02/11/2005 4:41 PM ET
Q&A with Angels owner Moreno
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Arte Moreno says the 2005 Angels are a better club than the last year’s edition that won the AL West. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
On the eve of Angels Fest 2005, owner Arte Moreno sat down with MLB.com to discuss his thoughts on the upcoming season, his reflections on last year, and his plans for the future of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
MLB.com: Everyone knows you’re a huge baseball fan, and Spring Training is right around the corner. Are you ready? And what is it about this time of year that gets you so excited?
Arte Moreno: Baseball’s here. I always go through withdrawals during the winter. The fields are ready to go in Spring Training and it’s very exciting for us.
MLB.com: Looking back at last year, how do you think the team performed overall? Were you happy with it?
Moreno: Well, obviously, we won our division, which was the first time in 18 years that we’ve done that, so you have to be happy about that. You can’t win it all unless you get to the playoffs, and I think anybody that plays any type of game, you always want to win the championship. So when people ask me if I’m satisfied, well, you’re satisfied when you hang that World Series flag. That’s why we play.
MLB.com: To that end, the Angels have undergone a host of changes this offseason, to say the least. First of all, you said goodbye to Troy Percival, David Eckstein and Troy Glaus, three huge pieces of the 2002 World Series championship team. How difficult was that?
Moreno: It’s very difficult. You look at them as people. I’ve been here a couple years and they’ve become friends. You have friends and they move on sometimes. With the contracts expiring and with young people coming through the organization, you have to make tough decisions. You have to let younger people have an opportunity to play. There’s economic balance to think about, too. You only have a certain amount of dollars to use and we have to maintain our balance.
MLB.com: Give us your assessment of the Angels’ offseason acquisitions and how you think this new team looks.
Moreno: I think we are better than last year. I think [new center fielder Steve] Finley gives us a lot of opportunities. We get to move Garret [Anderson] back to left field. Finley’s a Gold Glove center fielder and has way more range than most people realize. He’s a true center fielder. Good pop with his bat, runs well, and brings team chemistry. At short, I don’t know if you’re going to find a player that has more heart than Eckstein, but with [Orlando] Cabrera, you get more range and arm and more pop with the bat. We were able to add some bench strength with [Kendry] Morales and [Juan] Rivera, possibly with [Maicer] Izturis. And [starter Paul] Byrd, if he gives us anywhere near the type of season he gave Kansas City in 2002, it’s really going to help us. If the players that we’ve added to our team just give us their averages, we’re going to be a stronger team. The Glaus/[Dallas]McPherson thing is tougher to measure because Glaus didn’t play much last year and he was hurt for half the year the year before. If McPherson gives us what Troy gave us last year (18 home runs, 42 RBIs), we have a push. We’re not looking at McPherson to have to come in here and just burn it up. All he has to do is be in a situation where he continues to learn and grow. He’s earned his wings in the minors.
MLB.com: One of the biggest changes this winter, obviously, was the name of the team from Anaheim Angels to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. What were the key reasons for the name change?
Moreno: My belief is that long term, for us to be competitive in the baseball world, you have to be able to earn the dollars. It’s very expensive to operate these baseball teams, and for us, it gives us an opportunity to market the whole region. Last week, [NFL commissioner] Paul Tagliabue addressed the press and talked about how there’s decades that have gone by without the NFL in the L.A. market. For us, all of our media comes from the L.A. metro area – all the papers, all the TV, all the radio. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest newspaper in the U.S. behind USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. In the total market, from the media perspective, and to represent the whole metro area as far as our team goes, long term it will give us a good, solid economic balance. Anaheim is 300,000-plus people, Orange County is 3 million, and the metro area is 16 1/2-plus million people. For us to get an opportunity to market the whole metro area long-term, you have to do the right things. It will give us more viability in the long run.
MLB.com: So far, have you seen positive results from the name change, as far as revenue is concerned?
“How are we going to be able to take the franchise to the next step? By trying to bust out of the small- to mid-market team mold and move into a large market.”
– Angels owner
Moreno: We have seen positive results, but I don’t know if you can measure them from the name change. That happened a month ago. I think we’ve done a real good job of giving the people a good experience when they come to the stadium, balancing costs of tickets, souvenirs and concessions. We were on TV last year for 150-plus games. We’ve put a competitive team out on the field. We won the division. We’ve worked to stabilize our management on and off the field. We should deliver over 150 games on TV this year.
From our ticket sales, we’re 23-25 percent ahead of last year. We have a good shot of selling 25,000-plus season tickets this year. In 2002, the World Series year, we had 12,000 season tickets sold. We’ve done a pretty good job with our advertising packages. We’ve gone 3 million-plus in attendance the last two years, and we’re targeted to draw 3 million again. We’re 50 percent ahead of last year on Spring Trainig tickets, and last year we had our all-time attendance record there. We’ve been pretty proactive in what we’ve been trying to accomplish, but as I said earlier, I look at things in the long term. People get frustrated looking at today and tomorrow, but I’m looking five years in advance.
MLB.com: Changing the name of the team was viewed as a controversial issue. As a businessman and a guy with a pretty impressive marketing resume, is it easy to explain your reasoning to the naysayers?
Moreno: It’s hard. Most people are not comfortable with change. People who are fans of a particular team are very passionate about their team. Any time somebody changes something, they’re unhappy. They’re uncomfortable. But there’s also a balance of being in a situation when you’re an owner or manager of something to say, “Long term, what is going to give us the stability of managing the franchise?” I give them the history, saying the Autrys sold the team because it wasn’t a profitable venture. In business, you look at the economics and the emotional part. Disney lost money on the Angels, despite making huge investments in the stadium. They put $100 million in the stadium. When I bought the team, I was buying that part of the franchise, too.
