you normally would have had. Bonds is like Bart Simpson holding a bat in front of a broken window with a baseball-size hole in it, stating with a straight face "I didn't do it". Bonds congratulated Bud Selig on his drug-testing policy (it’s been great for you, eh Bare?) and pleads with the media that we should all "move on" and "go forward". Quit prodding around in the past you pesky reporters. Ignore the BALCO representative behind the curtain. Look reporters, Barry is holding something shiny! Quick rub on the 'Clear'!

Yes, Barry Bonds remains in the Cactus League for all our amusement. Over the years he steadily denied any use of steroids despite the fact we could literally see his head growing like the animated Ken Griffey, Jr. on the Simpsons sucking down Mr. Burns' Brain & Nerve Tonic. Now we get to watch tough-guy Bonds try and slap down the media. Good idea, that should make them stop digging into your sorted past.

The Cactus League might look like a giant "Got Milk" ad campaign but we still have Barry and that's enough baggage, denial and psychosis for any league.

Etherton May Start for Oakland

According to the A's website, right-handed starter Seth Etherton has a good shot to make the Athletics starting rotation in 2005. The former USC prodigy was a first-round pick of the Angels in 1998 and serves as a cautionary tale as to why they do not want to pay Jeff Weaver $10 million as an unproven major leaguer.

A's GM Billy Beane signed Etherton to a minor league deal in the off-season after he went 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in seven starts for AA Chattanooga. After getting promoted to AAA Louisville Etherton's numbers fell off a bit but he still posted a 5-6 record with a 3.47 ERA in 10 starts. More importantly, the fragile pitcher managed to stay healthy, something he had not done in his previous five years of professional baseball.

Etherton will compete with Japanese pitcher Keiichi Yabu and rookies Dan Meyer and Joe Blanton for one of the final two starting jobs which opened up after Oakland traded Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder in the off-season.

If there's one thing I hate, its guys the Angels give up on that come back to haunt them later on. Mercifully there have not been too many in recent years but this one concerns me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Why People Hate Politicians

Today the LA Times reported that Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D) Santa Ana, was planning to introduce a little piece of legislation called the "Truth in Sports Advertising Act" in Sacramento. The gist of this bill is to force Angels owner Arte Moreno, who according to Umberg is "misleading fans when he calls his team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim", into disclosing the fact that they identify themselves under one geographical name but actually play their home games in another. Apparently the good Assemblyman has, once again, completely underestimated the intelligence of not only his constituents in Santa Ana (which I should point out is neither in Anaheim nor Los Angeles) but the entire state of California whom he frets will show up one day at a game in Anaheim, scratch their collective heads and in a thick southern drawl proclaim "shoot, this ain't no Los Ang-o-leese!"

The City Council of Anaheim can not waste enough of that city's money making court motions that they know full well will not be reversed so now a member of the Assembly has decided to waste some State money and time because, gee whiz, this issue just is not getting enough press. Strangely, Angel Stadium apparently resides in Umberg's district (gotta love gerrymandering) so Umberg apparently feels compelled to ratchet up the rhetoric that the Angels are Anaheim's team, even if they don't want to be. This is just the type of non-issue that will get lots of ink and make people (like, I don't know, an unknown blogger in Arizona for example) write a piece about an obscure political lightweight trying to take on a ruthless out-of-state billionaire. What a transparent maneuver by Umberg to increase his own visibility on an issue with no advantage to the people of Santa Ana but because of a fluky district boundary he gets to count Angel Stadium as part of his turf. Now, my wife use to work in Santa Ana Mr. Umberg, so I can tell you first hand that you have bigger issues to worry about.

If politicians would put in half the effort that Moreno did in focus group studies to find out what the good people of Santa Ana (and a sliver of Anaheim) care about, I would venture to guess that what the Angels call themselves would be around 384th on the list between "more frequent garbage pick-ups" and "the color of Santa Ana city busses". Given the large Latino population in his district, Mr. Umberg would be wise to watch his step trying to take down the most visible Hispanic sports owner in the country.

