The grumpy neighbor who owns the dilapidated house on the corner has waded through the overgrown weeds in his front yard and removed the “For Sale” sign.
Arte Moreno is staying.
So much for the anticipation of a new owner investing in the Angels the way Steve Cohen has in the New York Mets.
So much for the miracle that was necessary for the Angels to retain Shohei Ohtani beyond the upcoming season.
“We are not ready to part ways with the fans, players, and our employees,” Moreno said in a statement, coming across as willfully oblivious to how, at the very least, the fans don’t feel the same about him.
Moreno won’t be welcomed back with open arms, not with the Angels failing to reach the postseason for an eighth consecutive year and their image tarnished by a series of scandals.
Winning back the fans will require more than lowering beer prices.
If he wants to be accepted as the owner of one of this market’s crown-jewel franchises, this is what he has to do:
1. Say something
Moreno last spoke publicly more than two years ago, on a video conference to introduce Perry Minasian as the team’s general manager. Fewer than 2.5 million fans visited Angel Stadium last year, the first time in 20 years annual attendance was less than 3 million in a season unaffected by the pandemic. Who can blame the public for its skepticism, especially when Moreno won’t talk about what’s gone wrong on the field or what’s being done to remedy the problems?
Moreno also would be smart to address the aborted sale of the team. In the news release, he mentioned “unfinished business,” but does anyone think his goal is to win a World Series rather than sell the team in the future for a price he has in mind?
2. Complete the roster
In the same release, Moreno boasted about his team’s record payroll, which is now more than $200 million. Well, now he can demonstrate how committed he is to winning. He should be prepared to venture into unfamiliar territory and go over the luxury-tax threshold of $233 million. What better sign of good faith than to make a high-priced addition at the trade deadline? In the meantime, the Angels can round out their pitching staff by picking up some of the solid arms that remain on the market, including starter Michael Wacha and reliever Andrew Chafin.
To his credit, Moreno allowed Minasian to improve the roster as he explored the sale. Now, Moreno has to allow Minasian to finish the job.
3. No more meddling
How much the Angels spend is less of a problem than on whom they spend. From slugger Albert Pujols to manager Joe Maddon, many of the Angels’ ill-fated signings can be traced to Moreno, who has to let the baseball operations department run the baseball operations department. Moreno can’t be blowing up trades, as he did before the 2020 season when his impatience cost the Angels a chance to acquire Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling.
4. No more cronyism
The first team president hired by Moreno was Dennis Kuhl, his fraternity brother at the University of Arizona. Kuhl was replaced by John Carpino, who used to work for Moreno’s billboard company. The Arte Moreno Angels are basically the Jeanie Buss Lakers without the championship banners. Moreno should look outside for someone qualified to run his organization.
5. Solve the Angel Stadium problem
Last year, a corruption scandal prompted the Anaheim City Council to terminate the sale of Angel Stadium and its surrounding property, leaving the Angels without a long-term stadium solution. Moreno has to figure out something, not only to enhance the game-day experience for fans, but also to level the playing field for his players. Many nearby high schools have better weight rooms or batting cages than Angel Stadium.
6. Solve the other facilities' problems
Many of Angel Stadium’s shortcomings are shared by the team’s spring training home, Tempe Diablo Stadium in Arizona. Something to consider:
When the major league team breaks camp, many of the organization’s prospects remain there for extended spring training.
The Angels’ triple-A affiliate in Utah will move into a new stadium next year. The organization’s double-A team in Alabama also is said to have a first-rate stadium. This standard should be uniform across every level, including Class A, in which the Angels’ two affiliates play in outdated facilities. The base of operations in the Dominican Republic also should be improved.
7. Fix the farm
Modernizing minor league stadiums would help the Angels repair their once-robust player-development system. Facilities are only part of the equation. Moreno has to invest more in scouting. He has to invest more in coaching. He has to continue investing in technological devices that can help coaches instruct players.
8. Know your market
The Angels’ lack of commitment in their Spanish-language broadcasts was chronicled in a recent story by the Athletic. Of the three major league teams in Southern California, the Angels are the only one without full-time Spanish broadcasts. This has to change. Anaheim is roughly half Latino and neighboring Santa Ana is approximately three-quarters Latino.
9. Re-sign Ohtani
If Moreno can’t hold on to the best player in the game, what is he doing in this business? Ohtani’s next deal could be worth more than $500 million, but Moreno will have to be willing to invest more than that. The Angels can’t point to the salaries of Ohtani, Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, and use them as an excuse not to spend on the remainder of their roster. This very well could make the Angels frequent luxury-tax violators. Moreno might say that’s unfair, but it’s not. That’s the cost of operating a major franchise in this market.
Of course, money isn’t the only obstacle. The Angels have to convince Ohtani they can win.
To do that, they have to address the first eight action items on this to-do list.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.