This Cartoon is No Longer a Joke

Dream, dream away
Magic in the air, was magic in the air?
I believe, yes I believe

— John Lennon, “#9 Dream”

If I am not listening to my iPod in my CR-V,  I often make the mistake of listening to local Los Angeles sports talk radio.  In their endless obsession with everything Laker, or NFL football, baseball becomes one of the tangents the local sports guys dabble with, when they’ve run out of things with which to praise the local misogynist basketball hero.  And this season, with Angel owner Arte Moreno’s stubborn determination to lock down every one of baseball’s purported superstars who don’t play in New York, the din amongst the locals had become overwrought and anguished as it became increasingly clearer that the Halos might not be going to the post-season.

So, in their frustration, not only were a number of Angel fans calling into AM830 Angel Talk, or KSPN, the ESPN radio affiliate in Los Angeles, but several of the Angel Talk moderators were even turning their fire onto the Orioles, in utter disbelief that Arte’s attempt to buy a division title was being upset by the collection of misfits and screwballs in Baltimore who wouldn’t get out the Angels’ way as the Anaheim-based team furiously tried to rally its season to try to grab one of the two league wild card sports.  In their minds, these Orioles also had the temerity, by virtue of having allowed more runs than they had scored for much of the season, to win 93 ballgames and take the Yank-mes down to the final series of the season for the division title in the American League’s Eastern Division.  How untoward!

But even more upsetting to Angel Talk listeners had to be the miracle run of the Oakland Athletics.

Here was a team who actually managed to chase down and catch the Texas Rangers for the division title. And they won the division title not by overpaying the superstars from some MLB Network highlight reel, but by finding help within their own organization.  Like the Orioles, who used roster construction and their own minor leagues to address big league needs, the Athletics were even more self-sufficient with their own talent base, and restructured their team to hunt down the Rangers–something the local LA sports intelligentsia were convinced the Angels would do way back in December, when the Orange County-based team signed Albert Pujols and pitcher CJ Wilson, or mid-season, when the Angels acquired Zack Grienke from the Milwaukee Brewers.  Even with the transcendence of rookie Mike Trout, the lesson to be gleaned from the 2012 American League pennant race was the simple and basic notion that even if your team has a roster filled with players that appear on winning Fantasy baseball teams, the team still has to play 162 games.

“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”  —former Oriole manager Earl Weaver

Being an Oriole fan for 42 years has taught me all I needed to now about the fickle nature of a team’s fortunes.  Growing up in the early 1970s, the team was a perennial contender, with 7 division titles, 5 World Series appearances, and 2 championships by the time I had graduated from college.  But the string had played itself out by the time 1984 had rolled around, bottoming out in 1988, after the team lost its first 21 games of the season.  Starting in 1989, the team improved enough to be somewhat of a factor in its division, finally forcing its way back into the playoffs in 1996, and coming within 2 games of a World Series appearance in 1997.

But then the bottom fell out, and the franchise descended into what seemed like the 7th circle of hell.  Baseball season essentially began to last for about 6 weeks for me each season, until the Orioles typically fell on their faces by mid-May or early-June, thus freeing me up for any number of summer activities that didn’t require me to follow major league baseball.

Don’t worry, the fans don’t start booing until July. — former Oriole manager Earl Weaver

You learn to appreciate the temporary and fleeting nature of success when and where it might happen when you root for a team that had become synonymous with failure.  But the team’s early success eventually began to manifest itself into something real, even if unbelievable.

I became hooked, such that even when the season appeared to be reaching free fall, marked by a loss to Minnesota on July 17th that left the Orioles only 2 games above a .500 record and 10 games behind the Yank-mes, I tried my best to restrain my creeping sense of doubt.   Despite having a team on the brink of becoming its usual self, the team instead began to man up.  Management retooled the Oriole rotation and lineup with minor league veterans, major league cast-offs, and along with near-failed prospects.  Then the team shored up its shaky infield defense by calling up its prize 20-year-old rookie shortstop (to play third base) Manny Machado.  Even while losing the team’s leadoff hitter, Nick Markakis, and its putative #1 starter, Jason Hammel, to injuries over the final weeks, a magical season remained so as the team closed out the second half of the year by going 47-25.

As a fan of a team languishing in baseball’s wilderness, you become appreciative of the small successes, and even in the middle of what was becoming a legitimate playoff run, I still clung to the understanding that all I wanted to hope to see was a team that could win 82 games.  Finally, when the Birds beat the A’s in Oakland on September 16th, for the first time since the tortured end of the 1997 playoffs, I could, at last, call myself a fan of a “winning” team.