Clearly this bill is a slap at the Angels even though it does not mention them by name. The Times article illustrates that point by saying

In order to accommodate Anaheim's concerns that the NFL might bypass the city if forbidden from playing there under the Los Angeles name, Umberg's bill would allow a host city to exempt a team from the disclosure requirements.

So Anaheim will lure an NFL team, offering millions of dollars in stadium funds, tax rebates and other city financed improvements and that team can call itself the Los Angeles Whatevers. But the Angels must bow to Mayor Curt Pringle and be called Anaheim Angels because why? Oh yeah, they signed a deal to include “Anaheim” somewhere in their name. And not at the end either!

The funny thing is, Arte Moreno does not like the deal Disney made with the City and the City does not like the deal anymore because they were not thorough enough to specify the name had to be “Anaheim Angels” and not “Los Angeles Angels” with “of Anaheim” slapped on the end like so much fine print. Perhaps the Angels and city of Anaheim could come together to find a jointly beneficial solution. A financially successful and winning ball club would ultimately benefit both parties no matter the semantics of the name. Likewise, the Angels would benefit from the city of Anaheim being promoted as a tourist destination and a place to do business. Until this squabble is settled, they will not be able to move forward together to assemble a plan of attack to further the ambitions of both the Angels and the city of Anaheim.

By keeping the lawsuit alive and now trying to pass legislation making it more difficult for the Angels to do business, the city of Anaheim is making the Angels point by saying, hey we need our name on your team or no one will know who we are! Of course, according to AIMS testing most high school seniors probably don’t know where Los Angeles is either.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Time For Players to Rethink Going Home

With all the trouble Latin players seem to be having, from politics to Ugueth Urbina's Mom getting kidnapped to Richard Hidalgo getting shot, I have to wonder why these guys keep going home. I'm sure Mama's home cookin' is fabulous but is living the life of a multi-millionaire in Newport Beach so tough that they have to run home to a third world country every off-season? Yeah, I know about keeping it real and giving something back -- yada, yada, yada. Vladimir Guerrero has a thriving grocery business to attend to, etc. I’m sure his store in the Dominican is really driving his portfolio these days. C’mon, build a few ballparks, schools, hospitals, whatever and then relocate. I also realize these players have tremendous egos that are continually stroked by fans who consider them gods in their home country. But they need to remember where their bread is buttered. They owe it to the fans that pay the money to see them play to stay healthy and safe (at least until you fulfill your contract). It's not like were asking them to live in Compton on $15 a day. They can afford some pretty nice digs and most can afford to bring the whole fam damily too.

According to the Pioneer Press, when Johann Santana met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in celebration of his Cy Young award, the President sent five armed guards with him to protect Santana and his family indefinitely. Sounds like a cheery place visit. Phillies star Bobby Abreu hired bodyguards to protect him while he played for the Caracas Leones winter league team. Are these baseball players or rap stars (or NBA players for that matter)?

Major league GM's need to start writing contracts whereby if they commit upwards of $5 million a season or more to a player than that player agrees to reside in the United States 95% of the year for the duration of the contract. I do not want to impugn anyone's personal freedoms but once you sign a contract you give-up a certain portion of those freedoms. Want to roam wild & free? Fine, sign a one-year deal. At the very least make these players report to Spring Training around the first of February to allow for political delays and unscheduled abductions.

USA Today: Rodriguez Set To Close

In today's edition of USA Today Chuck Johnson reports on Angel reliever Francisco Rodriguez's promotion to the closer role. It is a very favorable piece on the Halo's bullpen that has been tops in the AL the past three seasons and should contend for that title again in 2005. As usual, fluff stuff from USA Today that is old news for Angel die-hards but it is always good to read a little positive national press for the Angels.

In a related piece, Richard over at Pearly Gates has some more on Rodriguez's late arrival at spring camp due to "visa problems" and some possible political reasons for the tradiness.

Tim Mead Interview

An interview with Angels Communications Director Tim Mead is a pretty interesting read over at League of Angels. Among the highlights Mead comments on the expected fan reaction to the name change (thanks to focus groups) and the net effect in terms of season seat cancellations ("we have not lost an account within the bases, in the field level, or in the Diamond Club, or in our prime real estate. Any cancellations that we have had, we’ve sold those tickets to new season ticket customers").

