After many years of uninspiring baseball on Tuesday, August 23rd Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno announced that he was exploring the possibility of selling the franchise. “It has been a great honor and privilege to own the Angels for 20 seasons,” said Moreno in a statement. “Although this difficult decision was entirely our choice and deserved a great deal of thoughtful consideration, my family and I have ultimately come to the conclusion that now is the time.”
Considering how inept the Angels have been for the back half of Moreno’s tenure, this news should give fans of the team a glimmer of hope.
Moreno bought the Angels in 2003, shortly after the team won their first world series in franchise history. Since then the Angels have made the postseason six times, five of those times came in the first seven seasons of Moreno’s ownership. Since 2009, when they lost to the eventual world series champion New York Yankees in the ALCS, they have made the postseason just once.
That one time happened in 2014, when they had the best record in all of baseball at 98-64, and managed to get swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. Since that time, the Angels have failed to make the postseason, haven’t come particularly close either, and have only had a winning record once in the last eight seasons.
To be fair to Moreno and the Angels, the constant losing is not a result of a lack of trying. The Angels have taken massive swings in free agency in hopes of building a winning team, but have failed more often than not. Moreno has specialized in ineptitude when it comes to free agent splashes. Few people love throwing large amounts of money like Moreno. Although, the Angels have also been very unlucky.
They signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year deal for $125 million, at the time the move made sense, Hamilton was coming off a season where he hit 43 home runs and had 128 RBIs in 2012. But he never came close to the production he had with the Texas Rangers, injuries and his relapses with drugs and alcohol derailed Hamilton’s time in Los Angeles. He played only two seasons with the Halos.
In 2012, they made a huge splash move signing free agent slugger and former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols to a 10-year deal for $254 million. Although Pujols was in his early thirties, he was widely regarded as one of the best players in the league and of all time in his first 11 seasons.
While Pujols was still considered a good player in Los Angeles, he was NOWHERE CLOSE, to the player he was in St. Louis. He made it to the playoffs only once over the course of his 10 seasons with the Angels, and, his power hitting and batting average both significantly dropped as he got older.
In 2018, after coming off an all-star season with the Cinncinati Reds the Angels signed infielder Zack Cozart to a three-year $38 million deal.
Cozart played in only 96 games in two seasons with the Angels. Injuries sabotaged his time with the Angels as well, he dislocated his shoulder in his first season, and two weeks later it was revealed he had a torn labrum and was done for the season.
Early in the 2019 season, Cozart was put on the injured list with a neck strain, it also turned out that he needed surgery on his left shoulder that was still injured and was out for the rest of the season. In the offseason, the Angels traded Cozart to the San Francisco Giants for cash considerations and a player to be named later, the Giants quickly released Cozart, and since then he hasn’t played in the MLB.
The jury is still out on the big contract that was given to third baseman Anthony Rendon, who signed a massive seven-year deal for $245 million in 2020. In his first season, he played in almost every game of the shortened season and batted .286 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs in 52 games. But in the last two seasons, Rendon has played in only 103 games and has failed to replicate the kind of numbers he put with the Washington Nationals.
The last bad contract that will be mentioned is the deal that sent Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells to the Angels in exchange for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. Wells was in the middle of a seven-year deal for $126 million. He still had four years left on the deal and was entering his 30s.
While Wells had proven in Toronto that he was a productive power-hitting outfielder, his tenure with the Angels was rather uneventful. He played there for only two seasons, and while he was productive in his first season, his batting average and on-base percentage both dropped significantly. Two years later the Angels traded Wells to the Yankees.
Under Moreno, the Angels have done some things right. In 2009 they were smart enough to draft center fielder Mike Trout who has been one of the best players ever since his rookie season in 2011. They also signed swiss army knife pitcher and hitter Shohei Ohtani back in 2018.
The problem is the Angels currently have two of the ten best players in all of baseball, but they have been unable to put enough talent around them to win or get to the playoffs. Moreno has hired bad executives, who have gone on to hire even worse managers.
Angel fans deserve better and as bad as it has been under Moreno, it’s not like they had a much better history before he took over. The Angels have been around since 1961, and have managed to make the playoffs only TEN TIMES in their history.
That is an alarmingly bad rate, to say the least, which is why fans of the team should feel some sense of optimism knowing that the owner is exploring selling the team because they have been in need of new leadership for a long time.
In 2019, Trout signed a huge 12-year deal for $426 million, the richest contract in sports at the time, and it’s hard to argue that he isn’t worthy of it. This means that Trout isn’t going anywhere and wants to win with the team that drafted him, his loyalty is undeniable.
What’s also true is that Trout is not getting any younger, and although he is still one of the premier players in baseball, he has suffered injuries in the last two seasons that have kept him off the field.
It would be a shame if someone like Trout goes on the rest of his career without getting to play again in the World Series, let alone the postseason in general.
Whoever becomes the new owner of the Angels needs to make winning a top priority, hire the right people, and not spend big money on players that are past their prime. They must also do things in a different way than Moreno who has run this ship into the ground.