Creating a Blueprint for How the Angels Can Take over Los Angeles
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Do the Los Angeles Angels ever have a chance of becoming Los Angeles' favorite team?
That's right, Mr. Nicholson, I asked it.
Owner Arte Moreno and general manager Jerry Dipoto have taken pricey steps to stay competitive in a difficult market. The Angels battled it out with the Dodgers spending in the offseason, possibly highlighting this current organization's purpose: Become the best Los Angeles-based team in the MLB.
But what if there was a different motive? What if the Angels want to be the best Los Angeles-based team, period?
True, there's a an obvious roadblock for that scenario: Freeways, lengthy traffic issues and a different county the Angels separate them from the real Los Angeles.
But other than that, why not?
The trouble with fame, or possible over-hyped downfall against other franchises?
Yes, stealing control and relevance from the beloved Los Angeles Lakers—who, mind you, are starting to lose their grasp on this city—won't come easy.
Even the Los Angeles Kings may have words over a possible Angels' takeover.
But it's not impossible. All it will take is a smart plan.
Now, I imagine somewhere in the hidden depths of Los Angeles, possibly protected by the people who put shoes on their dogs or even George Clooney, there is a blueprint for succeeding in this town that the Los Angeles Angels could peruse.
Unfortunately, I haven't got a clue where it's being held, so the next best option I can offer is to create a new blueprint for them to follow—and I won't charge like one for Michael Jordan's statue.
This is, however, my only copy...so be careful when you re-Tweet it.
Step 1: Start with a 3-Year Foundation
This could be a futuristic snapshot of the next two ALCS.
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The "Halo of Domination" in the Los Angeles market—as I will call it for this schematic—has a shelf life of three years.
As it currently stands, now that Alberto Callaspo has signed his two-year deal, all nine everyday players on the Angels' roster will be under team control for the next two seasons. And the other eight, including Mark Trumbo, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton are set for the next three years (according to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez).
Sure, the organization will need to retool here and there—mainly with pitching. However, adding arms is always a want—and often not a need—and it's doubtful the club will try signing any top-tier talent until they dump Vernon Wells’ salary.
So the nine you see listed above will play a major role deciding what happens in the next three very important seasons. However, it should be viewed as a positive situation for the Angels, especially when considering the output Pujols, Trout and Hamilton will carry.
More importantly, it creates a strong core of big-named star power, with decent role players, to get the franchise moving forward.
If after three years we are talking about drastic improvements from the current squad, then forget about any thoughts of takeover—think makeover.
Step 2: Consistently Beat the Dodgers
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I can remember, just a few years back, going to an interleague game between the Angels and Dodgers at Chavez Ravine and being shocked at the amount of people not in attendance.
The crowd resembled more of the pre-race gathering for the L.A. Marathon at Dodgers Stadium—some people attempted to pass the time by toying with their phones, while others sat emotionless, possibly rethinking their decisions they made for the day—than it did a baseball game.
However, something tells me that 2013 will be different.
Because of the highly covered offseason for both teams—complete with Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke—the 5-freeway battle (May 27-30) will have more of a national-feeling dynamic—and more publicity.
And what better way for the Angels to begin a hostile takeover than with a dominant performance over the Dodgers, while the interest is at a crescendo?
A split over the four-game series would accomplish nothing. The Angels will need to come away 3-1, at least, with one loss going to (or at least starting with) Zack Greinke.
Then they will need to repeat that domination for years to come, gaining more fans through simple "bandwagon tactics."
Step 3: Get Los Angeles to Change the Channel
There is more than one, billion-dollar TV deal in this town.
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One of the more interesting stories currently coming out of Los Angeles is the must-see TV deal between the Dodgers' new ownership and Time Warner Cable (TWC).
According to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell, a 25-year deal worth somewhere in the $7 Billion range—which will include the launching of a 'Dodgers Only" television network called SportsNet LA distributed by TWC—is in the works for 2014.
Now, none of that, based on the Dodgers' spending practices, should be a surprise. After all, other large-market teams have their own networks (or contracts with big carriers) including the Angels—who have a 20-year deal worth around $3 billion with Fox Sports.
What makes this scenario interesting, however, is the proximity of the two clubs, both competing for the same viewers. And, with that, the idea of one team gaining momentum and interest, followed by a ratings peak.
It may sound silly, but it's not totally out of this world, especially if the Angels begin dominating not just the Dodgers, but the rest of the league.
Undoubtedly, Dodgers' fans will watch a Dodgers' network, just as Angels' fans will watch an Angels' network. However, the real kicker is what those undecided fans in the Los Angeles area decide to watch.
Well, which one is more interesting?
If the Angels are winning (like in Step 2), while putting on good show, then the answer is pretty obvious.
Step 4: Create Chances for a Dynasty
A dynasty doesn't begin with high-priced mistakes.
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The sports world loves a good dynasty. Unfortunately, with players continuously jumping ship for more money, it's not easy to accomplish.
For baseball, however, there is the often-overlooked luxury other sports do not have: a minor league system.
If the Angels are to build such a dominant force, then general manager Jerry Dipoto will need to focus on sustaining their younger crop of players.
It's something he expressed in this article by MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez saying:
We realize this is an area that requires improvement in both the short and long term. Scott Servais came on board to oversee both departments [scouting and player development] back in November of 2011, and in the 15 months since, we have restructured in a variety of areas including our player development, international and professional scouting departments, while also refining our amateur scouting process.
Without question, most fans do understand that winning now, while also building for the future, rarely works. Teams will always have the tendency to give up the prospect in order to gain an MLB-ready player.
But that doesn't mean you want the Farm to drop near last place; somewhere in the middle should be a realistic goal.
At some point, Angels' brass must accept that Pujols is going to get older, Hamilton is going to get older and, yes, even Trout will age—down the road. It's not the biggest deal in the world...if the minor league operation is running smoothly.
A smooth running system will work in two ways: a) it gives the team options, assisting with any surprise health issues on their quest for domination and b) it will also give the team fresh trade chips, should they go with the expected route, signing free agents and trading for top-tiered game-ready talent.
Step 5: Finish with Multiple Championships
Championships are the only answer to dominating.
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If the Angels are going to take over Los Angeles—now or ever—then winning multiple World Series championships will be the ultimate and final factor.
Los Angeles, or any sports town for that matter, loves a winner. However, in LA, that doesn’t mean for just one year. This town is full of one-hit wonders, so what really gains interest is entertainment with staying power.
It's a probable reason why the Lakers garner such affection—even from people that don't understand the game of basketball: they have been dominating their sport for decades, not just for a year or a few months out of a season.
The Lakers are the ultimate trend, regardless if they are winning or losing, because they represent the idea of seeing a possible champion, all based on their past achievements.
And, yes, there is also the flux of celebrities at every home game.
The Angels could have a similar success. Though it will be difficult, the club has witnessed their popularity, based on winning, grow in past seasons. In 2002, the organization finished seventh in attendance for the season.
Then the Angels won the World Series.
The following season of 2003—when the team was not as solid as the previous year—the organization jumped all the way to third in attendance.
Although the team finished third in the AL West that season, people still flocked to games; and the team has not finished below third place in attendance since then. Just like the Lakers, it's about seeing a possible champion.
Now, imagine what the effect will be if they string together a few championships over the next decade.
It may very well lead to a takeover for “No.1 Sports Franchise” in Los Angeles (and Anaheim), complete with a slew of reoccurring celebrities behind home plate.
(All stats provided came from baseball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.)