A lot of people don’t realize there was talk of contracting the Angels. People forget that. If you want to have a competitive franchise and an affordable experience for kids and families, you have to figure out how you’re going to economically support it. My family has already invested a lot of money in this franchise, and we’ll lose money again in ‘05. How are we going to be able to take the franchise to the next step? By trying to bust out of the small- to mid-market team mold and move into a large market.
MLB.com: There are quite a few fans out there who aren’t happy about it, and some say they don’t want to go to games anymore. What is your response to those fans?
Moreno: Our season ticket sales are up almost 25 percent and we didn’t lose any between the dugouts. We didn’t lose any suite holders. So obviously, we must be doing something right. You’re always going to have some people who disagree with you. Some weren’t happy when we didn’t re-sign Eckstein, Percival and Glaus. But they were very happy when we spent the amount of money we did to sign [Vladimir] Guerrero.
The great part of baseball is that you can sit in your seat and make your decisions, like whether a pitcher should have stayed in the game or been taken out. Or, “Why didn’t they bunt the guy over or hit the sac fly?” The same thing is happening right now. It’s great that the fans look at our economic maneuvering and make their own opinions about it. I think if we were doing everything very poorly, we wouldn’t have the response we’re having to our sales today. We ran 93-94 percent capacity last year, and on Tuesday nights, kids can come see Major League Baseball for three bucks. That’s a pretty affordable experience. A lot of people will be patient and realize what we’re trying to accomplish. I have a saying that I keep in a drawer next to my razor, and I think it fits. It says, “The easiest way to failure is to try to please everyone.”
MLB.com: Late last year, KCAL, the local station that had been broadcasting your games, announced it would switch to the Dodgers in 2006. What were the reasons for that?
Moreno: I think KCAL felt that the Dodgers were more marketable than we were, and our ratings were basically exactly the same. We have 14 months before the ‘06 season starts, but we’re talking and plotting and planning and trying to get ourselves positioned for all our media packages. We’ve learned a lot, but we’ve also seen our audience grow. We know that if we can continue to deliver a good product and grow our audience, we’ll have some good statistical numbers to deliver to our advertisers.
MLB.com: You’ve mentioned the New York Yankees as a benchmark for an organization. Do you think you’ll be able to operate like the Yankees at some point and keep a championship contender on the field every year?
Moreno: Yes. That’s the goal of any franchise owner, to put a winning team on the field or the court. But obviously the Yankees are the highest revenue team. You have to be able to finance the team. I’ve been trying to bring it to the championship level, but eventually you have to balance the books. There is more to the whole economic picture than just saying you’ll win a championship and that will generate enough revenue.
MLB.com: How much of the future success of this team will come from the farm system? Are you happy that you haven’t traded away any of your young talent?
Moreno: Before I bought the team, I sat down with [general manager] Bill Stoneman. It was going to be an hour conversation and it ended up being five. He wanted a commitment that we would maintain and build our minor league system. We’ve had some opportunity in the last two years to trade away some of our better farmhands to bring someone else in for a stretch run, and if you do that too much, you really erode the future. We haven’t touched our farm system and we’ve invested in it, even this offseason with Morales and Izturis and [pitcher Dustin] Moseley. We’ve added to it. We believe that over a period of time, the system is going to reap the benefits with our club. When you have homegrown players, it really gives everyone in the organization an opportunity to know that we’re trying to grow.
MLB.com: You entertained the idea of switching Spring Training sites from Tempe to Goodyear, Ariz., but you decided to stay in Tempe and renovate the entire complex. Can you give us a preview of what we’ll see when it’s all done?
Moreno: We will be consolidating our Major League and minor league training facilities and adding a new cloverleaf of four Major League fields. All fields will be lit. Right now in our Major League stadium, we don’t even have Triple-A lighting. We’ll have new Major and minor league clubhouses, we’ll refurbish the stadium with all new seating, concessions and souvenir stands. We’ll do cosmetic things outside to enhance the facility. It’ll be a single-team facility. The city of Tempe, the mayor and city council people absolutely went out of their way, not only to convince us to stay, but to make it economically feasible and to give us the time frame we need. We will be ready to have a Spring Training facility ready to go in ‘06. We’ll also have our Instructional League here and be able to do our rehabilitation here. We’ll have a 12-month complex going that is state of the art.
MLB.com: One more question. We understand you were an Angels Fantasy Camper for the first time a couple weeks ago. How did it go? What position did you play, what number did you wear and what was your batting average?
Moreno: I played first base, I wore No. 1 – I should say 1A, because Bengie Molina’s No. 1. Believe it or not, I walked a bunch. I had one single, a couple groundouts and a flyout. So about .250, I guess, with about five or six walks. It was a great experience. We had a lot of the alumni there: Brian Downing, Bobby Grich, Don Baylor, Joe Rudi, Jack Howell, Gary DiSarcina, Roger Repoz, Bobby Knoop, and more. We had a bunch of young players, some families. There was a preacher, an insurance guy, two young ladies who did real well. We had full Major League uniforms – away and home – and we were playing doubleheaders every day. After the games, it was like happy hour in the clubhouse. We’d stay until they chased us out. But it was great. I made a lot of new friends, saw a lot of true Angel passion, and had a lot of fun.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.