If not for a price dispute, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim could be owned by John Henry and not Arte Moreno.
After winning their first World Series in 2002, it was obvious that the Walt Disney Corporation was going to set a big dollar value on the Anaheim Angels when they went to sell the franchise. While they eventually sold the team to Arte Moreno in May 2003, for the sum of $180 million, the ownership picture could have been much different if the price tag had been that low, to begin with.
In speaking with Boston radio station WEEI, former Florida Marlins general manager David Samson discussed a number of topics about his tenure with the team. That included some interesting details as to the efforts of his former boss, John Henry when it came to selling the Marlins and purchasing the Boston Red Sox. Perhaps the most interesting of those details was the fact that it was the Anaheim Angels that Henry originally wanted to buy.
Before we get too far down the rabbit hole, we have to first revisit the various machinations of how this all went down. Henry first became a sole owner with the Florida Marlins in 1999, but by 2002, he was ready to take on a larger market organization. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball was also trying to contract the league, specifically the Montreal Expos. The plan would be for Henry to buy into a larger market, then flip the Marlins to Jeffrey Loria (then Expos owner), and MLB would fold the Expos. According to Samson, the large market team that Henry was looking at was the Angels.
"“So the Angels were a deal, that was going to be the swap. Sell Montreal, buy Florida. Have him sell us Florida and then buy the Angels,” said Samson."
Of course, there was one hang-up. As Samson continues, Disney was steadfast in the price they wanted to receive for the defending World Series champions.
"“John Henry just said, ‘No I’m not doing the deal because, A. I can’t guarantee the 138.5 for the Marlins, and B. I’m not paying $500 million for the Angels.”"
The rest they say is history. Henry and his group opted to pursue a different fish (no pun intended) and ultimately paid $700 million for the Boston Red Sox. That move proved fruitful for the Red Sox, as Henry would invest in the team and allow it to compete at the top of the market. The Sox would go on to lose in the ALCS in 2003 before winning their first title in 86 years in 2004. They would also win in 2007, 2013, and 2018. The investment also paid off handsomely for Henry, as the club is now worth $3.3 billion, ranking 3rd in the latest Forbes valuation.
As for the Angels, they found their owner as well, with Arte Moreno buying the club in March 2003. However, they failed to make quite as much as they wanted from Henry, settling for just $180 million. The franchise is now worth $1.975 billion.
For his part, Moreno has been willing to invest in the team as well, bringing in big names like Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, Anthony Rendon, and the forgettable Josh Hamilton. And that says nothing of the mega-extension awarded to Mike Trout. However, postseason success has escaped the Angels during his tenure, including two divisional series losses to Henry’s Red Sox in 2004 and 2007.
Of course, one has to wonder what could have been under a Henry ownership group. Would the front office have looked differently with Larry Lucchino potentially bringing Theo Epstein to Anaheim? What about the player personnel?
"Angels: How much better is Mike Trout than the rest of his draft class?"
It’s an interesting series of “what if” scenarios that could have altered the fate of two franchises over the last 18 seasons.