We now interrupt your regularly scheduled playoff race hand-wringing to bring you this very important bulletin: Arte Moreno is getting dead serious about moving the Los Angeles Angels to the actual city (or at least county) of Los Angeles.
How do we know this? Because, according to the LA Daily News, Arte Moreno recently held a meeting with stadium developers Majestic Realty. This is now the second such group that Moreno has met with this year after holding taking with the AEG group who have a similar stadium project downtown. Both stadium developers are more interested in building a stadium for a NFL team, so the level of their interest is hard to gauge. Moreno's though, that is starting to look more keen and obvious.
As you might know, the Angels have an out in their lease after the 2016 season. As you might also know, Arte Moreno has long wanted to make the Angels an elite franchise in baseball. He tipped his hand on that long ago when he changed the team name to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. That was his first step. The second step would be getting to drop that "of Anaheim" part because the team would actually be in Los Angeles.
When that AEG story broke in April, I chalked it up to a ploy to gain leverage against the city of Anaheim. That might also be the case here with Majestic, but it might not be. That's a really obvious thing to say, I know, but the reason to think Arte isn't bluffing now are the events that have transpired between April and now.
Back in April, the Angels were poised to claim the Kings of SoCal Baseball crown. They had just gained national attention with their free agent spending spree, landing a marquee name in Albert Pujols while the Dodgers continued to twist in the wind waiting for their ownership situation to get resolved. Turns out it got resolved in a big way. The Dodgers now have great new owners with pockets so deep that they make Moreno look like your cheap uncle who takes home three order of the free breadsticks at the Olive Garden. The Dodgers are the ones now making the splashy news and grabbing all the headlines. The Angels, well, they are back to being the JV team of Southern California.
That is something that Moreno quite simply cannot abide. The problem is he is running out cards he can play to raise the Angels' profile both locally and nationally.
He's changed the name. He's spent truckloads of cash. He's overhauled the stadium experience. He's landed a massive TV deal. He's brought in brand name star players. There is only one arrow left in his quiver and that is finally transplanting the Angels from their low-profile Orange County address to Los Angeles, right smack dab in the middle of the spotlight.
If Moreno really wants to "out LA" the Dodgers, the only way he can do it is by plopping the Angels down right in the middle of their supposed territory. Getting a new, glitzy stadium downtown can give the Angels the kind of hype, buzz and cache that they will never get by simply leveraging the City of Anaheim into footing the bill for a few small cosmetic enhancements to the Big A. Dodger Stadium is a classic, but it is also becoming out-dated and plagued with traffic and in-stadium service problems. Imagine how many fans the Halos could steal from the Doyers if they offered a modern, streamlined, accessible alternative in the heart of the city. Let's face it, there is a sizable chunk of LA fans whose sports allegiance isn't exactly set in stone.
It is a dangerous play for Moreno since he would risk alienating the legions of fans in Orange County who appreciate the very fact that the Halos aren't a typical, trendy LA team. But, really, that is just a short-term loss as the next generation of Los Angeles baseball fans would grow up knowing the Angels solely as an LA team with their time in Anaheim nothing but a historical footnote.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves though. These are just initial meetings. A lot still needs to happen for Moreno to put a relocation into motion. First and foremost, the two stadium developers need to find out if they are going to win the NFL bid first. After that, the loser will have to decide if cutting a deal with Moreno, with significantly less leverage now, is worth it. That could be months or years from now, which may make the timeline difficult to manage since shovels would have to hit the ground soon to have stadium ready for MLB action in 2017. And then there is the giant mess of money and bureaucratic red tape that are always involved with these things. I guess what I'm saying is getting a new stadium built is incredibly hard, in fact, it might be one of the hardest things to do in all of sports. That doesn't mean it is impossible though, rich people hell-bent on getting something do tend to get what they want. That applies to Moreno and new stadium and Moreno and his dream of elevating the Angels to premier franchise status, two things that may very well go hand-in-hand.