Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Now Back to the Real New York Times

Since I did compliment the NY Times in my previous post let me slam them here. Some yahoo named Murray Chass wrote what was, essentially, a hatchet job on Angel owner Arte Moreno. The incredibly uninsightful Op-Ed/Sports piece cast the poor city of Anaheim as victims to ruthless Moreno, referenced within as "the outdoor advertising king" (a label dripping with just slightly less contempt than "junk-bond king"), and his personal stooge Bud Selig. While Chass is correct in stating that Moreno is making the name change in an effort to generate more advertising revenue, he wrongly thinks the Angels will have to "fool" advertisers and sponsors "into thinking the Angels actually have some link to Los Angeles." You know, like playing in the Los Angeles media market or being on a Los Angeles radio station virtually every day or having their games carried by TWO Los Angeles television stations (KCAL 9 & Fox West). Oh Chass does allow that the Halos did play "in their infancy as the Los Angeles Angels" and then cleverly adds "(of Los Angeles?). Was that an original thought Murray or did you happen to catch one of the five-thousand or so late night talk show hosts, comics, sports-writers, bloggers or Dodger fans who said, wrote or printed that on T-Shirts before you?

To give you some insight on Murray's "hipness quotient" note two things: (1) He is named Murray. The only other Murray's I know were the late great Jim Murray and Murray Slaughter from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show; and (2) He managed to slip-in a Jack Benny reference. How many baseball fans under the age of 35 even have a clue who Jack Benny was? If he only could have worked "penny whistles or buggy-whips" into the equation he would have had the trifecta.

So Mr. Chass goes on to note that the Angels played as the Los Angeles Angels "for only five seasons." He then notes that the team was called the California Angels "but they became the Anaheim Angels in 1997." Well check my math Murray but seven years as the "Anaheim Angels" versus five as the Los Angeles Angels (six if you count 2005) is hardly a stunning mandate to keep the "Anaheim" moniker. In fact, a reader of this very blog who goes by the pseudonym of Uncle Al correctly pointed out that the Los Angeles Angels have actually been around a lot longer than the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the old Pacific Coast League (PCL) the Los Angeles Angels played 55 years (1903 - 1957) and then five more when they joined the American League (1961 - 1966) and finally an additional year in 2005. That makes 61 years of LOS ANGELES Angels baseball as compared to 47 for the Dodgers. Now Murray I know what your thinking, PCL? "Phlllt". Well if you remember back to (or do a Google search on) the pre-1950's America, the only professional baseball on the west coast was the PCL which was considered a third major league. Those were big games back then and the Angels were called "Yankees-West" (that should stick in the craw of a few east-coast baseball snobs) as they racked-up seven pennants from 1903 - 1921 and finished with a total of 15 pennants in 53 years. According to Wikipedia the Angels team of 1934 is regarded as the "greatest team in the history of the minors" going 137-50 and finishing 35 1/2 games ahead of the Mission Reds. That team was so good in fact that their opponent in the post-season was a team comprised of All-Stars from the other seven PCL teams. The Angels beat the All-Stars. The Angels were so popular that their payroll often exceeded many Major League teams and legendary player Steve Bilko actually had to take a pay-cut when "called up" to play for the Cincinnati Reds in 1958.

So Chass rails against the Angels and Moreno, accusing them of committing "fraud" by changing (actually, changing back) their name. If so Mr. Chass, how about your home-town NFL teams? Are they not committing "fraud" by playing their games in New Jersey yet still calling themselves the New York Jets and Giants? At least the Angels play in the same state. There are many sports towns that host a team's stadium yet do not get specifically mentioned. The Dallas Cowboys play in Irving (but will be moving to Arlington), the Phoenix Coyotes play in Glendale, and innumerable teams use their respective state's name instead of the city where their stadium is located. Does Minneapolis get miffed that the Vikings and Twins don't use their name? No, and the reason is that they understand that those teams draw fans from the entire state and therefore the entire state is referenced in the name. Similarly, the Angels draw most of their fans from outside of Anaheim but within the Los Angeles television market (an area that encompasses Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties). The politically correct name-change would have been to revert to the name the Angels used from 1966 - 1997: California Angels. But with five MLB teams in the state it is more than a little presumptuous for the Angels to lay claim to the entire state. Southern Californians have more in common with Arizonans than Northern Californians so why would anyone presume to think they would have similar taste in baseball teams?