I told myself at that point that anything else beyond win #82 would be gravy.

And so the Orioles won 11 more games, and on September 30th, a year and one day after ending the Red Sox’s own dream of making the 2011 baseball playoffs, the Orioles completed a sweep of the Bosox, and coupled with, ironically, a loss by Arte Moreno’s Angel not-so juggernaut, the Orioles themselves were now a playoff team.  Ultimately, the playoff position would mean a single wild-card elimination game against the Texas Rangers in Texas, but it meant I would be doing something I had yet to do all year–actually sit down an watch an Oriole game.

All season long, I had followed the club via text messages, fan mailing lists, newspaper links, and Camden Chat.   A $14.95 investment into MLB.com’s iPad app, meant I could get recaps and game highlights after each game.  It got to the point where I was as tuned into the team as I could get, without actually having had to work through an entire game.  Even if I wanted to watch a game, since no one took the Orioles’s season all that seriously, the MLB Network would often choose other games of interest over the misfit toys in Baltimore posing as a playoff contender.  I contented myself in using those alternate ways.

But in terms of watching meaningful October baseball, last night’s wild card game was different.  Win or lose, I needed to watch it.

A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings. – Earl Wilson, MLB pitcher for the Red Sox, Tigers, and Padres

Packing the kid off to an early bedtime, and with the wife at an Admin conference, it meant I could watch the game via DVR uninterrupted.  With Boston Terrier by my side, the nervous time began…

But, let’s be honest, on a drizzly night in April or a humid afternoon in August, who really cares that much? However, in the playoffs, tens of millions of us become temporary baseball fanatics. Almost every fall, the game pulls us toward it, reveals its richness and reminds us why it has been around so long and yet keeps its power.
Thomas Boswell, Washington Post, October 15, 1997

Once upon a time, my mom would have sat with me watching a game like last night’s Wild Card game, rosary beads at the ready.  Then, at some point during the game, I began to think about an old acquaintance from the Oriole mailing list, and a diehard Birds fan himself.  Later, after the game, other Oriole fans reminded each other about former Oriole pitcher and team executive Mike Flanagan, whose suicide last year was partly attributed to despair over the team’s failures over the past 14 seasons to that point.   (It’s sad to note that the team has played nearly 200 games since his death, and that the team has won at a .570+ clip since.)

Thusly, there was not going to be any shortage of potential spectral unseen hands at work to bring last night’s win home.  But the ultimate highlight was in simply watching something come together both wholly unexpected and psychologically stunning–a Baltimore Oriole team was still playing October baseball. In a season of statistical improbability, the impossible was happening…

As a kid, I used to expect such things.  As a young adult, I accepted it when it happened.  But as the years have passed, I, at last, came to understand the sense of what each season truly means as it came to their ends.  The Orioles’ 2012 season might well be the exception to the statistical rule, but it’s the one that happened to play itself out.  Those callers, along with the talk radio hosts, who wailed about unfairness on Angel Talk broadcasts over the final weeks of this season failed to understand the idea that “deserving” had nothing to do with winning baseball if you didn’t earn your place in the big dance to begin with.

I became an optimist when I discovered that I wasn’t going to win any more games by being anything else. — Former Oriole Manager, Earl Weaver

There is an old joke about a Baltimore resident who is sent to Hell for his behavior.  While I’ve never been to Charm City myself, I am told that the weather can be quite intolerable and, indeed, upon his arrival Satan immediately isolates his new inmate and begins to try to find an appropriate eternal punishment.  He raises not only the temperature, but also the humidity, only to find, to his frustration, to see the Baltimorean relaxing and wondering why people seemed to dismiss Hell as such a terrible place.  Vexed, Satan immediately drops the temperature, lowering it to below freezing, with snow and ice.  He leaves to attend to other business, only to be called back shortly thereafter by one of his minions to come immediately over to check back with the Baltimorean.  Satan is stunned by what he encounters when he glances in on the man.

In the midst of a near blizzard, the Baltimorean is jumping around and screaming:  “The Orioles have won the World Series!  The Orioles have won the World Series!”

Advertisements

Bagging on Arte

Arte Moreno saves the planet?

Where I’m at, in Southeast LA County, happens to be Ground Zero, in my opinion, in Arte Moreno’s effort to take over the Greater Southern California Sports Market.  As I’ve noted before, it’s this huge geographic region that he’s come to see as “Los Angeles”.  But more specifically, given how it is centered between the Angels’ true home, Anaheim, and its fictional home, Los Angeles, a trip to the super market means seeing both teams’ merchandise featured prominently for sale as part of this battle for fan base.