Another key point Mead made was that the Angels have been branded by themselves, most members of the media and their fans as "the Angels". Not the "Anaheim Angels". Furthermore, the Angels will continue to brand themselves as "the Angels" and not the "Los Angeles Angels".

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Tempe Diablo Facelift Set

The Angels spring home in Tempe, AZ will be getting a major makeover once the Halos head west for Anaheim in April. The Arizona Republic reported that the $20 million renovation will include increasing stadium capacity to 10,000, a complete renovation of the visiting clubhouse, four new practice fields and (thank sweet merciful God) the addition of more stadium seats around the infield to replace the aluminum benches which can, on a hot Arizona afternoon, sear human flesh with amazing efficiency. The stadium will also get a new "graphics intensive" scoreboard to replace the current model which resembles something from a rural Kentucky high school. Not surprisingly the remodel will also include "interactive graphics and media displays" (read: fancy billboards) which will no doubt be used to enhance revenue receipts for the ball club.

The improvements are expected to be completed by February 2006 and will be funded, in large part, by the city of Tempe which was facing a threat by the Angels to leave Tempe Diablo for a brand new facility in Goodyear, AZ. Shockingly the city of Tempe did not insist on having their name inserted into the Angels "official" name as they were afraid the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Tempe was a tad bulky.

Friday, February 18, 2005

I Want My 'A' TV!

I realize I just severely dated myself with that poor MTV reference from back when there was music on Music Television. But it was that or some lame Mr. T reference with regard to the 'A-Team'. Gotta love the '80's. But I digress as usual.

The LA Times
interviewed Angel owner Arte Moreno this week and the Head Halo let it be known that if he could not find a local outlet to broadcast Angel games in 2006 (the Angels deal with local Channel 9 expires after this year when they will begin televising Dodger games) he may just decide to start his own cable channel. Certainly not a new idea, the Cubs and Braves have long-standing deals with cable channels WGN and TBS respectively which show their games nationally. In recent years the Yankess (YES Network) and Red Sox (NESN) have added considerable cash to their respective bottom-lines by starting their own TV stations. Next season the Mets will join the club by starting a channel in partnership with Time Warner & Comcast.

The reasons for wanting their own station are clear. Moreno is miffed that, according to him, the Angels have one of the worst TV contracts in the majors with smaller market teams like the Brewers getting more TV payola. Of course in Milwaukee there is "Packer season" and "Not-Packer Season" which means most Wisconsin sports enthusiests would sit and watch competitive knitting if beer and brats were somehow involved. Moreno goes on to claim that the Mariners receive three times what the Angels do in their television package. Apparently for a cool $250 million the Angels could buy Channel 56, a station already available on most Southland cable systems. Personally I would rather see Arte start a fresh channel rather than go with Channel 56. For some reason the that particular broadcaster has always reminded me of the station in 'Weird' Al Yankovik's cinematic tour-de-force "UHF". Except that instead of Michael Richards' mentally challenged kiddie show host they had Wally George and Dr. Gene Scott. Now there's an interesting idea to spruce-up "Angels in the Infield": Team-up Dr. Gene with Rex Hudler and Michael Richards and let the sparks fly! This week on a very special "Angels in the Infield" Dr. Gene laughs it up with former Angel Jose Guillen on why he was such a devil while with the Angels and why he is going 'straight to hell' and then Rex and Kramer make an omelette with Jeff DeVanon!

This all actually goes back to Moreno's dream of transforming the Angels into a big market team with all the cash that comes with that. The question becomes, can the Angels fan base support an entire station on their own?. Even more importantly, will I be able to get this station in Arizona? Or is this a just a bargaining chip ala ESPN-West? Moreno calls the television contracts he inherited from former owner Disney "little league" with only the former Montreal Expos generating less television revenue than the Angels.