Murray Chass has completely missed the point. The Angels are not "stealing" the name Los Angeles from the Dodgers and they are not trying to defraud the public into thinking they actually play in LA. No, the Angels changed their name because despite drawing as many fans and generating the same television ratings, the Angels were offered roughly half what the Dodgers were. There is no logic to it, no defining metric to explain why the Dodgers are worth twice as much as the Angels. There is simply a perception of the Angels as "small market" despite the fact that they had the third highest payroll last season. It is that perception that Arte Moreno is seeking to change. Chass argues that Moreno is simply greedy, stating

"It is not enough to win division championships and draw 3.37 million fans to his team's games. Moreno wants more, and Selig is letting him have it."

If only Arte would take the scraps falling from the table of the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers and be happy. Why must he try for more? Why should he try to build the Angels into a brand-name? Can't he just let the poster-boy for baseball-excess, George Steinbrenner, have it all? No, actually, he can't. According to ESPN the Yankees and Red Sox make-up 53% of licensed merchandise sales. That's a monopoly within a monopoly. Officially the Yankees and Red Sox lost money last year (a combined $48 million and if you believe that Murray's got a bridge to sell you) but according to Forbes this is simply a "loss leader for their sports channels. Arte Moreno is a businessman and his objectives equate to those of all Angel fans: build a consistent contending team with enough revenue streams to insure payroll flexibility. But beyond that Moreno will try to build the Angels value as an organization. That is the true key to winning financially in baseball. George Steinbrenner led a buy-out of the Yankees in 1973 for $10 million. Forbes valued the 2004 Yankees first among major US sports teams at $950 million. Not a bad little investment for a humble yacht maker. The Angels are valued at $294 million ($206 million less the stadium which is owned by the city - already a tidy $22 million profit for Mr. M over his '03 purChass price of $184 million) but are appreciating faster (22% value increase '04 vs. '03) than either the Yankees (14%) , the Red Sox (6%) or the Dodgers (14%). Granted, they have a lot more room to grow but then, that's the point Murray.

The Angels have a rich tradition in Los Angeles, in fact they were so popular in 1957 (the year before the Dodgers moved to LA) that Dodger owner Walter O'Malley bought the team from chewing gum magnate Phil Wrigley for the unheard of sum of $3,000,000 and the rights to the Dodgers' Texas League franchise in Fort Worth. O'Malley cooly reassured PCL directors that the Angels would continue as part of the Coast League. But once O'Malley owned the Angels he owned the stadium they played in (Wrigley Field) as well as the territorial rights to the area. O'Malley then shipped the Halos north to Spokane, Washington and technically kept his word that the team would continue to operate as part of the PCL. In fact what he did was bulldoze an LA institution in favor of importing a New York team. After crushing Angel fans' hearts he then did the same to those of the Brooklyn Dodgers, bringing them in to fill the void he created. So for someone, particularly a New Yorker, to try and make a case that the Angels are "frauds" because they play 30 miles from a geographical marker signifying the Los Angeles city line it incredulous. Anaheim is no major metropolis, it isn't even the financial or population hub of Orange County. Coincidentally, the Angels were originally intended to move to Long Beach (within LA County) but decided on Anaheim because Long Beach insisted the team be called the "Long Beach Angels". So the city of Anaheim is now trying to do to the Angels what Long Beach tried to do in the sixties and long-term, it could have the same net-effect. The Angels have an out in their stadium lease in 2016 and Arte Moreno strikes me as the kind of guy who might have an eleven-year memory. The Angels were the original LA team and they have a history which they can be very proud of. "Angels" is simple the English translation for Los Angeles. What could have more to do with the city of LA than that? When was the last time someone used the term "Dodger" outside of Chavez Ravine? Possibly at tax time but certainly not in the context the team was named for, namely the dodging of trolley cars in Brooklyn. When the Angels reappeared in Los Angeles in 1961, now as a Major League team, it must have been like resurrecting a ghost to O'Malley. The frustrated Dodger owner must have thought 'Didn't we get rid of these guys already?'. What is unfortunate is that Gene Autry, who was driven out of LA by the O'Malleys, did just what they wanted and abandoned the LA market, leaving it for the Dodgers. Now that the saga has picked-up again, with Moreno laying claim to what rightfully belongs to the Angels: a large slice of the southern California baseball market.


