Monday, August 1, 2011
Angels Moment No. 16: Arte buys the team
By Mark Saxon
If Angels fans were excited when Arte Moreno reduced ticket and beer prices when he bought the team, they were giddy over his next few gifts.
First, in that winter after the 2003 season, came hard-throwing pitcher Kelvim Escobar; then a mercurial but talented outfielder, Jose Guillen; then Bartolo Colon, one of the top free agent pitchers available, and, finally, a superstar outfielder who had played his entire career in the wilderness of Montreal, Vladimir Guerrero.
Moreno's unprecedented outpouring of cash to haul in those marquee names that winter came as a boon to fans who had grown accustomed to a franchise that used to wade gingerly into free agency. Guerrero would win a league MVP trophy in his first season in Anaheim. Colon would win the Cy Young award the following season.
It was a brash first step and it soon paid off. In the first year under Moreno, the Angels drew more than 3 million fans, about 750,000 more than they had attracted in their championship season two years earlier.
Moreno's honeymoon with his fan base would last about two years, before another brash marketing move, renaming the team the Los Angeles Angels, would cause some backlash. It also led to a lengthy court battle with the City of Anaheim that would result in the team being named -- to the delight of comedians and the dismay of geographers -- the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Moreno may have angered some sectors in Orange County, but he has clearly made the Angels a bigger national brand. He signed a lucrative 10-year broadcasting deal with Fox Sports Net before the 2006 season and, according to Forbes magazine, had more than doubled the value of the franchise by 2006, to around $368 million.
Moreno's teams would reach the playoffs in five of the seven seasons he has owned the club and reach the ALCS in 2005 and 2009, but have yet to win another World Series.
His commitment to fielding competitive teams hasn't wavered. The Angels entered 2011 with the highest payroll in team history, $140 million.