Picture from GQ.

Driving through California on my recent vacation, I was struck by two things:

1) Along with baseball and jazz music, America should be recognized for contributing the Pacific Coast Highway or California One to the world’s list of awesome stuff. I’m honestly not normally one for scenery, but driving south from San Francisco to Los Angeles down the coast was likely the best time I’ve ever spent in the United States.

2) There are a heck of a lot of billboards in Southern California advertising the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, both with the controversial El Hombre tag and without. Later on my trip I learned that this is no coincidence, that Arte Moreno, the owner of the Angels, has billboard sales to thank for the origin of his considerable financial worth.

I also learned about something that doesn’t come up as much of an issue for baseball fans in Toronto, but is absolutely vital throughout the State of California: regional fan bases. Just as the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants battle for fans in the Bay Area, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been attempting to swipe supporters from the San Diego Padres, while also engaged in a new battle with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over territorial claims.

This is the topic that opens a fascinating feature in GQ Magazine on Moreno. The entire interview is worth reading, but here are some of the more interesting quotes from the Angels owner.

On winning new members to his team’s fan base:

A Dodgers fan is a Dodgers fan; they have fifty years of history in L.A. You know, when I came in, I started talking about marketing to 8-year-olds, and everybody thought I was nuts. Now those kids are 20 years old, right? So they’ve been watching, and for eight years we’ve been very successful. That changes the game. So if you’re saying, ‘Are you marketing to young people in the area?’ Yes, I am.

On speculation that Albert Pujols is actually older than he claims to be:

We would never go there. He’s been in the United States since he was 16. Somebody starts checking on your age you start wondering, Do we really want to have a relationship like this?

On Albert Pujols aging over the life of his contract with the team, confirming that MLB free agent contracts evaluate a player’s average worth over the life of the contract:

We don’t look at one player, we look at twenty-five on the roster or nine on the field, and you just say: If he plays within these averages for our team, his averages are so much higher than anyone else’s that is playing right now. If you do have some erosion—let’s call it seven to ten years of solid production, not superstar production—look what it still does for a franchise. If he’s healthy enough and he’s playing for us, then I’m gonna just say, ‘Merry Christmas to all baseball fans,’ because we get to see one of the best players of our generation coming to bat.

On the Vernon Wells acquisition:

We felt that if he hits his average of 25 home runs, 80 to 90-plus RBIs, bats .260 to .280, you end up with a good player for four years at $16-plus million a year, [and] you’re not having to pay [a free agent for] a longer period of time. The book’s not closed on Vernon, you know. But that was the thought process.

Notice that Moreno quotes a $16 million figure, despite Wells being scheduled to receive $23 million last season, and then $21 million in each year from 2012 to 2014. Perhaps the Toronto Blue Jays are paying a rumoured $5 million extra per year over the life of the Wells contract. That same figure was tossed around shortly after the deal was first announced.

And The Rest

From defensive metrics to everyone’s love of Roy Halladay, here are the top ten things I learned while at the SABR Analytics Conference last weekend. [Getting Blanked]

I spoke with Matt Kory last night about the Toronto Blue Jays for his massive AL East preview podcast. I’m pretty sure I didn’t once mention Jose Bautista. Seriously. [Over The Monster]

Just because the lawsuit is over, it doesn’t mean that the New York Mets can start spending. [New York Post]

How exactly do the San Francisco Giants justify rushing Emmanuel Burriss to the Major Leagues while waiting so long to give Brandon Belt a regular job? [McCovey Chronicles]

The Baltimore Orioles are taking a shot on Dontrelle Willis with a Minor League contract (of course, they are), but there could be some method to their madness, especially if they plan on converting him into a reliever. [Camden Depot]

Johnny Damon is the best player in baseball without a job. [SI.com]

The Kansas City Royals trade with the Houston Astros is every bit as exciting as one would imagine: Catcher Humberto Quintero and outfielder Jason Bourgeois to Kansas City for minor league pitcher Kevin Chapman and a player to be named later from Houston. [Royals Review]

J.D. Martinez of the Houston Astros would like to be pushed to his physical limits. [Ultimate Astros]

Texas Rangers converted starter Neftali Feliz left his start early with shoulder stiffness. [MLB.com]

The San Diego Padres signed catcher Nick Hundley to an extension that will keep him with the team until 2014, with a club option for 2015. [Gaslamp Ball]

Today in excess: A five pound fish sandwich to be served at Minor League Baseball games. [MILB.com]

Could Travis Snider be the next Jose Bautista? [DJF]

Speaking of Snider, there are some rumours that Matt Stairs had some critical things to say about Cito Gaston’s treatment of the prospect during his last tenure as manager in Toronto. [DJF]

Bill James talks about hockey stats. Sure. Why not? [Edmonton Journal]

Chili Davis is a man on a mission for the Oakland A’s. [ChicoER.com]