Back on May 22nd, 2003 a new day had dawned not only for the Los Angeles Angels, but for all of American Professional Sports teams. This was the day Arturo “Arte” Moreno bought the Angels from Disney for 184 million dollars.
What made this move more intriguing is that the Los Angeles Angels (Anaheim Angels at the time of purchase) became the first American Sports franchise to be owned by a minority owner (Moreno is Hispanic). Moreno took over a team that had just won their first World Series less than eight months before and the roster was pretty much still intact.
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Moreno went to work right away putting his stamp on the team. The first big thing he did was put in more nachos and beer stands and lower the price of both. That may have been an idea that proceeded his tenure, but it was interesting timing. The Angels struggled to find the magic in 2003 and finished a distant third place in the AL West. Moreno wasted no time in making a splash on the free agent market in the Winter of 2003.
The Angels went out and signed arguably one of the best players in baseball in outfielder Vladimir Guerrero and one of the top pitchers in baseball Bartolo Colon. In addition the team also signed pitcher Kelvim Escobar which put the pieces in place for another championship run. In total Angels GM Bill Stoneman spent 140 million dollars of Moreno’s money which is something the Angels had never done before at least on multiple players.
Guerrero paid immediate dividends as he was named AL MVP in 2004 as he hit .337 with 39 homers and 126 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He became only the second player to win the AL MVP Award for the Angels. Colon went 18-12 with a 5.01 ERA and Escobar went 11-12 with a 3.93 ERA.
The three players were key part of the Angels AL West title winning teams in both 2004 and then again in 2005 when Colon went 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA winning the AL Cy Young Award only the second player to do so in Angels history. In the 2005 post-season the Angels knocked out the New York Yankees in an epic 5-game ALDS only to lose to the eventual World Champions the Chicago White Sox in the ALCS.
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However the bigger news was off the field that season. Moreno made waves with the city of Anaheim and many Angel fans when he announced he was changing the team name from the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels mainly for marketing purposes. The city of Anaheim filed a court case, that still to this day has not been totally resolved, requiring Moreno to keep Anaheim in the team per terms of the lease. So Moreno slapped Anaheim at the end of the team name. The Angels new team name became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
What many people don’t realize is that although the team name was changed, you do not hear the name of the team announced as such by the PA Announcer or see many references to the name anywhere in the stadium. Instead you just hear the team called the Angels. So there is really much ado about nothing (for the most part).
Moreno hired a new GM Tony Reagins from within the organization when Bill Stoneman decided to step aside. Moreno allowed Reagins the ability and the money to keep pursuing big name free agents such as outfielder Torii Hunter to a five-year 90 million dollar contract in the winter of 2007.
The Angels kept plugging away winning the AL West again in 2007, 2008, and 2009 seasons. The Angels made it within two games of the World Series in 2009 sweeping Boston out of the ALDS, before dropping the ALCS to the Yankees losing four games to two.
In 2011, Moreno hired his third general manager Jerry DiPoto to rebuild the team after two failed seasons when the Angels did not make the playoffs (first time since 2000 and 2001 seasons the team did not reach post-season in consecutive seasons). Under Dipoto the Angels made a couple of deadline deals that did not work out in their favor as the Angels traded some of their top prospects for a two-month rental.
Zack Greinke was acquired for Jean Segura who is now doing really well in the majors. Greinke ended up signing with the Dodgers after the season so the Angels got nothing in return other than a failed playoff run.
Moreno also made a bigger splash than the Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon moves by signing St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols to a 10-year deal for 242 million dollars and then signed Texas lefty C.J. Wilson to a five-year 75 million dollar deal within a couple of hours of each other. However, neither of these moves have worked out the way the Angels have thought they would. Pujols has been solid, but he definitely has been a player on the decline and Wilson had a couple of good years with the team but then spent about half of the time on the disabled list.
Moreno’s biggest dud of a move came in the Winter of 2012 when he empowered DiPoto to break the bank to sign Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five-year 125 million dollar contract. We all don’t need to rehash how that worked out for the Angels. Any luster left on Moreno’s legacy was gone and most fans were starting to call for his head on a silver platter.
Moreno then redeemed himself somewhat when he hired Billy Eppler in the Winter of 2015. Eppler has been a breath of fresh air compared to DiPoto and he mended the precarious relationship between the Angels front office and long-time manager Mike Scioscia. Eppler has taken the worst minor league system and bolstered it through smart moves and frugal spending. The Angels did not pursue any big name free agents during the 2015-2017 seasons and made only one major deadline deal acquiring Justin Upton in August losing only one major prospect in doing so.
This winter since Josh Hamilton’s contract is finally off the books, Moreno again opened his wallet, but in a much smarter way re-signing Upton for a reasonable deal for five years-106 million dollars (19 million less than the Hamilton deal in 2012). The team also traded some finge prospects to get second baseman Ian Kinsler and then signed Zack Cozart to a reasonable three-year 38 million dollar contract. The biggest move was enticing Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani to come to Anaheim creating a buzz of epic proportions.
Say what you want about Arturo “Arte” Moreno’s ownership of the Angels, but know this he wants to win just as much as anyone and he seems to be getting wiser with age. Most every owner in baseball has made some bad moves (bad free agent signings, GM, or manager hirings, etc.) , but that comes with the territory.
The Angels have drawn three million fans per year every season (15 and counting) since Moreno has owned the franchise. They signed a record TV deal with FOX Sports worth three billion dollars over the 20 years of the deal. The team increased in value from 184 million dollars when Moreno bought the team to 1.75 Billion as of 2017 which is the 8th most valuable franchise in sports according to Forbes.com.
So next time you go to bash Angels owner Arte Moreno and wish he was gone, think about the possible alternative owners the Angels could have like the Marlins or Padres ownership groups who haven’t sniffed the playoffs in the last 10 years. Think about it long and hard.