The Year In Letting Go, Go, Angels!

Los Angeles Ashes

Courtesy Anaheim AngelsBy now, any true Angel fan realizes that owner Arte Moreno must be allowed to rename his team the Los Angeles Angels. (The Angels Angels . . . cute.) This must happen and it must happen now because the team has been handed a unique opportunity by the very entity that has denied them full success for decades. We're talking a New Coke, Pepsi situation here, people.

For some of you, this may be a lot to take, Los Angeles being where Gwen Stefani lives and The O.C.is filmed. And there's the fact that you're coming off what was a very trying year for an Angels fan. After an injury-plagued and disappointing 2003, expectations were high with the signing of Vladimir Guerrero, the game's best young player. But then the team stumbled, injuries cropped up once again, Troy Glaus got hurt, and the team didn't seem to play with the fire that defined them for the past few seasons. And then they did, and they began to win and move up in the standings, and all seemed well again. Then word came that Moreno wanted to rename the team the Los Angeles Angels, and everybody just kinda gulped. But that was soon forgotten as Guerrero carried the team for the last month, leading them through a torrid stretch that resulted in a division title. Then they fell flat in the playoffs and were swept by the Boston Red Sox. Then Guerrero won the MVP, and that made things a little better. Then Moreno said he'd compromise on the name thing, call his team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the city threatened to sue him. Then the Dodgers lost their minds.

That would be the Los Angeles Dodgers. Though they would loathe to admit it, every Angels fan knows that Los Angeles has always been the measure of their success. The team, after all, started as the Los Angeles Angels, and even after moving to Anaheim, the team and its fans have always judged themselves by the Dodgers yardstick, a considerable one in terms of success and baseball culture (Jackie Robinson, first West Coast team).

Frankly, the Angels never quite measured up. They had great, marquee players (Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Vlad) and great teams, even a great announcer (Dick Enberg), yet it was never enough. The Dodgers were a Southern California birthright, the team that made the West Coast major league; even if you hated them, you knew they were the team. So even after the Angels won the 2002 World Series, the Angels were still No. 2. Even after last year's thrilling stretch run, it was the Dodgers' unlikely run to the playoffs—led by the likes of Jose Lima, Steve Finley and especially Adrian Beltre—that earned the biggest headlines.

But then, over the past month, the Dodgers, in short order, allowed Lima to walk, allowed Beltre to sign with Seattle and Finley to sign with, hellooo, the Angels. Then news broke that they were going to trade another fan favorite, Shawn Green, to Arizona, along with Brad Penny who had been acquired when another fan favorite, Paul LoDuca, was traded to Florida. (He promptly hit a home run in his first at-bat.) Now, suddenly, the bad taste of letting another fan favorite, Dave Roberts, go resurfaced as another fan favorite, Alex Cora, was shown the door. Any goodwill that had been built up over the season by new owners Frank and Jamie McCourt—who were regarded with much suspicion—was lost. It wasn't that the Dodgers were making bad deals—that had also been a birthright; a list of former Dodgers frittered away include Roberto Clemente and Pedro Martinez. No, it seemed the McCourts had no respect or even idea what the Dodgers meant to Southern California. That the Dodgers meant. They seem to be running one of sport's storied franchises as if it's just another team—a cheap one at that, less Dodgers than Devil Rays, and the only way things could get any worse is if the McCourts knock down Dodger Stadium or parade Vin Scully before their chariot in chains.

How all of this Dodgers dreck affected the Angels came to me when a friend who lives in LA told me that the day the proposed Green deal broke, just about the time Finley was signed, his son announced matter-of-factly, "That's it. I'm an Angels fan."

There is opportunity here, but Moreno must be allowed to take full advantage, and there is no way he can do that as the owner of the Anaheim Angels.

He's already proven himself a committed and aggressive owner; but even committed and aggressive owners need generous resources; George Steinbrenner can only be George Steinbrenner because he owns the New York Yankees. Wonder what a committed and aggressive owner could do in LA? Why not ask Jerry Buss sometime when he isn't polishing his eight championship trophies. Better yet, ask yourself what the Dodgers would be like if Arte Moreno had waited a year and bought them. Adrian Beltre would still be with the team, hitting behind Vlad Guerrero, getting ready to host a Welcome Wagon party for Randy Johnson.

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