All this time, Angels fans had their hearts set on Joe Lacob. Or Henry Samueli. Or, to be honest, Anybody But Arte.
So those howls you could have heard Monday afternoon from the direction of Orange County were anguished ones. Moreno announced in a statement that there is still “unfinished business” to attend to and that the Angels are back off the market five months after he announced they were for sale.
So, naturally, the initial public reaction included raging speculation over what this would mean to Shohei Ohtani’s future in Anaheim. The very early, very unofficial consensus? He’s gone.
You could be optimistic and say that now that Moreno has made it clear he’s still around, it’s easier to resume negotiations on a long-term deal. But that ignores the fact that Ohtani has made it clear he wants to win. Can that happen here when, despite having two of the best players in baseball, the Angels are a combined 68 games under .500 since 2016 and 52 under in the five seasons Ohtani and Mike Trout have shared a clubhouse?
Yeah, it’s easy to be a pessimist when you’re an Angel fan.
It’s hard to be an Angels fan right now. My hopes and dreams have been crushed.
— Amanda Brown (@AmandaCB79) January 23, 2023
From the outside, little has changed. The roster around Ohtani and Trout might be a little better, but the AL West got even tougher the moment Bruce Bochy decided to take the Texas Rangers managing job. Houston is the reigning champs, Seattle isn’t going away and the Rangers will be better. And fourth place won’t get you a wild card.
Beyond the product on the field, there’s still no certainty as to what will be done with Angel Stadium and the surrounding property. Does Arte really have the inclination to resurrect and renegotiate the deal that crashed on the rocks last May once an FBI investigation into Anaheim city government became public?
Meanwhile, will Long Beach and Tustin and all the usual suspects dust off their ballpark proposals? (And are the folks seeking teams in Portland, Nashville, Montreal and Las Vegas now licking their chops, just in case?)
By comparison, the uncertainty over who the new owner might be, and what his or her plans might be for rejuvenating this franchise, was almost enticing. It’s hard to get excited when the same old thing translates to seven straight sub-.500 seasons, including last year’s 73-89 when the bottom dropped out just after Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu resigned.
Maybe Manager Phil Nevin sensed something when we talked to him at the Winter Meetings in San Diego last month. He was asked if the then-impending sale of the team was a distraction at all and said:
“I mean, I read the same things you guys do. I’m not part of that (discussion). But, no, I don’t think it’s a distraction at all. If anything, what we’ve been able to do this offseason and add (pieces), I think it’s just a credit to what our ownership is right now. And he’s not just going to pack up and leave us stranded on an island. I think he still has a lot of love and care for our organization.”
And maybe Perry Minasian’s frequent responses that he had received no restrictions or limitations from current ownership before making moves was also a sign that Moreno was hesitant to go all the way through with a sale.
Then again, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America at those same Winter Meetings that his understanding was “that the club would like to have the sale resolved before Opening Day.”
Well, at least there’s some closure. Just not the kind most Angels fans would prefer. Some samples from the social media responses to Moreno’s statement Monday:
• “Wow, that’s a shame. Was hoping for an owner who would fix the ballpark and could read a map. Your LA obsession is embarrassing.”
• “IT’S TIME TO BOYCOTT THIS TEAM ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” (This respondent’s Twitter handle is “SellTheTeamArte.”)
• “I have to sell Angels tickets for my son’s baseball team. Number one reason for being told no is because of Moreno.”
• “I won’t be buying tickets this season, won’t help fund Arte Moreno’s pockets with our cash.”
• “How selfish. I was getting excited about the prospect of winning but just another chapter in the emotional roller-coaster of being an Angels fan.” (That one included an eye-roll emoji. Seems appropriate.)
And I’m sure my email inbox will be filling up in the coming days with Angel fans venting, as it did when I first brought up the subject of Moreno’s ownership at the end of July, and then again in August after his initial announcement that he was going to sell.
One thread that kept coming up in those responses: Arte isn’t necessarily cheap, although the way the Angels have treated their minor leaguers certainly would suggest as much. But he quite likely doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and interferes with the people who supposedly do know what they’re doing.
(Evidence that the “cheap” tag is inaccurate, in addition to all the past big contracts he’s approved that haven’t worked out: As beat writer Jeff Fletcher points out, the current payroll for luxury tax purposes is $220 million, only $13 million below the first tax threshold.)
In our summertime dialogue, a number of fans pointed out that, unlike most franchises, the Angels don’t have a president of baseball operations to oversee that part of the operation, and maybe to serve as a buffer between the general manager and ownership.
So, on the first day of the rest of Arte’s ownership tenure, we offer some advice: Hire a true baseball man to help Minasian and his staff with those decisions, and devote your time to the stadium issue.
It certainly can’t hurt.