"It's Marketing 101," he says. "It's the same basic thing, whether you're going to dinner or you're going to buy a pair of shoes or whatever. If you don't get good service, you're not coming back."
In pro sports, price hikes are the norm and price freezes are often trumpeted in press releases. But Moreno cut prices on beer and sodas, peanuts and popcorn, T-shirts and polo shirts, miniature bats and souvenir baseballs. He added a $7 cap to the collection of $25 fitted ones. He sold tickets to weekday games for as little as $3 for kids, $5 for adults. He eliminated a $5 surcharge on tickets to the most popular games.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday April 09, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 65 words Type of Material: Correction
Baseball -- An article in Sunday's Los Angeles Times Magazine on Angel owner Arte Moreno incorrectly stated that Preston Gomez, one of the Angels' senior baseball advisors, was the first Latino manager in major league baseball when he was with the San Diego Padres 35 years ago. Al Lopez was the first full-time Latino baseball manager when he managed the Cleveland Indians in the 1950s.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 11, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 68 words Type of Material: Correction
Baseball managers -- The article in the April 4 Los Angeles Times Magazine about Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno said that Preston Gomez, one of the Angels' senior baseball advisors, was the first Latino manager in major league baseball when he was with the San Diego Padres 35 years ago. Al Lopez was the first full-time Latino baseball manager when he managed the Cleveland Indians in the 1950s.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 25, 2004 Home Edition Los Angeles Times Magazine Part I Page 4 Lat Magazine Desk 1 inches; 57 words Type of Material: Correction
The article "His Devilish Vision" (April 4) incorrectly stated that Preston Gomez, one of the Angels' senior baseball advisors, was the first Latino manager in major league baseball when he was with the San Diego Padres 35 years ago. Al Lopez was the first full-time Latino baseball manager when he managed the Cleveland Indians in the 1950s.
Not everything went down. He publicly pledged not to raise ticket prices this year, but without announcement he slapped a significant increase on the best 7,000 seats in the house, sold on a season basis only and in what he calls "very high demand."
No matter. With those few words on his first day in charge, Moreno carved out an enviable identity. He captured the imagination of consumers disenchanted with billionaire owners and millionaire athletes, escalating salaries and escalating prices.
The ad guy branded himself, if you will, as The Guy Who Cut Beer Prices.
So, on the January day that Frank McCourt introduced himself as the new Dodger owner, he was asked whether he would cut beer prices.
"What did he say?" Moreno asks.
With a twinkle in his eye, he responds: "Why wouldn't you?"
In spring training, there is no admission charge for morning workouts. As the Angels take batting practice, Moreno spots three small boys in the front row. He stops to talk to their father, in Spanish. The family drove from Mexico for this one day of spring training, Moreno says, to watch Guerrero hit.
Moreno presents an Angel cap to each boy, one of those $7 caps, with his compliments. He encourages team employees to hand out a cap to any kid who might like one.
The phrase filters through every clubhouse in America: Check your ego at the door. In the all-too-jaded eyes of his millionaire players, Moreno does.
"He's got a humility about him that you appreciate," outfielder Tim Salmon says.
Cheaper beer, free caps and the best players his money can buy. What's not to like?
"I don't think there's anyone in Southern California who doesn't like Arte Moreno," pitcher Jarrod Washburn says.
He is not universally beloved. Some of the owners who spoke so adoringly of him last year shun him now, furious that he bid up the cost of talent. Moreno shrugs. He answers to the fans of his team, he says, not the owners of other teams.
As he challenges the Dodgers of this generation, his model resembles the Dodgers of the previous one, under the ownership of Walter O'Malley and then his son Peter. The O'Malleys reliably delivered a competitive team, a clean ballpark and a family atmosphere, all at affordable prices.
Says Andy Dolich, a longtime baseball marketing executive and current president of business operations for the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies: "Moreno is almost O'Malley with a different pedigree: We care, we want to make it better, we're all about the fans, and we're going to try to give you a positive environment aside from the electric light show and fake boulders.
"I don't think the equation is that much more complicated. The fan understands that the ownership really cares about the team."
Caring is lovely. But can Moreno really brand the Dodgers into submission? "If you look at the world of branding, it changes all the time," Dolich says. "Change the packaging, change the marketing, change the quality of the product, and you can change the market."
Still, since moving to Los Angeles in 1958, the Dodgers never have changed their logo. The Angels change their packaging all too regularly: 43 seasons, seven logos, one championship.
If the Angels don't win, neither will Moreno. If they don't win, Los Angeles won't care--not the fans, not the advertisers, not the broadcasters. If they don't win, he can't pay major-market salaries and turn a profit.
An MBA is not required to assess the execution of Moreno's business plan, just a glance at the standings in the sports section. Carpino is not shy about sharing the 10-year strategy.
"To be in the playoffs," he says, "and be world champions. Multiple times.
"If we do that, everything will generate positively, from the TV and demand on down. If we're strong on the field for the next 10 years, we'll be strong everywhere else."
The history of professional sport is littered with such visions. There is no shortage of businessmen who earned their fortune by making smart, ruthless decisions, then bought a team, spent wildly on players and abandoned the uncommon sense that made them rich.
Perhaps Moreno will be one. Rivals quaked when Disney bought the Angels, wary of the company's marketing magic. But Disney, mighty Disney, couldn't sell baseball, couldn't make money and three years later put up a "For Sale" sign.
Moreno does not scare easily. He owned a small share of his hometown Diamondbacks and told his partners they should let him run the operation. They turned him down, so he sold his share and bought his own team.
He is an Angel now, a fan in the stands at training camp, spinning a baseball in his hand. On the field, Guerrero completes another round of batting practice. Moreno is comfortable here, in the stands, happy to hear the crack of the bat and watch the flight of the ball. There are no losers in spring training.
But Opening Day is upon us. It's time to keep score.
"There's been enough hype," Moreno says. "Now we need to play."