This should be encouraging to Angel fans because it gets to the heart of what gives a team the resources to remain competitive: generating more revenue. Yes, it is the cold side of the business but it is why the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets were all able to go out and re-load this off-season. While the Angels will likely not entire that elite stratosphere of spending, a 20% increase in revenue would allow the Angels to sign a couple more marquee players that could put them into the playoffs every year for the rest of this decade.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Anaheim "Doubling Efforts" to Block Halo Name Change

The LA Times reported tonight that the Anaheim City Council not only refuses to drop their lawsuit against the Angels but have hired a second prominant attorney, Andrew Guilford, to act as co-counsel to lead attorney Mike Rubin. According to the Times, Mayor Curt Pringle called this an "intermediate step in what may be a lengthy legal battle." Pringle went on to say "We regret that Arte Moreno and the Anaheim Angels' management have forced us to pursue this lawsuit and continue to implore him to reconsider this misguided marketing effort." Of course Pringle is referring to the Angels changing the geographic designation from 'Anaheim Angels' to 'Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim'. What is misguided is that the Anaheim City Council is forcing them to paste "of Anaheim" to the back of the team name in order to satisfy a terrible agreement former Angel owner Disney made with the city. As has been mentioned by others, the logical solution is to re-name Angel Stadium "Anaheim Stadium" and drop the "of Anaheim" tag line.

I'm sure Arte Moreno and the rest of the Angel management team are shaking in their collective wingtips over this one. In what can only be described as a transparent bid to frighten the Angels into thinking the City Council has the cojones for a drawn-out legal battle, Pringle once again shows that he is overmatched. The longer this drags on in court the more it will help the Angels by keeping their name in the news (even a misguided marketing plan benefits from free PR) and the more it will hurt the City Council who will be perceived by many as wasting valuable city resources. In addition to going ahead with their seemingly doomed lawsuit, the City Council is going to appeal Superior Court Judge Peter Polos' decisoin to turn down the Council’s request for an injunction against the Angels name change. This despite Pringle and the Anaheim City Council recognizing "that most pretrial appeals are not successful, but the Anaheim City Council feels that this decision merits further review". What the hell Curt, not like it's your money you’re wasting.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Less Molina to Love

The LA Times reports that catcher Bengie Molina has lost 22 pounds during the off-season and will report to training camp tomorrow in "excellent" shape. Clearly "excellent" is a relative term in the Times reporting.

Last season Molina became the butt of many baseball jokes as he lumbered the base-paths like a crippled water buffalo. Molina gave new meaning to "routine groundball to short" as AL shortstops usually had time to carefully field the ball, take several steps towards first base, check their watch, tell the pitcher about the latest tax shelter they had found and still throw Molina out by four or five steps. But after dropping twenty-two pounds (or roughly the equivalent of a large house cat) the elder Molina figures to be a speed demon in 2005 compared to his '04 self. Last season Bengie battled a variety of maladies including hamstring injuries, a broken finger and an affinity for all things Hostess. But under a diet and exercise regime he created for himself, Molina has crafted a new body for himself that Manager Mike Scioscia hopes will lead to him catching at least 120 games this season. The '05 Molina (Sport Edition) will debut in Tempe tomorrow as catchers and pitchers report to Tempe Diablo Stadium for the first day of Spring Training.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Healthy Anderson Could be Angels Best Acquisition

According to the LA Times, Angels left-fielder Garrett Anderson feels "Great" and all symptoms of the inflammatory arthritis in his upper back have vanished. Taking it a step further, first baseman Darin Erstad channeled Allison Dubois as he proclaimed that after shaking Anderson's hand he "could feel his strength. I could tell he's not in pain." A little while later Erstad advised Manager Mike Scioscia that his childhood dog "Spoons" was living peacefully in the afterlife.

Of all the changes that the Angels made and/or endured this off-season, the biggest addition could be the return of Anderson's power. Last season GA managed, amazingly, to maintain his career batting average by hitting .301. Unfortunately, he turned into Ichiro to do it as Anderson's slugging percentage cratered to .446 after a career high SLG in 2003 of .541. In addition, Anderson hit an abysmal .154 in the Division Series against Boston with just two singles in thirteen at bats. Of course, with the noted exceptions of Erstad, Eckstein and Glaus, none of the Angels were able to hit last October.

