If Arizona native and Angels owner Arte Moreno had it his way, he would be in Scottsdale, Arizona right now sporting his wispy mustache and team-gear windbreaker, in his patented stoic stance watching the Diamondbacks warming up for the upcoming 2012 baseball season. Instead, he’s probably pacing in some office in Orange County right now, trying to decide where to book a restaurant with Angels GM extraordinaire Jerry Dipoto to finalize finishing touches to a potential dynasty roster.
And whether you attribute it to good-timing, serendipity, or Jerry Colangelo — the former Diamondbacks owner who turned down Moreno’s offer to buy the team back in 2003 — Angels fans are just happy to be alive. After all, the means are trite when the end is Albert Pujols.
Though there is about 350 miles worth of difference between Phoenix and Anaheim, no one can doubt that after a $183.5 million purchase and nine competitive years later, Moreno feels right at home here in Southern California. Sure he grew up and went to high school in Tucson, majored in marketing at the University of Arizona, and lived in Phoenix as a billboard entrepreneur, but when he steps out of his home in Orange County, he is just as likely to find himself squeezed in a region shoehorned with staunch white conservatives and vibrant college Greek life meshed together under a relentless sun. Perhaps the California weather is a little more forgiving, the people are more beautiful, and there’s more palm trees then cacti, but we can assume that adjustment period for Arte Moreno was as short as Mo Vaughn’s welcomed tenure as an Angel.
Another similarity between the two areas is the sneaky Hispanic and Latino demographic that takes up a larger percentage of the population than every state in the country except New Mexico. With Moreno being Hispanic himself, the awareness of this demographic probably plays into his marketing consciousness more then he cares to admit. This couldn’t have been more clear then back in 2005, when he changed the official team name from Anaheim Angels to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in order appeal to a wider market, as well as maybe infiltrate the hearts of those disenfranchised Dodgers fans to ditch their gear as blue as them.
And though some of the Dodger loyalists would never leave their depleting franchise, they would have to admit, the color red has become more enticing over the years.
The moment Moreno took hold of the Angels, he made sure to slash ticket prices and make stadium merchandise more affordable. He has famously made an effort to venture out into the stands and mingle with the common fan in a loose-fitting polo, instead of hiding away in some box seat suite in a suit. He has touted and acted upon his willingness to spend money on free agents; the Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson signings this past December were not the first time Moreno went for the big names. And above all else, he spends this money without proportionately raising ticket prices (yet when estranged Dodgers owner Frank McCourt decided to add in a few seats to the Chavez Ravine for the 2010 season, he jacked up the left-field pavilion seats from $5 to $18).
While Moreno has quickly built a working relationship between his franchise and his fans with the national media in less than a decade, the Dodger front office has been in a state of torpor for nearly a quarter of a century. No one can question the eternal symbiotic relationship between the Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles, but with a level-headed owner doing everything he can to invest in his fans while filtering out the bourgeoisie epithet associated with the area, how much more abuse can the Dodgers Pavilion take before Pujols jerseys are being worn inside it?
Paul Adams is a writer who lives in Los Angeles, follow him on Twitter @Yustomovic.[Moreno Photo By MLB]