Yesterday morning, in reacting to the signing of Albert Pujols by the Angels, ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd noted:
…they got a young centerfielder Mike Trout, rookie…Torii Hunter’s contract comes off, so they probably look around and think, well, Bobby Abreu’s gone, Latino community…
He continues by going on (helped by Curt Schilling–not Latino either) about the “international flavor” of cities along the coast, extolling the signing as yet another way for the Angels’ owner, Arte Moreno, to appeal to Los Angeles’ Latino community.
Huh? Bobby Abreu is from Venezuela!
Ok, let’s focus upon what I thought was Cowherd’s thesis. If true, Cowherd and Moreno need a geography lesson with respect to what type of Latino you find in the neighborhoods around the former Anaheim Stadium. After all, Albert Pujols is not Mexican, while the percentage of those of Mexican origin living in the city was 46% (according to the 2010 US Census) . Of the other 6+% of the city’s Latino population, none was listed as being from the Dominican Republic.
Albert Pujols is Dominican.
Santa Ana, next door to Anaheim, has a Latino population approaching nearly 80%, the bulk of those also mostly of Mexican origin. In seeing if the thesis suggested by Cowherd was valid, the LA Times went searching. They found:
…Pujols won’t energize L.A.’s Latino community the way Manny Ramirez did — and certainly not the way Fernando Valenzuela did. Of the 7.7 million Latinos that call Southern California home, less than 6,000 of them are Dominican, according to census data.
Signing Pujols is a huge boon to the Angels as a team, even if I personally feel that they still need a thirdbaseman, and that Pujols, at 32, is not getting any younger. But to argue that this was a move also designed to appeal to some generic “Latino”, shows Moreno’s incredible ignorance of the local market he purports to understand. For years, people, including the City of Anaheim have tried to get him to make any glance at a local map that could have shown him (or Cowherd, for that matter), that Anaheim is nowhere near Los Angeles. Nor would a typical Angel fan be necessarily be found that far beyond the Los Angeles-Orange County border, despite the Angels’ push to make an impact upon local sports fans in a market where the Dodgers, as an active franchise, have been emasculated until the team can be sold.
But there’s also the implicit assumption that the team can sign any Spanish speaker and market it to a specific population that somehow can’t tell the difference, when, in fact, it can. The Angels, if they truly want to appeal the immediate communities that surround the stadium–Anaheim and Santa Ana–need their own Fernando Valenzuela. That is, they need their own Mexicano. Bobby Abreu, Maicer Izturis, Ervin Santana, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar all speak Spanish, yes. But they are not going to be drawing fans to Anaheim (not Los Angeles) simply because they lack that visceral appeal to the majority of those potential fans who are of Mexican origin–they are not Mexican.
And neither is Albert Pujols. He has done many things in his great baseball career. But the Spanish she speaks is not going to immediately produce a wave of new baseball fans in the manner in which Fernando Valenzuela once did.
This was a definitive baseball-only move. It was not a sociological step forward. Sadly, try as he might, Arte Moreno is neither Branch Rickey nor the O’Malley family. He is late to the party in trying to steal away the Dodger’s impact of having that history that includes Jackie Robinson, Fernando Valenzuela, Hideo Nomo, and Chan-Ho Park.
They did get a nice player though.
Angels’ GM Jerry Dipoto, later on in the Times’ article:
“How it affects our market, Southern California, winning breeds interest. And we are setting ourselves up to start next season with an opportunity to be good.”
True on the first point. And, for a brief shining moment yesterday, the Angels did manage to breed some interest on the second point. But I doubt very much interest came out of the monolithic Latino community that Cowherd felt was agog over this acquisition. But Moreno did get his publicity bump, although it was far briefer than he might have hoped. By last night, and continuing into today, local sports talk did center around a player–but it wasn’t Albert Pujols that got the talking heads going. And even more stunning, at least as of today, this player wasn’t even coming to Los Angeles.
Move over Albert, people in LA (and OC) would rather talk about Chris Paul. Even the Mexican ones, Colin.