Blogger Daniel said...

Bravo. Fantastic job. I don't understand why more people don't get it.

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bottom line is that this new name is getting ripped to shreds. Arte changed the name EXACTLY so New York ad type execs will fall head over heels over the name "Los Angeles". National sponsorships is one of the goals of Arte. Guess what city those as execs work in?

Regardless of what you think of him, Murray Chass is a pretty influential writer. Whether you like the column or not, chalk up another national figure not enamored with the name.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

I agree that Chass overstepped his bounds when he said that Anaheim and LA had no connection and that the time the Angels spent in LA was insignificant. However, you do the same when you you say that the LA Angels "joined" the American League in 1961. They weren't the same franchise by any means, just the same name (people don't consider the two Washington Senator franchises to be the same team).
Now, I find your history lesson interesting, but irrelevant for the question of the name change. Yes, they have the same name...but they are NOT the same team. Also, the reason that the Dodgers make so much more money and have so many more fans has nothing to do with LA vs. Anaheim, it is solely due to the long winning history of the Dodger franchise. In order for the Angels to reach that, they need to build a winning franchise, changing the name is irrelevant to that (and can hurt things in the short run). You are also wrong in implying that Anaheim is not a significant part of Orange is in fact one of the largest cities in population and land mass as well as the commercial center of the county. It is arguably the most well known non-beach city in the county.
Finally, yes it was bad that the Angels are characterized as a small market team and have for so long...Anaheim is only 300,000 people, but the county is around 3 million (plus the surrounding counties add quite a bit). If you leave LA county out of this (assume it is all for the Dodgers for now), the Angels would still be playing in one of the largest markets in the league. Why couldn't Arte Moreno have used his advertising genius to pump up the profile of OC and Anaheim? Instead he has decided to subvert the contract that he is bound by to use the stadium. Yes, he is sticking by the letter of the contract, but Chass talks about how the Angels have requested only Los Angeles, LA, or LAA be used. That is CLEARLY against the intent of the contract, and Anaheim certainly has a case now. I agree, Arte should do what he can to bring in revenue, but that should not include breaking contracts. It is also very evident that he never even tried to convince the Anaheim City Council why he was doing this or that it was beneficial for both. That shows that he is not necessarily a good business partner. And for the record, I was upset when the name was changed to Anaheim from California, and I would have been happy with it going back, but this name change is both ridiculous and stupid.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Anonymous--- I disagree that people like Chass are who Arte was interested in influencing. You are jumping to the same incorrect conclusion that he did, that the name change in and of itself will suddenly change people's perception of the Angels. Clearly this is but one in a series of steps to increase the Angels visibility. Let's review:

1. Sign high-profile players to make the current team the favorite in the division -- check.
2. Do NOT trade away young talent and keep infusing the farm teams with new talent -- check (well, Kendry? Weaver? Ok, 1/2 check).
3. Win the division. Check.
4. Change the city affiliation to be more inclusive of larger So Cal market place and replace the image of Angels as "small market". Note to self: This could take awhile. Check.
5. Win AL pennant, World Series and maintain quality of team while keeping payroll in the 85 - 90 mil range by promoting minor league talent and filling holes via free-agency.

