January 07, 2005

Suburban flight: Anaheim denied

For the last half century, the trend in America has been to leave the cold, hard city for quiet suburban bliss. In professional sports, it's the opposite, as demonstrated by the Angels desire to reunite with Los Angeles.

Today, the city of Anaheim was denied a temporary restraining order in its attempt to keep the Angels from adding Los Angeles to their name.

Anaheim, drawing fans from Newport Beach, Fullerton, Irvine and the rest of Orange County, was good enough for the third-best attendance in baseball, but Angel owner Arte Moreno wanted more. He wanted L.A.

What he came up with was the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim," a name chastised by the city. Around the baseball world, it's rightfully been called "unwieldy, confusing and stupid."

The first rule of marketing, and perhaps lots of other stuff, is not to confuse people. "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" sounds temporary and low-rent, like the drunk cousin who crashes on your couch for a couple months.

But it's not really about that. It's about finding a way to put "L.A." on a t-shirt or baseball cap. Imagine the logo. The name "Anaheim" gets smaller and smaller until – poof – it disappears completely. "Anaheim" was already removed from all Angels uniforms, advertisements and media guides last season.

So it's "Los Angeles Angels" then, for all intents and purposes, three cities with two teams: New York, Chicago and L.A.

BPF Take
Orange County is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas of the country, boasting a population of 2,925,700 as of January 2001. That’s more than Philadelphia.

The Angels, as a franchise, have all the chips in place to be a model organization. They drew 41,000 fans a game last year, have a premier star in AL MVP Vlad Guerraro, and perhaps the third-best team in all of baseball behind the Yankees and Red Sox. What's the problem?

This is a case of an owner who wants too much, too soon. He wants it all; he wants to conquer the L.A. and the Latino market, despite an economically viable market in his own back yard.

I'm not sold on the suburbs as a place to stick a sports team, arguing heavily against moving a team to Northern Virginia, but that was an argument against the sticky situation of organizing public support, which Anaheim has already done. The team is already there.

Staying affiliated with Orange County and not alienating the city of Anaheim seems like the smart play in this case. "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" is a marketing travesty. If you want to change the name, change it to "Orange County Angels" or O.C. Angels, for short. The team could also capitalize on the buzz created by the "O.C." television show. That's your vehicle to sell caps.

More than money or marketing, most important of all is this is Anaheim's team, not L.A.'s team. That's the pact you make when you accept $30 million in public subsidies to renovate a ballpark.

January 06, 2005

Sayonara: Batista to Japan

Bonsai! In a winter of overspending, Tony Batista to Japan is the big sashimi.

Batista has accepted a two-year, $15 million offer to play for the Fukuoka Hawks of Japan's Central League for the 2005-2006 seasons, including a $5 million signing bonus. The Hawks, owned by SoftBank Corp., an Internet company, apparently liked his home runs (32 last season), and the way he holds the bat like a samurai sword.

No team in their right mind was going to offer Batista a deal for that amount of money. Batista's 2004 VORP ranked 18th ... in the National League ... among third basemen. His batting win shares were 8.6 ... that's the same as Phillies OF Jason Michaels, and 12th among NL third basemen.

The former Oakland, Arizona, Toronto, Baltimore and Montreal slugger was courted most heavily by Tampa Bay (surprise), Houston and Detroit, but realistically, he should have packed up and bought a condo in Japan years ago. Japanese teams have a history of spending big on marginal MLB talent, including Bosox sub Gabe Kapler, who signed earlier this fall to a one-year, $2 million contract.

So, sayonara Tony, and see you in the Baseball America foreign box scores.

First basemen for sale
Since I'm in the transaction spirit, the Transaction Guy gives a report of, I think, two puzzling moves in baseball today: Mets C Vance Wilson goes to Detroit for SS prospect Anderson Hernandez; and Tampa Bay signs SS Alex Gonzalez to a one-year, $1.75 million contract, plus incentives.

T-Guy also mentions a couple first basemen still for grabs, including an old favorite. They are:

Robin Ventura
Tony Clark
John Olerud
Robert Fick
Brad Fullmer
and old favorite, Travis Lee

Put any of these guys in a Braves uniform, and Bobby Cox could milk some good miles out of them, like Fick a few years back.

Put them on the Devil Rays, and you get ... Robert Fick on the Devil Rays last season.

January 04, 2005

Polanco flub and other tablescraps

News of the Placido Polanco arbitration debacle is really spreading, especially now that St. Louis needs a second baseman and Polanco would have been the perfect fit. One writer said the only team that got screwed more than Philadelphia was St. Louis.

But let's not forget Polanco, a good player, who got screwed most. Before the season ended, Polanco said he would consider returning the Phils in a utility role. But still; I couldn't care less about player happiness, but who can blame Polanco if he feels a little jaded by what went down? He might have started an entire season on the best team in the National League, but instead, stays in Philly, mired in a potential 2B controversy. The team will need written consent by Polanco to move him before June 15.

But what burns me up most about the Polanco mistake - and lets call it that - is the Phils were in position to do something very positive this winter, and that was shore up one hell of a bullpen. Imagine a pen that included LHP ground baller Steve Kline ahead of RHP Tim Worrell and CP Billy Wagner. And Ryan Madson in long relief? Who needs starters?

Vazquez to Phils rumors
Fanball.com reported Dec. 31 that Javier Vazquez might be on his way out of Arizona soon after he arrives from the Yankees in the Randy Johnson deal, with rumors swirling he may be headed to Philadelphia, Baltimore or Detroit.

ESPN.com also reported the Arizona Diamondbacks could trade SP Javier Vazquez to the Philadelphia Phillies for SP Randy Wolf.

The Phillies won't add payroll, with Ed Wade on record saying not to expect the Phils to be big market players any further this winter. Of the teams that can swing for Vazquez, Baltimore can. They finally have extra coin, and haven't done much with it.

Padilla, Myers omitted from calendar
Howard Eskin reported Sunday night on "Sports Final" that Vicente Padilla and Brett Myers were omitted from the 2005 official team calendar, though I haven't seen it to verify it. Instead of Padilla and Myers, a picture of the ballpark and Charlie Manuel were included.

In the past, the calendar has proven to be very revealing of a team's long-term plans, and the omissions should be taken as a sign that Padilla and Myers are being shopped around, Eskin said. Cleveland was the team Eskin mentioned, but in true King fashion, he didn't offer much by way of further details.

Around the blogosphere
Tom G. at Balls, Sticks, & Stuff has posted a donation link for tsunami relief. Tom Goodman at Swing and a Miss also weighed in earlier on the latest Phillies news, as did Brian at the Philling Station.