The new Halos Outfield of Anderson, Finley & Guerrero should easily outpace last season's if Guerrero can maintain his MVP numbers and Anderson returns to his '03 form. Steve Finley's 2004 numbers of a .271 average with 36 HR and 94 RBI are a decent exchange for Jose Guillen's .294/27/104 except that he is a positive clubhouse presence who will likely not try to subjugate power from Scioscia. In any case, the "nice-guy" contingent patrolling the outfield lawn at Angel Stadium has the potential to be one of the most potent in all of baseball.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Imminent is a Relative Term

Richard over at Pearly Gates points to an LA Times article about the ongoing saga that is the signing of pitcher Jared Weaver. Awhile back a lot of people (myself included) were getting whipped-up by reports that a Weaver signing was "imminent". Well, here we are weeks later and no signing. But given that this is a Scott Boras deal we should not be surprised.

According to the article Weaver is seeking a deal somewhere around $10 million. It is not clear how long that deal would be. Boras qualifies the number by stating that Weaver is "major league ready." For that kind of jack he damn sure better be. The next post down on Pearly Gates links to a ranking of AL pitching staffs that places the Halos at #5. I wonder if they move higher with Weaver in and, presumably, Washburn out. One thing is certain, left-handed long-ballers will be just slightly less happy to see the Angels on their schedule.

Someone Help Tommy Lasorda.....Please!

From today's "Morning Briefing" in the LA Times:

Possible solution: Reader Rollo Sternaman offers this suggestion: "Have Anaheim change the name of the city to Los Anaheim and then the Los Anaheim Angels can be referred to as the L.A. Angels. Artie gets the big-city reference and Los Angeles gets the name recognition."

Adds Sternaman: "Pretty smart, eh?"

Well, it might be confusing if there were two Southern California cities known by the initials L.A.

If all the Angels wanted was the "LA" part they could have avoided all of this by moving to Los Alamitos.

From the same briefing there is this, as usual, golden nugget from Tommy Lasorda:

Perplexed: Regarding Angel owner Arte Moreno's desire to use Los Angeles in his team's name, Tom Lasorda recently told XTRA, "I still can't figure out what the guy has on his mind. What is he trying to prove? Someone has to help me on this thing. What's he thinking, that he is going to come in here and get fans?"

More two dimensional thinking from quite possible the least intelligent man to manage a World Series Championship team. Where exactly is Lasorda talking about when he says "come in here"? As if to say there are no Angels fans inside LA County and the Dodgers have exclusive rule over every town north of Seal Beach. In his own backwards way, Lasorda underlines why the Angels changed their name. Not to gain new fans but to recognize that the Angels fandom exists beyond the borders of Orange County. One more time and slowly for Tommy: This is not about fans. This is about getting television revenues that are comparable to what the Dodgers get. With equal fan attendance and ratings the Angels are paid roughly half what the Dodgers are. The Angels contend that there is a built-in bias on the part of advertisers and media types based on the "Anaheim" part of their former moniker. The wisdom of this will be determined in the market-place when the Angels negotiate the TV contract following the next one they sign. There will, probably, be little net affect from the name change before the Angels have to sign their next deal for local television coverage in 2006. But the Fox deal will be redone in 2008 and by then we should have a good idea if the Los Angeles Angels are a more valuable commodity than the Anaheim Angels were.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Time to Get Your Tivo Programmed

Today's LA times reported that the Angels announced their plans for televising 140 games of the upcoming season on local television outlets Fox Sports West, Channel 9 and Channel 56. In addition 10 more games will be broadcast nationally on ESPN or Fox 11 in LA. The breakout has Fox West and Channel 9 each showing 50 games while Channel 56 will get 40 more. That leaves a sparse 13 games unspoken for and Angels Communication Director Tim Mead says those games could be added later by one of their broadcast partners.