In addition Moreno has negotiated massive improvements at the Angels spring home in Tempe. You got use to Anaheim Angels, believe me, a winning season will go a long way towards warming your heart to the new name.

Josh -
I agree, the '61 Angels were a brand-new team and the name was chosen as a homage to the PCL club. But do you think the Cleveland Browns are a six-year-old franchise? They are a "completely different" team than the one that bolted for Baltimore in 1995. The PCL Angels and the AL Angels share a name and a history of baseball in LA. I am perfectly willing to accept the Angels were the LA Angels for "only five years", my beef with Chass on that was that he gave way too much credibility to the Anaheim name.

As far as Anaheim being the economic center of OC, I can not think of a single major company based there. Even Disney is based in Burbank, not Anaheim. The business center of OC is the John Wayne Airport/South Coast Plaza area. Anaheim has a lot of commercial one-story buildings but the larger business' are built on Anaheim's fringe in Orange, Garden Grove and even Santa Ana. But that further makes my point that Anaheim has no more right to force the Angels to use their name than the dozen or so other cities where fans live in the area.

Could Arte have gone to California Angels? Probably the safe choice but again, presumptuous given the number of teams in CA.

I really can not argue with you on the contract. I feel for the city in the fact that they may have "intent" bt I would contend that Disney was incredibly stupid to enter into that agreement in the first place. They had the misguided notion they could build up the name of Anaheim and help their theme park. That did not happen and the net result is the Angels were left with a lame name. As far as who to side with, my gut says avoid the politicians. Arte can wait them out and I suspect he will be a big campaign donor to whoever faces Pringle and others in the next election. How about Tim Salmon for Mayor of Tempe! Too bad he lives here in AZ.

I guess the courts will decide and we all will live with whatever the outcome. I wish Arte would payoff the city and name the stadium after the city.

6:44 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

I understand you could make the argument that it is analagous to the Cleveland Browns situation, but two points on that. First, it was extremely idiotic for the NFL to say that it is the exact same franchise, with a 5 year (or whatever) hiatus. The Ravens should have the Browns history, the Browns should be defined as an expansion team. Second, the old LA Angels have never (to my knowledge) actually been officially associated with the new Angels, it was just a name thing. They do not share histories, just like the old Senators teams do not share histories. They have some similarities for sure, but that doesn't make them the same team (the Yankees have some similarities with the Baltimore Orioles, that doesn't mean they share a history).

As far as changing it to CA being presumptuous, well, isn't changing it to LA presumptuous, too? A large portion of their fan base might not be from Anaheim itself, but it is from Orange County and the name Anaheim is at least associated with Orange County. And at the very least Arte should have at least consulted with the Council before changing the name so he could get an idea what he would be facing.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Uncle Al said...

It was early in 2002 that a Register columnist penned a column suggesting that the Anaheim Angels find a new name. No, he liked the name Anaheim. What he wanted to change was Angels because, in so many words, he said that the name "Angels" only makes sense with Los Angeles in front of it. Had I a better crystal ball, I would have saved the article -- can't even remember the name of the columnist.

Some "state" names for teams make sense. Texas Rangers has a nice ring to it, whereas Dallas-Fort Worth Rangers does not. Same with Minnesota Twins and Colorado Rockies.

Conversely, the name of the old minor league team, the Miami Marlins sounds good in a way that Florida Marlins can never hope to achieve.

I was 16 when the Los Angeles Angels became the California Angels. My Dodger-loving friends immediately recognized what a stupid name "California Angels" was and never ceased to rub it in. In Autry's defense (actually I think it was Bob Reynolds who came up with the name), the Angels were the only American League team in California at the time.

By the way, I couldn't help but notice the irony last night. Frank McCourt has been s***ting bricks over the Angels' name change -- then goes and send his charges out in Brooklyn uniforms! Supposedly a tribute to the 1955 Dodgers -- except they didn't wear "Brooklyn" on their road OR home jerseys. The 1945 club was the last to wear "Brooklyn" and then on road jerseys only.

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