In the meantime, the City of Los Angeles’ recent decision to ban single use plastic bags at grocery stores is just one of many local communities joining the trend towards encouraging reusable shopping bags.  Now this battle to be environmentally sound has been extended to local baseball teams.  As it turns out today, I was able to see, first hand, the spoils of war being waged between the Angels and Dodgers, even while shopping for food, which punctuated this statistical nugget from this morning’s LA Times:

The most startling statistic in baseball: The Angels’ attendance is down 14% this season, the largest drop in the major leagues.

The Angels sold more than 5,000 season tickets after they signed Pujols, and all those tickets count in the attendance figures. The Angels signed Pujols to hit, first and foremost, but no doubt owner Arte Moreno also could see an attendance crisis brewing.

The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers come to town this week — two big draws — and the number of empty seats could reveal the depth of the crisis. The Angels still were offering Goldstar ticket discounts for both series as of Saturday.

Standing in line at my local grocer, I glanced over at their reusable shopping bags, musing if I should grab a princess bag for Kate, given that her birthday is tomorrow and all.  Instead I saw mute testimony as to how Arte Moreno’s plan to take over Southern California was working out outside of Angels Stadium.  One shopper, looking at the choices given the 2 bags-for-$5 price, turned and asked the checker if they had any Dodger bags left.

No.  Sold out.  Plenty of Angel grocery bags though.

The Orioles! Band of Misfits

You’ve been waiting for this — meaningful baseball, exciting baseball — forever. You’re like someone who’s been locked in a cellar for years and they just threw open the storm doors and you’re gulping the fresh air.

But you’re wary, too. Wary of giving your heart totally to this team lest you get burned again. Fine, I get it. Let’s face it, you’ve been emotionally scarred. Fourteen straight seasons of losing baseball — bad baseball — would do that to any fan.

So even a thrilling win like Sunday’s and two series sweeps of the hated Yankees and Red Sox hasn’t won you over completely.

You’re jaded, cynical, skeptical, pick whatever word you want.

In the back of your mind, you’re thinking: will there be another mid-season collapse?

Kevin Cowherd, Baltimore Sun

Darnell McDonald pitched the 17th inning for the Red Sox and gave up the game-winning home run to Orioles outfielder Adam Jones. Jones belted a three-run blast into the Monster seats at Fenway Park. McDonald was the losing pitcher. (Photo: Matthew J. Lee/Boston Globe Staff)

There was a point today when I simply ignored the movie theater’s plea to ignore the smart phone while out with my little girl today, and I just used my Oriole cap to cover up the light so I could check for updates on today’s 6+ hour, 17-inning game, a 9-6 win punctuating a sweep of  Boston in Fenway Park.  As luck would have it, even the hapless Kevin Gregg (2 IP, 4 Ks, 0 BBs) was able to keep the Bosox in check long enough for Adam Jones to win it in the 17th.

This season is moving beyond the cuteness of hearing Katelyn ask to watch an occasional Oriole highlight on my iPad. “I want to watch my favorite bird, with the black head and orange beak!”  Now the damn team is demanding that I start to believe again.  “Why not?” is no longer starting to sound so 1989…  

This was the slogan for the overachieving 1989 team. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam / September 15, 2009)

It would be so easy, but not quite yet.

Still, on this 6th day of May 2012, a 19-9 record, 1st place in the AL East, and the best record in baseball.  Naturally, those of us with long enough memories, recall the 19-9 start of 2005.  We also recall the 55-79 finish to that year.  Still, 74 wins would be an improvement over recent years for the franchise.  But now, in the midst of this past week and a half, the expectations have been bumped up a bit.  However, as David Schoenfield notes:

Look, playing in the AL East, it’s not going to get easier for the Orioles, so they’ll need this pen to continue pitching lights-out baseball. Their next 32 games: Four against the Rangers, three against the Rays, two against the Yankees, two at the Royals, three at the Nationals, three against the Red Sox, three against the Royals, three at the Blue Jays, three at the Rays, three at the Red Sox, three against the Phillies. Whew.

What is apparent about this year’s Orioles however, is how each team member is working to pick each other up.  Past teams would have collapsed when the Red Sox came back to tie the score today, after the Orioles had been up 5-0.  Past teams would have collapsed the way in which in the team stumbled around Friday night in the series opener, itself also an extra-inning win.  Yet the Orioles continue to find ways to win, and even the decision to put Chris Davis into the game to pitch was evidently planned by Buck Showalter ahead of time.  

