Arte, Not Crafty

The fan base grows ever more restless…

Los Angeles Angels’ Albert Pujols (5), left, argues with home plate umpire Bob Davidson, right, after being called out at home on a tag from Kansas City Royals catcher Humberto Quintero after Kendrys Morales hit a single during the fourth inning of a baseball game on Saturday, April 7, 2012, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

It’s obvious that the Angels tossed everything into an effort to take over the Los Angeles market, unseating the Dodgers as the No. 1 baseball team in SoCal. Using fan and media anger over the McCourts, Arte Moreno gave it his best shot, but the law of being first is a difficult one to overcome. Add to that the Dodgers are no doubt the most historic franchise in baseball and Moreno is left in second place in the market.

If the NFL deal falls through and the Angels move into a downtown stadium [April 29], then Moreno can look up toward Chavez Ravine and realize the Angels are not the Dodgers. If he wanted to be No. 1, he should have bought the Dodgers.
Steve Buffalo, Letter to the Editor, Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2012

…which sums up Arte Moreno’s chasing of windmills even better than I ever could,  As it stands, the Angels, as a team, continue to struggle as the baseball season turns into May.  Despite Jered Weaver’s no-hitter this past Wednesday night, punctuating a sweep of the even more desperate Minnesota Twins, the Halos immediately lost the first two games of their series with Toronto, keeping them 7 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers, who’ve struggled themselves over the past week, thus allowing the Angels to stay within striking distance should they start to fix their early season issues.

But the team’s play on the field is no match for their owner’s insistence upon trying to seize local superiority in an entertainment market so vast that even the cable channels recognize  that there is a difference between a team based in Orange County and one in Los Angeles County, not allowing some Angels games to take priority over Dodger broadcasts in LA area codes, even though Arte Moreno insists that his team really *is* playing in Los Angeles.

The Angel owner’s geographic disconnect though, has not garnered as much conversation this past week than has the apparent failure of his team’s broadcasters to actually utter the word “no-hitter” during Weaver’s no-no.

But bubbling under the surface of frustration with the team’s start are others, like letterwriter Buffalo above, that the Angels are fooling themselves into believing that rather than carve out their own niche amongst the potential fans for baseball in Southern California, they’d rather try to steal their fans from the teams in “L.A.” that are winning games:  the Dodgers, as well as the two playoff basketball teams, along with the playoff hockey team.  Seriously, Arte Moreno ought to be sending thank you cards to the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, and Kings, for being successful enough that no one outside of the Angel faithful are truly taking notice of the struggling team out in Orange County.

Instead, we have his quixotic desire to move right down Figueroa Street from Dodger Stadium.  I am shocked to see some Angel fans at peace with Moreno’s thinking:

It’s important to remember how Arte Moreno became a billionaire.  He has an innate ability to tickle the fancy of the human mind and get us all to buy into whatever it may be he’s selling.  Even when we didn’t like what he was selling, for example the name change, he showed us that his forward thinking would only make our club and brand better.  So this is where it gets scary.  There is absolutely no doubt that making the Angels a global brand is Arte Moreno’s master plan.  He envisions his club being right up there with the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs in terms of brand recognition.  Can he do that in Anaheim California?  Maybe he could.  But would it be easier to do so in Downtown Los Angeles where the streets sparkle with starlets and the paparazzi pop shots of the who’s who of the entertainment world on a minute by minute basis?  You better believe it would.  The reality is that Los Angeles and Orange County are only separated by 35 miles of highway, but they might as well be worlds apart in terms of global recognition and curb appeal.  I should know, I travel frequently and outside of the USA nobody has heard of Orange County.  Heck, people living outside of California even think Disneyland is in LA.

Talk about my heart and head not being in harmony.  My heart obviously wants the Angels to stay in what we all consider their home.  The Big A has housed the Angels for over 30 years, and according to my heart is where they should stay.  But with that said, I am a businessman, and my head tells me otherwise.  I read a quote one time written by an unknown author that said “Think highly of yourself, people will hold you at your own regard.”  That statement could never be more factual than it is in the case of Arte’s vision of becoming globally relevant.  If he thinks, depicts, and acts like the Big Boys of the sports entertainment world, the rest of the population will believe he is.  A glitzy new billion dollar ballpark in the heart of Downtown LA oozes “cosmopolitan” and will unquestionably be the focal point of a move.

