Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's in a Name?

As mentioned (somewhat obliquely) in Sunday's post, the case of one of the most-derided name changes in history has gone to Court this week. Arte Moreno and the Angels organization are being sued by the municipality of Anaheim, over whether their ridiculous name change--from the "Anaheim Angels" that won the World Series in 2002 to the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" who beat the Yanks in the ALDS last season (but lost to the World Champs in the ALCS)--violates the Angels' lease.

On the one hand, it looks like, under the plain language of the contract, the Angels found a loophole to make them Los Angelenos of Anaheim rather than Anaheimians. The contract says only that the Angels will "include the name Anaheim" in any team name, and specifically rejected contractual language that would limit them to only the name "Anaheim Angels." Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

The City, on the other hand, is arguing that no language was put in the contract was put in barring the Angels from adding another city name because...well, it's stupid! There was no way that Anaheim could envision a tragedy of nomenclature on the level of the "... Angels of Anaheim." They say that baseball's tradition has only allowed one geographic reference--the name of one city or state--in any team's name at any time, and that it was understood within the contractual language that any name would adhere to baseball's tradition in this regard.

The Angels have been a team with an identity crisis for their entire existence. For the first four years of their existence, they tacked on "Los Angeles" in front of their name, then for the next 30 or so years, they were the "California Angels," before becoming the "Anaheim Angels" for seven years after their latest lease negotiations, and a stadium renovation that cost Anaheim at least $30 million, according to

In the law suit, the City seems somewhat absurd, claiming $200 million in damages from the Angels' switch to the L.A. name. It doesn't seem as far-fetched, when we consider the overblown "benefits to the community" Major League Baseball claims whenever they're trying to convince a municipality to finance a new ballpark. While the too-simple contractual language does seem to give the Angels the edge, there are fundamental issues of equity that seem to go in the City's favor. Basically, Anaheim funded ballpark renovations in exchange for an advertisement--their name attached to that of the Angels team. Including the name of another, better-known municipality defeats that purpose of making Anaheim a "major-league city." In the new naming scheme, they're back to being an obscure suburb of L.A.

No other advertiser would stand for that, and neither should Anaheim.

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