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McCourt No Fan of Angels’ Name

Times Staff Writer

The smile never left Frank McCourt’s face, but the words betrayed the smile. Angel owner Arte Moreno might have renamed his team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but the Dodger owner left little doubt about his disdain for the change by addressing it without ever using the words “Moreno” or “Angels.”

“Other owners can decide to do what they think is in their best interest,” McCourt said. “But I know that true Angelenos really know who their team is, and they bleed Dodger blue.”

McCourt, speaking after Thursday’s meeting of major league owners, said he was not convinced that Commissioner Bud Selig has approved the name change.

“That’s not what he has said in his conversations with me,” McCourt said. “There’s a lack of clarity out there in terms of baseball’s position. It’s certainly not clear to me.”

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Selig, informed of McCourt’s remarks, declined to comment. Two high-ranking major league sources said Selig had approved the change and had hoped to signal to McCourt simply that he would be willing to listen to whatever concerns the Dodgers might have.

The city of Anaheim has sued the Angels for breach of contract, contending the change from Anaheim Angels violates the team’s stadium lease. In an Orange County Superior Court hearing last week, one attorney representing the team said Selig had approved the new name “several months ago” and another said the change was “a fait accompli with Major League Baseball.”

The change does not require the approval of owners and was not discussed in Thursday’s meeting, according to two participants in the room. Moreno, who lives in nearby Phoenix, did not attend and sent team President Dennis Kuhl in his place.

In the roll call of clubs, in which each team traditionally is called by its geographical name, the Angels were called as “Angels,” one participant said. Major League Baseball’s website distinguishes the Angels the same way, at least for now.

Selig has not commented on the name change since the Angels announced it 11 days ago. Baseball sources said he was reluctant to comment on a matter in litigation, unhappy the city has mounted a public campaign in opposition and disappointed the city and team could not work out a compromise after he expressly asked Moreno to do so.

“He certainly is not happy about seeing any team fighting with its community,” McCourt said of Selig. “I think that’s a concern of his.”

McCourt said the Dodgers were “monitoring” the situation but had no plans at this time to join Anaheim’s lawsuit or file a brief on behalf of the city.

“I don’t want to be in a position to be fighting with anybody, quite frankly,” he said.

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Selig approved the change in part because he did not believe it could hurt the Dodgers, according to a high-ranking source.

Moreno, who paid roughly half the price to buy the Angels that McCourt did to buy the Dodgers, considers the Angels part of the greater Los Angeles market and believes the name change will help generate big-market revenue. In a court declaration, Kuhl said Channel 9 offered the Angels $5.5 million in annual broadcast rights and signed the Dodgers for $10 million.

McCourt, who lost out to Moreno in bidding for the Angels, said his research convinced him the team played in a smaller -- and separate -- market.

“We viewed the Anaheim market as a very strong market but a very different market,” McCourt said. “There are fans there that are very loyal to that team as well, but they’re two very different places, and that was reflected in the whole sales process.”

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The Dodgers believe their tradition, and the bond between the team and its city, cannot be overcome.

""The true Angelenos, the true fans, are not going to be persuaded by or alter their behavior based on some marketing campaign,” McCourt said.


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