After many years of uninspired baseball Tuesday, Los Angeles Angels owner Artie Moreno announced August 23 that he was exploring the possibility of selling the franchise. “It is a great honor and privilege to own the Angels for 20 seasons,” Moreno said in a statement. “Although this difficult decision was entirely our choice and deserved a great deal of thought, my family and I eventually came to the conclusion that now was the time.”
Given how weak the Angels are in the back half of Moreno’s tenure, this news should give the team’s fans 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 post-season six times, five of which came in the first seven seasons of Moreno’s ownership. Since 2009, when they lost to eventual world champion New York Yankees in the ALCS, they’ve made post-season only once.
It happened once in 2014, when they had the best record in baseball when it was 98-64, and they managed to overwhelm the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. Since that time, the Angels have failed to make the post-season, and haven’t come particularly close either, and have only had a winning record once in the past eight seasons.
To be fair to Moreno and the Angels, the constant loss is not the result of a lack of trying. The Angels have made massive free agency swings in hopes of building a winning team, but they often fail. Moreno specializes in inefficiency when it comes to free agent spray. Few people like throwing large sums of money like Moreno. Although the angels weren’t so lucky either.
They signed Josh Hamilton on a five-year deal for $125 million, while the move made sense, Hamilton was out of the season with 43 home points and 128 RBI in 2012. But he never came close to production. He was with the Texas Rangers, and injuries and setbacks with drugs and alcohol derailed Hamilton’s time in Los Angeles. Played only two seasons with halos.
In 2012, they made the big move to sign free agent slugger and former St. Louis Cardinals first man Albert Pujols in a 10-year deal for $254 million. Although Pujols was in his early 30s, he was widely regarded as one of the best players in the league and all-time in his first 11 seasons.
While Pujols was still considered a good player in Los Angeles, NOWHERE CLOSE, for the player who was in St. Louis. He’s made the playoffs only once over the course of his 10 seasons with the Angels, and his average hitting and hitting power has dropped dramatically with age.
In 2018, after dropping out of his All-Star season with the Cinncinati Reds, Angels signed Zack Cozart on a three-year, $38 million deal.
Cozart played only 96 games in two seasons with the Angels. Injuries have spoiled his time with the Angels too, he dislocated his shoulder in his first season, and two weeks later it was revealed he had a cleft tear and it was done for this season.
Early in the 2019 season, Cozart was put on the injury list due to a strain on the neck, and it also emerged that he needed surgery on his left shoulder which was still injured and out for the rest of the season. In the offseason, the Angels replaced Cozart with the San Francisco Giants for monetary considerations and a player to be named later, the Giants quickly fired Cozart, and has since not played in MLB.
The jury is still out on the big contract awarded to third baseman Anthony Rendon, who signed a massive seven-year deal for $245 million in 2020. In his first season, he played in nearly every game of the short and hit season. 286 with nine home runs and 31 RBIs in 52 games. But in the last two seasons, Rendon played in just 103 games and failed to replicate the kind of numbers he set with the Washington Nationals.
The last bad contract to be mentioned is the deal that sent Toronto Blue Jays player 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 he was in his thirties.
While Wales proved in Toronto that he was a solid player on the production hits, his tenure with the Angels was rather uneventful. He only played there for two seasons, and while he was productive in his first season, his hitting average and base percentage dropped dramatically. Two years later, the Angels exchanged Wales for the Yankees.
Under Moreno, the Angels did some things right. In 2009, they were smart enough to recruit quarterback Mike Trout who was one of the best players since the junior season in 2011. They also signed the Swiss Army Knife pitcher and hit Shohei Ohtani again in 2018.
The problem is that the Angels currently have two of the top ten players in baseball, but they haven’t been able to put enough talent around them to win or make the playoffs. Moreno hired bad CEOs, who went on to hire worse ones.
The owners’ fans deserve better and worse as under Moreno it’s not as if they had a much better history before he took over. The Angels have been around since 1961, and have only made the playoffs ten times in their history.
That’s an alarmingly bad rate, to say the least, which is why fans of the team should feel some optimism knowing the owner is exploring selling the team because they’ve been in need of new leadership for so long.
In 2019, Trout signed a massive 12-year deal for $426 million, the sport’s richest contract at the time, and it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t worth it. This means that Trout is not going anywhere and wants to win with the team that drafted him, and his loyalty is undeniable.
What’s also true is that Trout hasn’t gotten any younger, and while he’s still one of the major players in baseball, he’s had injuries in the last two seasons that have kept him off the field.
It would be a shame if someone like Trout could go on for the rest of his career without ever again playing in the World Championships, let alone the post-season in general.
Whoever becomes the new owner of Angels needs to make winning a top priority, hiring the right people, and not spending big money on players who are past their prime. They also have to do things differently than Moreno who steered this ship back to Earth.