This season may be a lost cause, but that doesn’t mean the Angels are poised for a lengthy fall from grace, at least not with Arte Moreno in place as owner. No matter how bleak you think things may be right now, fret not for Arte Moreno’s hopes and aspirations for his franchise are too big for him to let the team fail.
Would this face let you down?
If ever there was a reason for Angel fans to have hope for the future it is that they have one of the few owners in all of baseball, nay, all of sports who genuinely puts winning before everything else. Sure, Arte wants to see the Halos turn a profit, but he believes in his heart of hearts that if you build it (a winning franchise), they will come (the fans and money).
But before we delve too deep into the mantra of Moreno, let’s get a quick frame of reference against other owners, just to give you and idea of how much worse things could really be:
- Jeffrey Loria recently bilked the city of Miami out of hundreds of millions of tax dollars to get his Marlins a new revenue-machine of a stadium built for his club, all the while secretly pocketing tens of millions dollars under the table for himself, instead of helping pay for the stadium. Not to mention hamstringing a team full of great young talent by keeping the payroll extremely low instead of spending some cash to make the team a full-fledged contender.
- David Glass, owner of the Royals, is one of the richest men in the world yet he consistently slashes budget, keeping the Royals from ever ascending from perennial cellar dwellar status.
- The owner of the Mets was one of the marquee victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Seeing how he trusted that guy with all his money, it certainly helps explain why Fred Wilpon hasn’t been able to hire a competent front office for several years and counting.
- Until recently, the Rangers were owned by Tom Hicks, who was in such deep debt that he couldn’t even sell the team without a three-ring circus taking place in bankruptcy court.
- I saved the best for last. We’ve all seen what a disaster the cross-town rival Dodgers have become in the wake of the ongoing divorce of co-owners Frank and Jamie McCourt. Not only have they proven themselves to be incompetent owners, but they also exposed all their dirty little secrets, like the McCourt family using the Dodgers as their own personal piggy bank, instead of spending the necessary money to build and maintain a contending team. Then they just flat out embarrassed themselves with revelations like them paying a psychic a six-figure salary to “send out good vibes” for the Dodgers. Yikes!
Those are just a few examples of owners putting a personal agenda in front of the well being of their ballclub. Now, Moreno may look like a saint in comparison, but even he has a personal agenda he wants to pursue. Lucky for us fans, Moreno was smart enough to have his agenda heavily involve the Angels being a winner.
And what is that agenda, you ask? Vaulting the Angels into the upper echelon of MLB teams on par with the Yankees and Red Sox. Really, this shouldn’t surprise anyone either. His infamous decision to rename the Angels the “Los Angeles” Angels was all about marketing position. Being from Anaheim was just so “mid-market,” whereas being from Los Angeles made the Angels big time. The only real flaw in his plan was that LA was already dominated by the Dodgers.
Or at least it was.
This whole McCourt divorce business coupled with a near decade of high profile success from the Angels has leveled the playing field in the LA baseball market. With every sordid detail of the adultery and financial malfeasance that emerges from the McCourt divorce proceedings, the Dodgers’ once unimpeachable mystique crumbles a little bit. If ever there was a time for the Angels to wrest the Los Angeles baseball crown away from the Dodgers, that time is now.
Coming into this season, the Angels were set up perfectly to unseat the Dodgers from their throne, having bested them year after year in interleague play and matching or surpassing their performance almost every single year of the past decade. Unfortunately, the 2010 season didn’t play out as the Angels had hoped, costing Moreno a shot at throwing a knockout punch in the fight for LA baseball supremacy. Fortunately, the McCourt ugliness continues to drag out, affording the Arte one more shot to throw that haymaker in 2011, and he knows he better make the best of it because it may be the last good shot he gets for a long time.
To make it happen, Arte knows the Angels HAVE to win again. Maybe not a World Series, but another division title and a respectable post-season run is 100% necessary. For better or worse, the fans of Los Angeles are never shy about embracing a winning team, so many a fan could be convinced to stop “thinking blue” in favor of the red of the Angels, should the Halos put together an impressive winning season against what should be another tumultuous and frustrating campaign for Los Doyers.
For that reason alone, I’m not heeding the warning that the Halos 2011 payroll is already at about $110 million, meaning they may be strapped for cash in free agency. Arte Moreno isn’t going to let some artificial salary ceiling stand in the way of making a move that could win the Angels another World Series and simultaneously force themselves to the forefront of the national baseball scene.
Just look back at the Vladimir Guerrero signing. Back then, it was thought that the Halos didn’t quite have the cash to get a deal done for him, but when Moreno realized that he could both give his team a major shot in the arm while making the Dodgers, who were supposedly on the verge of signing Vlad, look like fools at the same time, he opened his wallet and made it happen.
The same will go for the coming courtship of Carl Crawford. Landing Crawford would not only give the Angels a superstar to market in LA again for sure, but Moreno’s aspirations go beyond that. Getting Crawford wouldn’t just show how much better the Angels are than the Dodgers, it would also be a major blow to the likes of the Yankees, showing them that they and their bottomless bank account can be bested; the Angels are a force to be reckoned with and they aren’t going away anytime soon.
So, yeah, Arte has an agenda, but I wouldn’t even call it an agenda. It is more like a dream, and a big one at that. It’s a dream so big, yet so close to being attainable that I fail to see any scenario in which Arte Moreno would allow himself, and thus the Angels, to fail.
Now, that’s something to be optimistic about.