Nevertheless, the Texas Rangers come into Baltimore tomorrow.  And the weirdness might have reached its apex today.  Worse, the Orioles might be preparing to bring back Miguel Tejada, mainstay of that failed 2005 team, reminders of the bad old days of vitamin/steroid shots gone wrong, not to mention teams that just didn’t sit well within themselves.

This team, right now, doesn’t feel that way.  In fact, right now, it’s hard to feel anything at all, except, maybe, shock.  Questioning it is just too hard;  it’s much easier to just sit back and enjoy it, no?  And enjoy it for as long as it might last, because two weeks from now, I might be preparing to get ready for the return of college football.

Stuck on the Off-Ramp

Anaheim Stadium (now Angel Stadium of Anaheim) under construction in August 1965. Taken from approximately where the Anaheim Stadium Amtrak Station currently stands. The stadium opened in April 1966. (Photo: Evan Wohrman)

No doubt in my mind that if Arte Moreno could, Aaron Rodgers would be playing for the Milwaukee Packers, since no one has ever heard of Green Bay, Wisconsin…I mean, I get it.  Gene Autry didn’t want his team called the “Long Beach Angels” when he was looking to move out of Dodger Stadium shortly after birthing the team in the early 1960s. He wanted the team to have its own identity, and its own geographic region with which to grow his fan base.  Hence, the “California Angels” were born:

When Gene Autry was looking to move his team out of Los Angeles and into the suburbs in the early 1960s, his first option was Long Beach. Autry liked the location, midway between Los Angeles and Orange County, with easy freeway access. The plan was to build a stadium on property that is now El Dorado Regional Park. Negotiations between the Angels and the city progressed until hitting what appeared to be a minor snag: What to call the team. The city demanded the team be called the Long Beach Angels. Autry, thinking the name sounded too minor league, insisted on the Los Angeles Angels or the California Angels. The city held out for Long Beach . . . and that was the deal breaker.

Construction of Anaheim Stadium (with landmark guides), February 5, 1965
Herald-Examiner Collection; Los Angeles Public Library.

What’s important to note about Autry’s original desire, as to the location of this Long Beach stadium, was the freeway access.  Of course, anyone who has attempted to exit off the Cerritos/Spring Street exit off the 605 Freeway on a busy weekend afternoon when there’s an event at El Dorado Park might beg to differ with respect to the freeway access.  But moving to Anaheim, where Disneyland had been established 10 years before, allowed the Angels to try to build upon the idea that there could be other destinations in Southern California that didn’t have to be in Los Angeles.

It’s also ironic to note that one of the original sites considered for Disneyland was the land later to be so attractive to Dodger owner Walter O’Malley.

For Arte Moreno of the Angels though, Anaheim isn’t attractive enough, because it’s not Los Angeles.  Therefore, just a like a kid who squints his eyes and tries to “squeeze” something between his fingers off in the distance to show his “strength”, Moreno decided that calling Anaheim “Los Angeles” would therefore make it so.  It’s just another lesson that the 1% teaches those of us in the 99%.  Just like the lesson Arte Moreno is about to teach us about how he not only brought the Angels to Los Angeles, he’d now *actually* bring the Angels to Los Angeles:

Pull out of the OC sometime after 2016, and Party Arte Moreno thinks he could be heading a caravan up Interstate 5 toward Staples-ville. It’s Battle Los Angeles, amigo. Get it? We’re not sure the Angels’ owner really does here. The billboard baron has been artfully dodging questions about some crazy end game that he has stuck in his noggin – now that “Los Angeles” is legally attached to his franchise’s name, he’s doing all he can to rally the thinkers at AEG to monkey around with this idea of building him a downtown L.A. ballpark. It can happen after his latest contract out with the city of Anaheim comes up in four years. Arte was indeed admiring the view out of Tim Leiweke’s skyscraper offices recently, pointing out plots of land where he could envision his own money-ballyard. Good luck with that, Leiweke likely told him. Let us know how that works…

Lost in the nightmare of trying to imagine traffic armageddon in and around the location of Moreno’s new “crown jewel” in downtown Los Angeles, is why he’d consider picking up the torch for AEG’s hopes of building a downtown sports stadium, without even considering the other location for a new sports stadium:  the Walnut/Industry crossroad location of the “Los Angeles Football Stadium”:

THE FACTS

Central location, easy access and plenty of on-site parking

Fact: 20 minutes east of Los Angeles, 15 minutes north of Disneyland

Fact: Equidistant from Hollywood and Newport Beach

Fact: Within an hour of over 15.5 million people – that’s 1/19 people in the USA

Fact: At the crossroads of two major freeways and four counties

The “Los Angeles Football Stadium”: lost in the hoopla over AEG’s Farmer’s Field in downtown Los Angeles, does this location offer possibilities for baseball should Moreno insist upon moving the Angels out of Anaheim?

