LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are on the brink of a season to remember.
This summer should be a game-changer, a franchise-maker, a preview of rosy things to come. All things considered, the Big A should become the Huge A. The second-fiddle role, the little-brother-to-the-Dodgers stuff that has plagued the Angels for so long, should begin to change with this springboard season.
Years ago, in his TV commercials for a camera, a longhaired tennis star, Andre Agassi, confirmed a societal axiom: Image is everything.
The Angels need to pay close attention to that.
Their future image is based on more than the acquisition of Albert Pujols, who is already showing he is a hard worker and an adult, not to mention one of only a handful of superstars in the game today.
It's based on more than a pitching staff that added C.J. Wilson to Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana for a starting rotation any manager would kill for. More than the projected return of power-hitting Kendrys Morales, or even the perfect public relations move they made when they got outfielder Torii Hunter a few years ago. Hunter is the anti-surly jock. He treats fans, media, teammates, janitors all the same -- like it is his responsibility to make them have a good day. Also, he can still play.
It's more than having one of the game's best, and most popular, managers.
It is even more than having an owner who endeared himself to fans by lowering the price of beer and did it again by acquiring Pujols and Wilson. Arte Moreno flies high on most baseball radar screens, and, correspondingly, so do the Angels with the glowing ratings they get every year in fan experience and appreciation.
The progression of that image, in this new Angels era, is based on all that. It's also based on taking care of the little things, before they become big things.
Which brings us back to Moreno and beer.
The Angels remain in the minority of major league clubs that still allow beer in the clubhouse for their players. That's a mistake. Moreno, the man who dropped the price of beer for his fans, ought to drop the existence of beer in his clubhouse.
Maybe it seems like a little thing, and if the Angels are lucky it could be nothing. If they aren't, it could become a public-relations disaster. Exhibit A: The Bryan Stow case in the Dodgers parking lot. The only team connection there was that it happened after a game and in a Dodgers parking lot. It still cost the Dodgers immeasurably in image.
A season of great success and joy can turn dark and sad with one serious drinking-related mishap caused by one Angels player driving after having a couple in the clubhouse. Probably won't happen, but is it a chance the Angels and Moreno want to take?
Moreover, has there ever been a team better positioned to take the correct stance? How can the players argue a decision that says there will be no beer in the clubhouse because we, the Angels, refuse to contribute in any way to another incident such as the one that cost us Nick Adenhart?
Soon-to-be-star-pitcher Adenhart wasn't drunk -- wasn't even driving -- on that April night when he was killed by somebody who was, and who has been convicted of being so.
Remember the murmurs after the Angels won their division in 2009, five months after Adenhart's death, and honored him by pouring beer on his jersey and his poster on the outfield wall as they celebrated. The "boys will be boys" rationalization didn't quite feel right then, nor does it now.
The way to truly honor Adenhart is to make sure none of his surviving teammates ever get a head start on causing a similar situation by chugging a few in the clubhouse. Based on Adenhart alone, the Angels should have been the first to take that stance, not among the last.
Manager Mike Scioscia was quoted in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times as saying, "It's about responsibility. There are things that make you reexamine the policy in-house, but we haven't experienced those things here."
How about never experiencing them? How about the cliche about an ounce of prevention? If your players are going to drive, don't let them drink. If they are doing your official business, representing your team, riding on your buses, on your time clock, keep the fizz capped. A healthy head is needed here -- in the decision-making, not the beer mug.
Look at two stories that made headlines Friday: Boston Red Sox reliever Bobby Jenks was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after allegedly hitting a car and leaving the scene of an accident early Friday. Matt Bush, a pitcher in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, was arrested Thursday after allegedly running over a motorcyclist and fleeing the scene. He faces multiple charges, including DUI.
Every Angels player makes enough money to have a nice refrigerator at home stocked with whatever he wants. By age, they are all adults. By definition, they are all employees of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
By logic, Moreno, Scioscia, team President John Carpino and General Manager Jerry Dipoto have to take the responsibility or suffer the consequences.
If something bad happens, the news release the next day will not say, "Player Joe Schmoe regrets " It will say, "The Angels regret "
Players are paid big money to make big headlines. Angels management is paid good money to make sure those big headlines aren't bad ones.
The decision is easy. The logic is overwhelming. Nike's advice would be perfect here.
Just do it.