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Owner Arte Moreno loves his sea of Angels red

In the seven years since he bought the team, he has put fans first and the club has thrived. And he scoffs at the notion that baseball fans want only the Yankees in the World Series.

October 22, 2009|BILL DWYRE

When the opinion was run past Arte Moreno that everybody seemed to want a Yankees-Dodgers World Series, he saw red.

It wasn't the kind of red you'd associate with anger, however.

The Angels owner understands business, knows the value of years of successful brand-building by the Yankees and Dodgers. He also knows all too well the influence of television ratings and marketing people and the opinions they can shape.

No less than page one of this newspaper carried a story Monday headlined: "Freeway Series? A TV No-No." The deck of the headline said that Yankees versus Dodgers was the preference of everybody outside of the Southland.

The story even quoted a radio talk show host, who apparently reads minds when not talking, as saying that truth serum would make Commissioner Bud Selig express his World Series wishes as "Yankees-Dodgers, Yankees-Dodgers, Yankees-Dodgers."

So, even with the current apparent inevitability of a Yankees-Phillies World Series, the slant is there and worth discussion. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that the Angels have this nice little team that has a nice little following along the 5 Freeway on the way to San Diego and the rest of the country knows little and cares less. Taking that a step further, having the Angels in the World Series would mess things up for baseball when it comes to Madison Avenue imagery.

Absorbing all this, Moreno sees red.

But his red is the color of the sea of fans that has flooded the Big A consistently in his seven years as owner, fans who are his customers and a focus for him much larger than how many TV sets are tuned to a World Series in Pawtucket.

"There are two parts of this," Moreno said. "There is a business part and baseball part.

"On the business part, I want my team, and baseball, to generate as much revenue as possible. But the baseball part, that means a matchup of the best teams. And whether people like it or not, we had the second-best record in baseball. The real fan knows that.

"It is a complete fallacy that people don't want a matchup of the two best teams.

"And I would also bet my life on something else: that Bud Selig wants the best games for the fans. I talk to him just about every day. This is a guy who loves baseball, above all else."

Moreno said he understands and respects why the Yankees and Dodgers are so universally attractive.

"Just take the modern era, say 1900 on," Moreno said. "That's 109 years of baseball to now. Compare that to our little seven years here [under his ownership]. My goal has been to build that kind of consistency, to build stability."

Moreno offered as evidence his signing of Manager Mike Scioscia to a 10-year contract. That, quite frankly, is unheard of in baseball. Ten-month contracts, maybe. Not 10 years.

All the marketing and branding is important, certainly, as is putting lots of red-shirted people in seats. Since Moreno took over, the Angels have gone past the 3-million mark in attendance each year. That's 21-million-plus red shirts in seven years.

"I want to create a fan environment here where people come to the park, have fun, and remember that, maybe for a lifetime," Moreno said. "I tell the players to smile, to maybe give people a wave. I'd like us to act like this is the only time that fan will ever come to the stadium, and we want the impression we leave to be a good one.

"I'm half a carny [carnival barker]. I keep Bill Veeck's book right near me. This is fun, not a war."

Moreno vows to never take his eye off the ball.

"Once I start thinking about money before fans," he said, "then they need to find a new owner."

Moreno is about as far from the George Steinbrenner owner-image as you can get. Take his visit to the Angels clubhouse Monday morning, as the team prepared for Game 3 after losing the first two in New York.

In that situation, one might assume some sort of fire and brimstone from the owner. Not this owner.

"I told them," Moreno said, "that this is another day. Have fun."

They did, about the only fun they'd had in this now 3-1 Yankees series. The final score Monday was Angels 5, Yankees 4.

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bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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