This represents a sharp increase in Angel broadcasts as this time last year Arte Moreno was aghast at the limited exposure the Angels had on local television (less than 100 games committed to be broadcast by Fox Sports and Channel 9) and quickly signed up a motley crew of alternate stations to fill out the Angels broadcast schedule including Channels 22, 30 and the Food Network. While the Fox deal is in place until 2008, the Angels will be getting a new local broadcast partner in 2006 when Channel 9 dumps the Angels in favor of the Dodgers. No one is quite sure where the Halos will land but it should be interesting to see if there are any traditional outlets available for them. As more independent stations affiliate with national networks (UPN, WB, etc) they are forced to air the national networks prime-time programming which precludes them from having the flexibility to broadcast 50 baseball games, many of which are in prime time. Perhaps Arte will take a cue from Ted Turner and George Steinbrenner and decide to start his own network. Anyone remember the promise of ESPN West?

Hitting the Links

It appears I have been remiss in keeping my links up-to-date so I have added the Acerbic Alchemist and Purgatory Online to my links list. As a relative newbie to the blogosphere I am not certain what the protocol is for linking or getting linked to other blogs. For the first couple of links I simply asked the sites I read to link me up and they were kind and accommodating. I happily reciprocated and my tiny blog was off and running. Now a few months later I find (gratefully) I am being linked to some other blogs so I want to make sure I return the favor. After all, it is the sum of the parts that makes a blogged subject compelling.

The Alchemist has been one of the few (and quite welcome) commentators here at the Herald and for that I thank him and the others that take the time to post a thought. If you haven't already, take a moment and peruse his site which touches on a great deal more than baseball. I like to stop by for the Futurama quotes which serve to reinforce the fact that it was the most unjustly cancelled show in history.

Purgatory Online is a more traditional Angel-focused-blog with good analysis and interesting asides. Keep it in your loop (though they should consider adding more Futurama quotes).

Monday, February 07, 2005

Western Candle Stress.....and other Korean musings

Both Pearly Gates and Chronicles of the Lads have links to some flat-out bizarre Korean cartoons featuring major league teams. Check them out if you have a few minutes and need a grin. This one for the Angels features Vlad Guererro howling at the moon, a passed-out "Batolo" Colon who seems to be in a food-induced coma, layed out on the mound with his belly exposed while Scioscia fumes, a psychotic looking Chone Figgins about to charge Scioscia, Frankie Rodriguez whose nickname in Korean seems to have been changed to "F-Rod" is happily irritating a Phillies player cryptically referred to as "Felix", a fired-up Rob Quinlan looking ready to go postal on Ichiro and finally Jose Guillen with face redder than his cap apparently about to club some unsuspecting Angel player in the noggin with his bat. Kind of makes me nostalgic for those "Tank McNamara" comics in the sports page.

My wife took it a step further and visited the mlb.naver.com web-site which is apparently run by some serious Korean baseball nuts. Since neither of us know much Korean (yeah, we wasted our time learning English) Pauline utilized the power of Bable Fish to translate the page for us. In short I found their analysis to be at least as competent and well written as the LA Times Opinion section. Though only from the unique Korean perspective did I read about Seattle (I think) who "will not pass by the new man draft specially" and furthermore "will come out from a game to the black pearl and ' possesses the special grade pitcher of the future the good fortune which it kept". Uhhhh. Yeah.......So they got that going for them. Which is nice. Then there is also the mysterious passage which, seemingly, has to do with Dallas Macpherson in which the sages of the orient write "Dallas pulses it ladles". So true.

While I doubt this is anything close to an exact translation, the Halo Herald proudly presents a few passages on the Angels, and we believe other western US teams from the Korean perspective at naver.com that is loosely translated as "Western Candle Stress" (congrats to Casey Kotchman for being their coverboy):

2005 new man up-and-coming player ' western candle stress '

' The western future dawns.'

Zone hour which analyzes the up-and-coming player who will appear newly in 2005 season major leagues kheyl su 2005 tower 10 pro su pheyk thu the answer is coming out.

Poem kheyl su to the column which contributes to the ESPN 2005 season the hitter whom it will pay attention and the pitcher up-and-coming player are each selected 10 people. From here one branch the portion which it will pay attention the majority of the up-and-coming players who are discussed the point which is a team which to his western endurance puts out and with the American league widely is belonged. That there is possession where the future war potential of the western endurance teams will improve that much there is a possibility of seeing.