If Walt Disney, Walter O’Malley, and Gene Autry could all see the wisdom of trying to get as easy freeway access for their attractions as they could, why is it that Arte Moreno, in addition to his geographic illiteracy, flunks history class as well?

Does the “Grand Crossing” stadium location work for a potential baseball team?  I have no idea if Ed Roski and his people behind the scenes in trying to attract notice of the NFL to bring a football team back to L.A., have even given a single thought to bringing baseball instead, in this instance Arte Moreno, to their stadium plans.  But admittedly, the idea has its appeal in terms of the property in place, the freeway access, and opportunity for Moreno to continue to build upon his long term plan of “branding” the Angels’ place upon Southern California.

But in his obsession with L.A., Moreno is not just missing the forest for the trees, he’s missed the off-ramp–or rather, he’s stuck on the off-ramp, of the 110 Freeway traveling north, at rush hour, while trying to get into this downtown stadium he apparently wants.  For all of his supposed marketing genius, how he’s misread the Southern California sports market is maddening, not unlike how Donald Sterling failed to take advantage of an opening that Anaheim offered his Clippers when the Ducks became the first tenant of the Anaheim Arena (now the Honda Center).  Arte Moreno is stuck in the traffic of his own self-aggrandizement, not trusting that, perhaps, the Cowboy, Gene Autry, knew what he was doing with his team in the first place.

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.

Arte Moreno realizes that Anaheim is not “in” Los Angeles County…

Youngsters on the site of Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field, the original home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 1961, prior to their move to Dodger Stadium in 1962.  The ballpark, located just east of the Harbor Freeway, was in the process of being demolished in the late 1960s, making way for the Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center.

The most intriguing wrinkle: The Angels’ attendance has crashed, even after Moreno shelled out $240 million to buy Albert Pujols.
The Angels sold 27,338 tickets to an April 16 game against Oakland. For the first time in 689 games — a streak extending to 2003 — the Angels sold fewer than 30,000 tickets.
They did it again on April 18, and a third time on April 19. The signing of Pujols triggered the sale of more than 5,000 season tickets, so the star first baseman might have been all that stood between the Angels and a crowd of 22,000.

Yup, a 7-14 start to a ballyhooed season will tend to do that to a team.  Not only has the owner of the team managed to get himself lost with respect to his inability to read a local map of Southern California, his ballclub, Dan Haren’s efforts yesterday notwithstanding, has also appeared lost over this first month of the season.  So, in what I would cynically describe as a way to get his team back on the front pages of the main local paper, Arte Moreno, the Angels’ geographically challenged owner, has finally realized that the team he owns *does not* play in the City of Los Angeles.

In this morning’s LA Times, Bill Shaikin shares how the Angels are in talks with AEG, the developers of Staples Center, LA Live, and the hoped-for Farmer’s Field for a possible NFL franchise.

The plan?  To maybe build a downtown baseball stadium for the Angels, next to AEG’s signature manufactured night life, and thus allow Arte Moreno to finally correct his geographic ignorance by dropping the “of Anaheim” from his team’s name, if it was, in fact, actually playing in the city for which it was named.

But right now, he’s currently starting to have trouble drawing fans to his park because of the team’s struggles early on.  Truthfully though, regardless of their level of success, is he honestly so full of hubris that he’d expect those same fans to follow him up the freeway to a new ballpark in downtown LA?

Is he really that clueless that he can’t understand that his fan base will not follow him north?

Attendance figures for the Angels when they actually called Los Angeles “home”:

  • 1961 – 603,510  (Wrigley Field)
  • 1962 -1,144,063 (move to Dodger Stadium, the team is in first place on the 4th of July and finishes with its only winning record in Los Angeles)
  • 1963 – 821,015
  • 1964 – 760,439
  • 1965 – 566,727
  • 1966 – 1,400,321 (move to Anaheim Stadium, where the team leads the American League in attendance, despite a 6th place finish…)

Anaheim Stadium, 1966

In the time the two teams “shared” downtown Los Angeles, the Dodgers were consistently drawing around 2.5 millions fans to Dodger Stadium each year after the team moved out of the LA Coliseum at the end of the 1961 season.

