Can L.A. be Angels' city?

ON BASEBALL

April 18, 2004|By PETER SCHMUCK

New Angels owner Arte Moreno spent a fortune to upgrade the team over the winter and a few million more to enhance the ballpark experience at newly renamed Angel Stadium of Anaheim, leading some to conclude that he's trying to displace the Los Angeles Dodgers as the premier franchise in baseball's second-largest market.

The Angels signed superstar Vladimir Guerrero to beef up an already explosive batting order and free-agent pitchers Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar to augment a good, young starting rotation. Moreno also moved decisively to keep homegrown superstar Garret Anderson with a four-year, $48 million contract extension last week.

Moreno, who bought the franchise from the Walt Disney Co. last year, claims that the big push is not directed at the Dodgers' long-standing preeminence in the area, but the Angels also have placed huge billboards at some of Los Angeles' most-traveled locations, including the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine.

The advertising campaign promotes the Angels as "The `A' Team" at a time when the Dodgers are struggling to assemble an adequate offensive lineup and the Angels are only one year removed from their first World Series championship. The underlying message appears to be clear, but Moreno insists it has nothing to do with the Dodgers.

"We're not focused on that," he said after the Angels announced Anderson's contract extension on Tuesday. "We're focused on selling our own product to our customers.

"There are 16 million-plus people in the metro area. We both drew over 3 million people last year. There is absolutely no reason to try and erode their base."

That might be true, but the Angels' organization has long resented the second-class status the team was forced to accept while the Dodgers dominated the market. Moreno already has become a local hero for his efforts to elevate the franchise, and received a standing ovation from the big crowd (44,443) that showed up for Opening Night on Tuesday.

Not-so-mighty Casey

Arizona Diamondbacks rookie Casey Daigle didn't have a lot of fun in his major league debut, but at least he wrote his name in the record book.

Daigle gave up five home runs in two innings against the St. Louis Cardinals, becoming the first pitcher in baseball history to allow five home runs in his major league debut.

The last time any National League starter gave up that many home runs while lasting less than three innings was former Orioles Cy Young Award winner Steve Stone, who accomplished the dubious feat against the explosive Cincinnati Reds when he was a young pitcher for the Chicago Cubs in 1974.

Not too complicated

Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly doesn't need a stat sheet to figure out why his team lost six of its first eight games to equal the worst start in club history.

"By my unofficial calculations," Brenly said, "we're giving up two base runners an inning with hits and walks and serving up home runs like it's a daily special. The idea was we were going to offset all that with our offense, and our offense doesn't ever seem to get started till the fifth or sixth inning of the ballgame. You add it all up and it's been pretty ugly."

Old school

There is no doubt that television plays a critical role in the financing and presentation of the national pastime, but Oakland Athletics manager Ken Macha isn't quite ready to let TV cameras get into the game.

He watched San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou do an in-game interview during an ESPN Sunday night telecast and drew a line in the sand.

"They won't get me," he said. "I think TV is great. It pays a lot of bills and all that stuff. But I'm trying to make my living and don't need any distractions."

Macha said he will allow his pitchers to do clubhouse interviews after they leave the game, but will not wear a microphone during the game and does not want his players to be miked either.

Dye's back

Athletics outfielder Jermaine Dye has been on a tear during the early weeks of the regular season, thanks largely to finally being 100 percent healthy.

Quick comparison: Dye had 221 at-bats last year and managed just four home runs and 20 RBIs. In his first 30 at-bats of 2004, he had five homers and 12 RBIs.

"I'm just back to normal," Dye said. "I don't have to worry about anything, any injuries or anything. That takes a lot off your mind and you can just do what you are capable of doing. You get in your mind that you're as good as you are and that gives you the confidence to just go out and play."

Family circle

Giants superstar Barry Bonds can be quite eloquent when he wants to, as evidenced by his summation of the home run that tied him with Willie Mays for third on baseball's all-time list.

"I just feel right now I completed our family circle," he said. "Willie took my dad under his wing when he first came up, taught my dad a lot about baseball, and became [a] very close friend of my father. It's like my dad is in right field, Willie is in center and I get to be in left."

Omar the bogey-maker

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