The hitter 10 hit western endurance assigned bow accomplishes to 7 people as many as. Short good El Goo Seu Man (LA Dodgers), 3 lwu possibilities inside su thyu U thu (height su), the gun possibility unit lik it sprouts in Colorado and (the Oakland child sul ley thik su), 1 lwu possibility khey it is and car it is distant,, 3 lwu possibility Dallas pulses it ladles, sun (the paragraph which is above Anahaim su), outfielder Carlos end thin (Arizona diamond hundred su), outfielder me ley American leading (Seattle every li you su) all.

The hitter up-and-coming player who builds the middle east where the up-and-coming player hitters are dense and the pride of the central part will be burnt the outfielder and the zero which drives (Taem green onion hemp cloth will count and the place pul the lace) with ' sul le well! transmission from father to son ' it will bloom and compared to it will be a son and phu lin su it will bloom and (1 lwu possibility Milwaukee pu lwu the earth) with 3 lwu possibility Aen D E motes (Atlanta pu ley pu su) it is the whole.

The case of the E mote is near specially in the old up-and-coming player. The E mote America keyl the car pu ley (5 place Florida stops from the hitter up-and-coming player tower 10 ranking which it selects from 2002 seasons MILB which pass and su) precedes and there is an enemy who to 4 place rises. If more the mark which rises to these time 1,2 place theyk counts with hank pul ley this Rag (above Texas ley the writing which is su) pik enters, searched the proper place considers a point already in the league, does not have to be the side where the growth rate is quick.

If the if E mote it excepts, is not the western endurance and different endurance pro su pheyk in 2 people middle-school 10 people which sprout only level. There is a possibility analysis of haning down certainly in western globe candle stress.

The pitcher up-and-coming player section compares in the hitter and the side where the degree is serious is not but, the western globe stress is joined together as ever. 6 people western endurance assigned bows in pitcher up-and-coming player 10 people. It corresponds to 33% 2 boats which are an arithmetic average it is a high ratio.

The bow which is selected in pitcher up-and-coming player 1 place right of Venezuela native wan the traditional green onion pheyl lik su lu the difficulty place su (Seattle every li you su). lu The difficulty place su with the head me phu phu the poem which is su (height su) - not yet tu the Bill ring sul li (4 place LA Dodgers) - Daen it gets clogged in 3 place Colorado and (7 place) - emptiness su it shakes off and su tree thu (the Oakland children above 8 place sul ley thik su) - the mat khey it is and (10 place San Francisco sleeping slangs chu) admits the pitcher up-and-coming player of western endurance affiliation.

The child tem it pushes (2 place it will grow with the pitcher up-and-coming player where the western endurance affiliation is not li pul the land Indian su) - su khas khay cu me (5 place Taem green onion hemp cloths the place pul the lace) - the presentation crane (6 place Minnesota thu Win su) are the whole. Like hitter section the western globe is not stressed but the zero cases of future sell from are enough as ever in western endurance fact. The western future is the reason which dawns.

In the pitcher up-and-coming player with the bow which it will pay attention ' 10 it is horrible tyu lu the difficulty place su with it pushes there is a possibility of counting to five '. Two multi rights wan best su it sprouts with the traditional green onion and phu 10 pitchers keep in the same time when it possesses and it is an up-and-coming player where also the control has both.

Two bows all the K/9 (per condition to a case 10.84 specially the strike-out which will burn) the upper sliced raw fish it does this 9 and lu the difficulty place su it reaches. The other side W/9 (per condition also the ball four) shame 2~3 possesses the control which degree is stabilized fact. Overwhelming power su it sprouts certainly and phu with simultaneously it had both a control as the horrible 10 up-and-coming players there is a possibility of seeing.

