Two and a half years ago, in the fall of 2009, Arte Moreno believed the Los Angeles Angels had arrived. After major disappointments in 2004, 2007 and 2008, his team had finally beaten the Boston Red Sox in a playoff series, sweeping the Red Sox in the American League Division Series. The Angels then lost in six games to the eventual champion Yankees in the American League Championship Series, but Moreno did not feel intimidated by New York. The Angels had beaten the Yankees in the 2005 ALDS, and he knew this loss was simply the byproduct of his team not playing its best.
For the next two years, Moreno did not hope the Angels would remain competitive with the game's two superpowers, he expected it. Since purchasing the Angels in 2003, the Red Sox and Yankees have been his measure. When he talked about his club, it was of being in the class of Boston and New York in terms of consistency, of being in the championship conversation on Opening Day not one or two years, but every year for 10 or 15 years.
Moreno is considered by many of his players to be as competitive as they come, and he craved to be on baseball's top shelf, only to see the Angels not only fail to make the playoffs in 2010 and 2011, but to be surpassed by an unexpected rival. The Texas Rangers beat the Angels by 10 games each year, becoming the first AL team to win consecutive pennants since the Yankees in 2000 and 2001 (and the first non-Yankees team to do it in the AL since Toronto in 1992 and '93).
"I like to take a macro view. Where we are today really goes back to '09, running into Boston again, finally getting past Boston and then running into New York," Moreno said in a telephone interview. "I felt like we were moving in the right direction, felt like all we needed was to make a few moves. It didn't work that way, and it was clear that we had to really increase our efforts to get to that next level."
On the last day of the season, after the Angels had won 86 games in a year marred by too many missed opportunities, too many blown saves and not enough runs -- the Rangers outscored the Angels by 188 runs and beat them 12 of 19 times -- Moreno took Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, his two best pitchers, aside and made them a promise.
"Both of you pitched your hearts out. Both of you should've been 20-game winners," he recalled telling them. "And I'm going to go out and do everything I can to get you some offense."
A month after Moreno spoke to his team, an epic World Series concluded that saw Texas lose the championship for the second consecutive year, this one to the Cardinals, historically and hauntingly, and Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and his assistant GM Thad Levine and his staff, along with owner Nolan Ryan, met feeling conflicting emotions, the sting of losing the World Series yet a sense of regeneration.
"Trust me, it isn't a feeling you want to have, losing the World Series the way we did," Daniels said. "But I wasn't showing false toughness or bravado when I said to our guys that I expect us to have chances at this for the next 10 or 15 years. I meant it. I couldn't have been more proud by the way we've handled it. No one dwelled. We got back to work. That's why I believe it is possible."