But while the 1.4 million fans that greeted the newly moved California Angels to Anaheim in 1966 seems markedly modest compared to the Dodgers’ numbers, they are on par with other American League teams for the duration of the time the Angel franchise has been in Anaheim Stadium.  For all of his faults as an owner, Gene Autry, the original owners of the Angels, had a sense to follow the path to a unique identity for his team.  As I’ve noted before, there’s a significant fan base in Orange County for baseball that doesn’t necessarily see it as necessary to follow Arte Moreno’s lead and travel to Los Angeles for baseball.

If Moreno takes his baseball team and leaves, he’ll be leaving behind his loyal fan base.   Is he that ignorant as to why the NBA’s Sacramento Kings are hoping to move to Anaheim (because the Clippers were blinded by AEG in accepting second fiddle status to the Lakers when Staples Center was built)?  Does he not see how the Ducks have gone out of their way to create hockey fans and market share in the same location he’s convinced himself–apparently–to abandon?  For all of his supposed genius at marketing, it’s a wonder that he’s convinced himself that abandoning Orange County is the right move for his team.

He needs a reality check.  It’s still early in the season, and there’s time for the Halos to rally their season and make up the ground they’ve skidded upon in the early going.  In the meantime, I think it would behoove Moreno to avoid alienating his team’s fans any more than their early season’s slump already has have.  But hey, at least he’s finally listening to his car’s GPS signal…

Running of the Mouths

Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen, shown here with the White Sox, was suspended for 5 games for comments about Fidel Castro...

One part of the new Oriole season that has cheered me has been the fact that Luke Scott is no longer an Oriole.  Before last season, he gained attention for parroting the Birther beliefs about President Obama’s birth certificate:

He was not born here. … That’s my belief. I was born here. If someone accuses me of not being born here, I can go — within 10 minutes — to my filing cabinet and I can pick up my real birth certificate and I can go, “See? Look! Here it is. Here it is.” The man has dodged everything. He dodges questions, he doesn’t answer anything. And why? Because he’s hiding something.

While Oriole owner Peter Angelos is a longtime Democratic powerbroker who donated to President Obama’s campaign in 2008, he had the team walk the controversy back from the edge, by distancing the team from Scott’s comments.  

Former Oriole Luke Scott, known for being out of left field with his opinions...

Scott, aside from having the Orioles acknowledge that the comments were entirely his own, had nothing happen to him in terms of losing playing time for running off at the mouth.  But limited to only 64 games last year because of a shoulder injury, his declining production and physical limitations made it easy for the struggling franchise to cut him loose after the season.  But it’s important to note that he was not punished for his opinions about President Obama.

Ozzie Guillen, Miami Marlins manager, was, on the other hand, today suspended for five games today for making comments that ostensibly praised Cuban leader Fidel Castro.  

Why must it be that, in matters of opinion in Major League Baseball, that Fidel Castro somehow outranks President Obama?  I am within my right to ignore both men’s comments, even if I disagree with both of them.  I don’t feel that either should be punished.  But as I noted above, the fact that Luke Scott is no longer an Oriole is not something I’m disappointed with.

Despite his obvious flaws as a baseball owner, I suppose I ought to give Oriole owner Peter Angelos credit for understanding the Constitutional allowances that enable all of us in America the opportunity to make asses out of ourselves.

The Cartoon Version

2012 has seen a return to the Orioles' iconic cartoon logo as the team's main icon for the first time since 1988...

It’s Baltimore gentlemen, the Gods will not save you. — The Wire

As a result, my wife is quite concerned that Kate is running around talking about the Orioles as her new favorite team.  The wife, who is an Angel fan, remains concerned. She is comfortable allowing me to fill Katelyn’s head with dreams of Cal’s Memorial Stadium or Haas Pavilion, but not of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  On the way home from an Easter Egg hunt on Saturday, Amber confronts Katelyn:

Me:  “Who is your favorite team?”

Kate:  “The Orioles…”

Mommy: “The Orioles?”

Kate:  “I like the Orioles, like they are Daddy’s favorite team…”

Mommy (to me):  “You did that!”

Me:  “I did not…this occurred all by itself.”