It will not pass by the new man draft specially and not to be it will pick up it will raise and from Venezuela and ' lu the difficulty place su Seattle which it possesses nin theyn will come out from a game to the black pearl and ' possesses the special grade pitcher of the future the good fortune which it kept. The other side it pushes from 2003 new man drafts it will grow at 1 ranking and li pul it became distinction in the land.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Saberskeptic

While legions of baseball fans have become enthralled with the science of sabermetrics, I for one continue to have my doubts. For those of you who thought baseball was simply a game ("you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains. Think about that for awhile." -- Bull Durham) then think again and say hello to the arty science of Sabermetrics. While it sounds like those in the Star Wars universe have bid adieu to the standard unit of measurement, it is actually the mathematical analysis of baseball statistics made popular by Billy Beane (Oakland A's GM) and the book Moneyball. While Sabermetrics can provide some interesting insight, other times it just makes you scratch your head say "huh?" Case in point, a fairly new analysis being done at Baseball Musings whereby the defensive probability of a player making an out is being predicted via a little formula called "The Probabilistic Model of Range". Catchy ain't it? The system uses six factors to help determine this probability that run the gamut from vector (direction of hit) to what ballpark the hit was in. However I should warn you that for the average person to try and wrap their brains around it requires abundant quantities of caffeine and sugar (I recommend about three Red Bulls and a box of Krispy Kremes for the first hour or so).

Like many people I was fascinated at first glance. Mainly because the PMoR made the case that the Angels were the worst fielding team in baseball in 2004. Worse than the Royals and Expos? Yep, apparently quite a bit so. Heck, even that Triple A “team” the Diamondbacks fashioned from what appeared to be extra grounds-keepers and some college interns pulled from the IT department was sounder defensively than those bumbling, stumbling Angels. That caught my attention. But it was in the more recent analysis where the PSoR was applied to 2004 third basemen that I had to finally shake my head and say "no mas". The Angels very own Chone Figgins, the man who made every throw to first base an adventure, is the fourth highest ranked player at the hot corner defensively. I realize he was not a "full time" third baseman which could skew the numbers a bit but c’mon. Figgins had 21 errors in a little over 700 innings which ranks him somewhere between Gary Gaetti and Scott Spiezio in the pantheon of Halo third basemen. My most vivid memories of Figgins playing third in ‘04 is of sailing throws and diving stops by Darin Erstad. In fact, it could probably be argued that Erstad was as responsible for Figgins' "success" defensively last season as anyone. But Figgy, as much as I love the guy's work ethic and versatility, had 11 errors in 705 innings at third. He had the 21st highest error total in the league for third basemen despite being a part-time player and was ranked 81st in fielding percentage with .943. By comparison, the "shaky" defense of Dallas MacPherson (which was, allegedly, the only thing holding him in the minors much of last season) had zero errors and 1.000 fielding percentage in his brief 93 inning stint. Clearly D-Mac took care of business with his glove even if his hitting lagged which probably had a lot to do with the Angels confidence in the youngster for the coming season.

But any statistical model that puts Figgins among the elite defensive third baseman has to make you raise an eyebrow. Of course, that is the beauty of statistics. Very often they help you make a point while simultaneously helping someone else make a counter-point. Kind of an 'eye-of-the-beholder' deal. The problem with building more and more complex metrics with which to reduce baseball players to is that the numbers begin turning on themselves. For every Scott Rolen (.977 fielding % & 10 errors in 1228 innings played) who is rightfully placed near the top (#5 in PMoR), you have a Melvin Mora (.943 FP and 21 errors in 1210 INN) just six slots down and ahead of #12 Alex Rodriguez (.965 & 13 E in 1364.1 INN) and amazingly way ahead of #29 Mike Lowell (.982 FP & 7 E's in 1326 INN). And no, the irony of fighting statistics with statistics is not lost on me. In fact, that is kind of the point. Most baseball fans intuitively love statistics. We obsess over batting average, on-base percentage, strikeouts-to-walk ratios and beers per nine innings (well, maybe that one is just me). Statistics and baseball go together like the Simpson sisters and horrible contrived lip-syncable pop music. But maybe we need to put our collective slide-rules down and keep our analysis to fifteen or sixteen key statistical categories. And somebody tell Chone Figgins' agent to call Billy Beane pronto and demand a trade and huge raise to play third for Oakland instead of that slacker Eric Chavez who ranked a paltry ninth in PMoR rankings, five spots behind Figgy.

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