So I guess that if the NFL fails to ultimately get its boondoggle football stadium, the AEG people would bring in Moreno’s Angels instead.  And, apparently, Moreno is thinking that the fanbase built up over 35 years in Anaheim would gleefully follow the team north.  Upon arriving though, whereas they once expected a dedicated parking lot with little issues getting in or out after games, instead they’d get the wonderful intricacies of trying to park in downtown L.A. where there are no big lots–outside of Chavez Ravine–where you can just park your car and walk in.  Last month, AEG released its report as to what it anticipated traffic might look like on a football game day:

The stadium project, which includes a plan to tear down and rebuild a portion of the Convention Center, has the support of the business and labor communities. But some who live near the project site have protested it, saying it will bring more light pollution and traffic to a neighborhood that is already one of the densest parts of the city.

Anschutz Entertainment Group, the developer behind the proposed 73,000-seat stadium, has sought to allay those concerns with a series of mitigation measures to ease traffic and encourage mass transit. The proposals outlined in the report include $11 million in freeway improvements and other traffic management measures, as well as $10 million for improvements at a light-rail station and hundreds of thousands of dollars in investments in a city car-share program.

According to the report, an estimated 10,800 patrons would take mass transit during a football game on the weekend. Some 2,530 would walk or bike, and 58,680 would drive, it found.

Hey Arte, how’s that going to look when you have to do this 81 times each season, and how fun will that be when you’ve got April baseball games running smack into late season basketball and hockey games at Staples Center next door–not to mention possible traffic along the Harbor Freeway heading north, should the Dodgers also be on a homestand at the same time?

Adding mass transit is a worthy goal, but I doubt it can adequately mitigate the potential traffic nightmare that would occur, and not enough to convince, in my opinion anyway, diehard Orange County baseball fans to brave the freeway as often to see the Angels play in a stadium in downtown Los Angeles.  In fact, so troublesome is the parking issue that, at least last year, AEG’s President Tim Leiweke noted:

“Under no circumstances are we interested in building a baseball stadium. If you logically just think through playing baseball games in April, May and June when we have Lakers, Clippers and Kings playoff games that are scheduled on a week’s notice. Look at the conflict that would be created during that time. If you logically think through baseball playoff games which are scheduled on a week’s notice and we have Kings, Lakers and Clippers beginning their season, it doesn’t work.”

Long before Dodger Stadium was built, when being flown about Los Angeles in a L.A. Sherriff’s helicopter by LA County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, then-Dodger owner Walter O’Malley recognized the value of the acreage afforded by Chavez Ravine, asking for that property with which to build his new stadium, to have legitimate freeway access, and enough land to also have parking lots (with 19,000 spaces) right up to the Stadium.  It strikes me as ironic that Moreno is so willing to give up 12,000+ parking spaces in Anaheim to cramp his team into an entertainment center where being second fiddle to the Dodgers would be the least of his worries, given the hold the Lakers have taken upon the city itself, much less the surrounding area that’s not the city of Los Angeles.  It strikes me as ironic that Moreno’s sole strategy is to no longer divorce himself from the reality of geography but to give in that geography and just move his team to the place he wanted it to be in the first place.

So, to “plus one” the Times’ letter writer, if Arte Moreno wanted a Los Angeles baseball team that bad–yup, he really should have just bought the Dodgers.  If nothing else, he would have spared Southern California baseball fans years of abuse at the hands of Frank and Jamie McCourt.


We All We Got–We All We Need

“If they’re gonna beat us, we’ll go out fighting. Coach Kapp instilled that in us-100 percent for 60 minutes; never give in until the last second has ticked off. We all held hands after Richard told us what to do. I knew then it wasn’t hopeless.” –former Cal running back Dwight Garner ’85

State Tests started in my classroom today.  And it seemed appropriate to say something inspiring.  Suffice to say that in my 15th year, I still hadn’t figured what to tell my kids before this process begins for them.  Problematically, my philosophical bent against the idea of standardized testing always colored what I wound up saying and whatever eloquence I felt I might have had when I was thinking about what to say would dissipate into a diatribe well above my intended audience.  I was determined not to repeat that mistake this year.

So, I told them about this:

When I finished talking about it, I mentioned to my kids that I had been in the stadium that Saturday afternoon, and, outside of the night I brought home my little girl, it remains one of the most amazing experiences that I had ever personally witnessed.

But then I also told my kids that what I found even more amazing than being there in person for “The Play” was watching all 32 of them demonstrating and using things that *I* had taught to them throughout the year.

“Today, Tomorrow, and next week is about showing off what you’ve learned from me.  I don’t care if you don’t ace this test and not get a perfect score.  That’s not what this is about.  Just be a little bit better than what I already know you can do.  If you can do that for your classmates, and, ultimately, for me, that’s all I can ask.”

I hope they did well today.