Of course, none of Katelyn’s sudden weekend interest translated into any desire by her later on that evening to allow me to watch the MLB.com game telecast on my iPad for the Birds’ win against the Twins on Saturday night.  I finally managed to escape to the bathroom to watch both Nick Markakis’ and Matt Wieters’ homeruns in the 7th inning of what became an 8-2 win.  While the game was on, a longtime friend, whom I originally met during the team’s success in the mid-1990s, upon discovering I hadn’t been able to watch the game, began to chide me on Facebook about the fact that Kate had apparently forgotten who her favorite team was.

Truth be told though, between Disney Junior, Disney Princesses, and her other enjoyments of the moment, the Orioles are in competition for her attention.  In addition, in all honesty, while I’ve unabashedly foisted the Cal Bears upon my daughter (it is a public school, after all…), I wanted her choice of professional teams to be more organically chosen.  My father was a Los Angeles Rams fan, and took me to my first Angel game (back when Anaheim was still in Anaheim…), but otherwise never suggested to me what my favorites should be.  I want that particular choice to be the same for Katelyn.  On the other hand, I am not beyond helping the process.  

Perhaps though, this ought to be the process.  Emilie Miller is the daughter of Jon Miller, former broadcaster for the Orioles, formerly of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, and now currently the voice of the San Francisco Giants:

My father, Jon Miller, broadcasts baseball. I do not remember my first game, but I cannot separate my childhood or memories from baseball. For the first six years of my life, my father juggled his duties as a broadcaster and as a single father of two young girls. These duties often overlapped.

In a photograph from the 1980s, my sister Holly and I are sitting in the broadcast booth before an Orioles game at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Cheeks flushed and a bit sweaty on a sticky summer day, we are drawing on the backs of stat sheets. Holly leans languidly on the table in front of the microphone, glaring into the camera and looking bored. I look as if I am still in diapers.

My father raised us while going to games, but he never insisted on our sharing his passion. It could have been easy to raise us as precocious fans with encyclopedic baseball knowledge; we were entrenched.

I was 5 when a foul ball shot into the broadcast booth. My father ducked instinctively as it flew over his head and smashed a window behind him. I happened to be sitting under that window, engrossed in a coloring book.

Before I realized what had happened, I was dripping in shattered glass, which covered my hair and gathered in the folds of my dress. Suddenly, several towering adults surrounded me, their voices full of concern. My father was in the middle of broadcasting the inning. On the car ride home, I learned a lesson from my father: “Em, in baseball, it may seem like nothing is happening, but you must always pay attention.”…[t]o spend so much time in a space that fills night after night with tens of thousands of fans who love a team deeply, and to grow up surrounded by people who, at every pay level, love where they work, was beautiful. I still love sitting in the stands before the stadium opens; it feels like a cathedral, filled only with potential and the sound of flags whipping in the wind. Yet baseball is also the reason I will be forever fond of obnoxiously loud pop music and hot dogs.

As Miller continues, she notes:

But it isn’t just a game. I was born in Texas because my father was a Rangers broadcaster. I grew up in Baltimore because of the Orioles. We were American League, we were Cal Ripken, we were hot summer nights at the yard. As an adult, I visit my family in Northern California and shiver watching Giants games in the whipping wind as the sun set over San Francisco Bay.

She was raised to be a baseball fan first, and a devotee to that passion before she came under the sway of a favorite team.  What the Arte Morenos of the world don’t quite get, in particular given how baseball is not the popular sport it once was, is that baseball fans have to be cultivated, not converted.  Signing an Albert Pujols means very little if the passion for baseball that enables a fan to understand the signing of such a player does not exist first.  Over a 162-game season, the months go by far too slowly to get an immediate rush that other sports can provide a casual fan with only a passing interest.  In fact, I had to chuckle when I heard a panicked fan already complaining to Angel Talk on Saturday when the Halos dropped their game to the Royals; in the caller’s opinion, manager Mike Scioscia’s decision to sit his starting catcher, Chris Ianetta, in favor of backup Bobby Wilson, was one of the factors as to why the Angels had lost.  Given that the Angels were going through a stretch of 3-straight day games, with travel to Minnesota (for the Twins’ home opener yesterday) in between, he couldn’t “get” why it might be important to get a catcher, one of the more demanding positions on a baseball field, some rest.  Already, you could see how this different idea of a 162-game schedule can wear on a fan who is used to snippets of action on Sportscenter.

It’s why when the Orioles lost to the Yank-mes last night, to drop to a 3-1 record after an Opening Series sweep of the Twins, the long season had to be taken into account.  While the Orioles have reverted back to the team’s iconic Cartoon bird head, no baseball season is a cartoon short.  So when it comes to developing my own little girl’s longterm fandom, it is not something I can hope to force upon Katelyn;  this little girl, by her nature, wouldn’t allow us to force anything upon her as it is, anyway.  I will take her to games, teach her what I know, and hope it comes along.  How it develops from there, should be up to her.

