What Arte Moreno selling the Angels would mean for the team and for his legacy

It’s been 20 years since the Angels won the World Series. Championship droughts aren’t necessarily an objective barometer of an organization. For the Angels, this era does not serve as the best measurement of the Angels’ failures. The wins and losses are damning, sure. But it’s the inability to fulfill expectations that have truly defined this team over the last decade.

It was just three weeks ago that Angels GM Perry Minasian spoke confidently of the Angels’ future, despite a lack of evidence to back up the optimism.

“We want to win here,” he said, minutes after the trade deadline. “… There are obviously established players. Superstar players. We’ve got to build a better supporting cast around them.”

Years of losing the same way — with talented players but a weak supporting cast — while perpetuating the same happy outlook made these words even more hollow.

And three weeks later, they’re almost meaningless. Team owner Arte Moreno announced Tuesday that he plans to sell the team.

“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,” Moreno said in a statement, also announcing that Galatioto Sports Partners will assist in the search.

“Throughout this process, we will continue to run the franchise in the best interest of our fans, employees, players, and business partners.”

And just like that, everything changed. The Angels have not won a playoff game in 13 years. This season will mark the eighth consecutive losing year for the Angels, the ninth since they’ve made the postseason.

Despite employing two of the greatest talents ever in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Angels are floundering in an embarrassing fashion on a near-nightly basis. Losing has become a tradition under Moreno’s leadership. It’s hard to argue that intense scrutiny and criticism aren’t deserved.

The Angels have prioritized flashy investments in high-profile free agents. While the payroll remained relatively high, it seemed to come at the expense of investments in other areas, notably minor-league player development and treatment. Alumni relations did not seem to be a priority either.

“Well this is happy news,” Hall of Famer Rod Carew tweeted about Moreno’s intention to sell the Angels. “I have renewed hope that my relationship with the Angels organization can be fully restored.”

Moreno was reclusive. He has not held a formal news conference since before the 2020 season and has not answered questions since introducing Minasian over Zoom later that year. He’s unpopular with the fan base and was booed in May during his lone public appearance this season before a ceremony to celebrate Ohtani’s MVP season.

It’s hard to know why this move happened now, especially with the Washington Nationals also exploring a change in ownership. Notably, the Angels stadium deal fell through in May amid an FBI probe into the Anaheim mayor. The Angels are also being sued for wrongful death in two separate lawsuits by the family of former Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died from ingesting fentanyl in the team hotel while on a road trip three years ago.

The Angels are valued at $2.2 billion by Forbes and $2.5 billion by Sportico. Moreno purchased the team from Disney in 2003 for $182.5 million. The current valuations rank among the top 10 in the sport, with the team playing in a favorable market with a strong TV deal.

Michael Rapkoch is the CEO of Sports Value Consulting, a firm that is working to assist on a minority sale of a different MLB team. He said a lot goes into how two sides reach an agreement on valuation.

“People always think it’s easy (to determine value),” Rapkoch said in a phone interview Tuesday, not long after the Angels’ announcement. “You’ve got to go through a thorough understanding. Make sure you understand who your sponsors are, who your local media partner is.

“What else can you do with the stadium when there’s no baseball in it?” And can you expand on it? … What can they do to continue to drive revenue?”

Trout, one of the Angels’ homegrown stars, told reporters in Tampa Bay on Tuesday that he’s “still trying to process everything” and that he appreciated the Moreno family for signing him to a $426.5 million extension that will make him an Angel until 2030.

What this potential sale means for the future is anyone’s guess. Rapkoch said he would have expected the Angels to wait until the Nationals were sold because a lot of potential buyers are already engaged with that process. He also speculated that the process could take around eight months to a year.

The Angels made a number of bad player investments under Moreno’s leadership. Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Vernon Wells and Anthony Rendon to name a few. They were overpaid relative to the production they provided.

Big names have always been a part of the team’s strategy. There’s a reason they’re called the Los Angeles Angels, despite not playing in Los Angeles or its eponymous county. The Dodgers play in Los Angeles. Many Angels fans live in Orange County. It’s a branding ploy for the Angels, who wore Anaheim across their jerseys for their one and only title run in 2002.

More importantly, the team’s payroll has not reached the level of those of the Yankees or the Dodgers. The team was not willing to exceed the luxury tax limit. As a result, those high-profile players haven’t been backed up by strong complementary players. With a couple of exceptions, the Angels have rarely developed players from within their own system.

A new owner could change payroll. A new owner could change staffing, from the front office down to the ticket takers. A new owner could have a completely different outlook on how to handle the impending free agency of Shohei Ohtani — and it could change the two-way star’s outlook on the Angels. It could change the cost of tickets. It could change the team name. Heck, a new owner could decide to up and leave Anaheim when the stadium lease expires.

Factors such as pending litigation or a failed stadium deal might affect the price. It will all be part of the negotiation with prospective buyers. The valuation presented by media outlets does not necessarily reflect the cost the Angels will command.

“For the Angels, you look at their stadium situation,” Rapkoch said. “You look at their local media deal. They’re in a great market. And you look at the headwinds to see what they have. Obviously, they’ve spent a tremendous amount of payroll over the last decade-plus and haven’t gotten the results they wanted. It’s not just talent. It’s getting all the pieces together.”

An announcement like this only creates more questions than it does answers. But there are some things that can be said without hesitation. The Angels became perpetual losers over the last decade-plus. Moreover, they did it in the most excruciating way possible.

They provided hope. They never rebuilt. They said they wanted to compete. They made moves on the periphery to ensure it seemed possible. But never created the infrastructure to make it happen.

Moreno took over the Disney-owned Angels the year after they won the World Series. And after several years of fun, competitive playoff baseball, the foundation to win was never established.

“It has been a great honor and privilege to own the Angels for 20 seasons,” Moreno said in a statement. “As an organization, we have worked to provide our fans an affordable and family-friendly ballpark experience while fielding competitive lineups which included some of the game’s all-time greatest players.”

All of that might be true. But it was never enough to actually give the fans what they wanted: A winner. A team to celebrate.

(File photo of Moreno from 2019: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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