Moreno artfully injects Angels into Ramirez buzz


It was deftly done.

Angels owner Arte Moreno casually mentioned during a conversation with AM 830 radio host Roger Lodge on Wednesday that there are many things to like about free agent Manny Ramirez.

Boom. Talk radio hosts around the country and baseball-centric Internet message boards started filling up with talk of Manny being an Angel instead of a Dodger.

It was a George Steinbrenner moment. For the bombastic New York Yankees owner, the goal always was to co-opt the tabloid newspaper back pages. From firing a manager to signing (or pretending to sign) a superstar, Steinbrenner was genius at making it all about the Yankees all the time.


And with a few minutes of air time, Moreno did just that for the Angels and seized the sports day.

Until Moreno went on 830 -- a station he owns -- USC’s football team had been dominating local sports media coverage.

That is, when it hasn’t been about Manny. Will the Dodgers re-sign Manny? Can Manny survive on $30 million? Does Manny need $60 million? Can’t Manny simply be happy in sunny Southern California?

There has been a little room for the runaway Lakers as well. Even Brian Burke stepping down as Ducks’ general manager got some coverage.

UCLA and USC starting basketball season, more news.

Angels, no news.

Until Moreno sat down with Lodge and said that Manny was a very good hitter and that the Angels need a very good hitter and, well, who knows?

Moreno is a smart man.

He made his millions in outdoor billboards and he used billboards prominently when he renamed his team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Moreno knows billboards. So he went on the air and spoke enthusiastically of Ramirez. Better than a billboard.


“He single-handedly took L.A. to the promised land,” Moreno said. “He did a heck of a job, he hit great, he was a fan favorite, he did a great job with their young players. At the end of the day, you want people who can hit, and he may be one of the top right-handed hitters ever.”

After the interview, Lodge said he was surprised.

“When Arte and I do the show, 98% of the time I know what Arte is going to say,” Lodge said. “Not in this particular case. Arte just started talking about Manny being one of the best right-handed hitters he’s ever seen.”

So as teams today get set to start signing free agents, Moreno has put the Angels in the news. Maybe Moreno really wants Ramirez. Maybe he will help drive up Ramirez’s price. But Moreno got the discussion started on a station he owns. Even Steinbrenner couldn’t do that.

Dancing to a tight schedule

Warren Sapp, who has made it to Monday’s “Dancing With the Stars” semifinal round with his Australian partner Kym Johnson, came to NFL Network’s Culver City studio Thursday afternoon.

Sapp and Johnson did about 45 seconds of the jitterbug they will compete in Monday night and then Sapp did his “Total Access on Location” NFL show via remote satellite, because the show was live at New England in advance of the New York Jets-Patriots games.

There was a technical glitch during the national anthem performed by R&B; group Jada. NFL Network spokesman Dennis Johnson said it was a technical issue in the New England broadcast truck.


Cancel (the Bruin) subscription

Sports Illustrated’s college basketball edition arrived Wednesday. There were six regional covers and subscribers in the West got Arizona State’s James Harden and Briann January.

Bruins fans on message boards noted UCLA has been to three straight Final Fours and has the nation’s top-ranked freshman recruiting class, and some on BruinReportOnline said they would cancel their SI subscriptions.

Other teams that got regional covers were North Carolina, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Pitt.

Classic good news, bad news

ESPN’s Norby Williamson announced Wednesday that Bob Knight, the former Indiana and Texas Tech coach, was increasing his presence on ESPN’s wide platform of college basketball shows and game coverage.

Knight, who retired in the middle of Tech’s season last year and joined ESPN for the NCAA basketball playoffs, will be doing on-site game analysis as well as studio shows such as “College Game Day.”

“I told Norby last spring, ‘This studio thing, I thought I would really like it but what I would really like to do is see games, work from games,’ ” Knight said. “I enjoy watching basketball to see how other people are playing it, what I might have done in the same situation or learn something someone else has done pretty good.”


ESPN gets deal for British Open

ESPN announced Thursday it reached an eight-year agreement to broadcast all four rounds of the British Open golf tournament live. The agreement begins in 2010.

ESPN will broadcast 34 hours of live coverage as well as six additional hours of highlights.