Nevertheless, she might like this cap (pictured below).  It goes with a number of her outfits already…

 

 

Traveling by Map

We should travel by map! — Kermit the Frog

hyperbole |hīˈpərbəlē| noun: exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.  Example:  “Everywhere in Los Angeles, you can feel a buzz, everybody talking about Albert and this team,” said [Angel owner Arte] Moreno.

While today’s LA Times‘ sports page features the Angels 5-0 win over the Royals prominently on their front page, naturally, yesterday’s LA Times was far more buzzed about the LA Kings making the playoffs, the Clippers’ win in Sacramento, Masters Golf coverage, and finally, of course, the Dodgers’ 5-3 win in San Diego–along with more buzz about new Dodger co-owner Magic Johnson.

The push about the Angels’ home opener, later that night, was pushed to page 7.

No, Arte, not everyone in Los Angeles is talking about Albert Pujols.  Orange County?  Yes. And it’s why both KLAC 570 AM Fox Sports Radio (the Dodgers’ flagship affiliate) and Colin Cowherd on KSPN 710 AM joined the Angels’ AM830 in broadcasting several of their sports talk shows from ANAHEIM yesterday.  To follow Moreno’s tortured logic, these radio broadcasts should have been set up outside of LA Live near Staples Center downtown.

Yes, apparently the local radio guys can all can read a map.  Unlike Moreno, they know that the Angels play somewhat south of LA City Hall.  And unlike Moreno, the palpable excitement for his team is being generated east and southeast of the 605 Freeway.  Nothing much has changed in my 2 generations as an OC native:  these kids are growing up Angel fans–if they follow baseball.  I can recall, in fact, stories that my wife, when she taught in Yorba Linda, telling me of how many of the Angel players living in the neighborhood around her school.   Additionally, one of her 1st graders would love to brag of how he could see into the bathroom of then-Angel centerfielder Jim Edmonds’ bathroom from his own house!  But I digress…

As much as I am a baseball fan though, sadly, when the topic of conversation in my classroom swings occasionally to pro sports talk, I can no longer assume that my kids will automatically know   who might be playing in either the Big A or Dodger Stadium.  I can, however, say “Kobe” and everyone will know what I mean.

Albert Pujols?  Sorry Arte, not so much–if at all!

In light of the Angels’ owner geographic illiteracy, from this morning’s LA Times, we have the most recent development in the State of California’s dream of building a bullet train system:

In a blow to Orange County’s hopes for a boost to business and tourism, the California bullet train project has dropped a link to Anaheim from its current, $68-billion plan.
The rail agency confirmed the shift Friday, marking a significant departure for the Bay Area-to-Southern California high-speed rail system that state voters approved in 2008.
Under newly revised plans, the first phase of the line would have its southern terminus near downtown Los Angeles rather than in Orange County.

While some Anaheim city council people are decrying this decision to delay any extension in Orange County for now, they need not worry should they choose to use the elegant tortured logic of Moreno Mapspeak:  since Anaheim IS Los Angeles, the train is already going to be where it needs to be!

The Secret World of Arrieta

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 06: Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta #34 of the Baltimore Orioles delivers the first pitch of opening day to batter Denard Span #2 of the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 6, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Who knows why she suddenly got interested, but instead of bugging me to watch the trailer (yet again) for Pixar’s Brave, Kate instead wanted to know what I was looking at.  So I pulled it up off of my Facebook feed.  She watched, with rapt attention, all of it

A Q&A ensued:

“Who’s that?”

“Jake Arrieta”

“It’s like the Arriety the movie!” 

“Yeah, it kind of is…”

“Why are you watching that baseball game?”

“It’s the Orioles.”

“Who are the Olioles?”

“They are my favorite team.”

“The Olioles are my favorite team too!”

Lest you wonder, that was unsolicited on my part.  Given that she’s only seen the Padres, Dodgers, and Angels play, for her to, literally, come out of left field with that last comment made Opening Day a perfect one.

And it goes to reinforce an implied point about Arte Moreno.  You gotta grow your fanbase.  Starting them young, rather than stealing them old, is the way to start.  I know Katelyn isn’t that set yet (she likes the Padres, too, depending upon the day…) but I’ll make sure that I’ll have a hand in it.