There are certainly a lot of reasons to believe an Angels move to Long Beach will never happen. Lots. We hear about sports teams threatening to leave their home cities all the time and nothing ever comes of it. What’s more, or less, is that Long Beach has often been used not only by teams but all manner of other entities—Disney, Tesla—in attempts to get better deals elsewhere.
(It’s a long, sordid history and who does sordid better than Tim Grobaty, you can read all about it in this article.)
But there is one big reason to believe this time will be different. It’s because the decision as to whether the team relocates will be made by one person: Arte Moreno. And what we know of the Angels owner—though not nearly as much as we know about owners who are more comfortable chasing the spotlight—suggests some good things for Long Beach.
Here are a few:
HE’S NOT FROM HERE: Moreno was born, raised and lives in Arizona. He has no special ties to Orange County or Anaheim other than he happens to own a major league baseball team that plays half its games there every season. In fact, if Moreno had his way, he would be the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks who play in Phoenix, where he lives. Moreno attempted to get a controlling interest in the Diamondbacks in 2001, a full two years before he bought the Angels from Disney for $184 million. Before Moreno bought the Angels, he was also a part-owner of a minor league baseball team in Salt Lake City, another place he doesn’t live. The lesson seems clear. He likes owning baseball teams and is very good at running them: the Salt Lake team was very profitable and the Angels are now valued around $1.8 billion, meaning the team’s value has grown 10 times. He knows how to run a baseball team.
HE’S A SELF-MADE MAN: Moreno is the eldest of 11 children of Maria and Arturo Moreno, an immigrant family that survived financially on the money from Arturo’s small print shop. Arte was drafted in the military and served in Vietnam. When he got back, he enrolled at the University of Arizona, got his degree in marketing, got a job in the billboard industry and went about the business of making himself into a multi-billionaire. Now, no one does it alone, but people like Moreno who do not inherit big sums of money or business connections get used to trusting in just one person: themselves. They can’t stand anyone telling them what to do, especially when evidence such as improving a Major League Baseball team’s value 10-fold confirms to them they know better. What has been no doubt especially galling to Moreno, a strong believer in small government (witness his strong support of the Republican Party) is that those trying to tell him what he should and shouldn’t do the most are local politicians.
HE DOESN’T PLAY FOR SECOND: A person like Moreno does not achieve massive success by ever being satisfied with being second-best. Just look at his aggressiveness when it came to signing Albert Pujols to a long-term deal—not a great move in retrospect—and recently announcing that he is going to aggressively pursue re-signing the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, the man plays to win. And yet, if his team remains in Anaheim, he is fated to always be a second-banana… and no, not to the Dodgers. What drives a guy like Moreno nuts is knowing that his team could win the next 10 World Series titles and, in Anaheim, they would still play second fiddle to Disney/Disneyland. Though Anaheim’s local government has also started to push back at Disneyland as well, the behemoth absolutely controls so much of that city. Not just because it brings in millions each year to visit the park, but because it’s Disneyland, which also makes Anaheim, year after year, one of the top convention destinations in the world. Make no mistake, the Mouse runs that town. A lot of people in the Angels’ organization could tell Moreno all about it. In 1998, the Angels, the then-Mighty Ducks and a lot of development and retail interests all got together to announce something called “Sportstown” a sports retail development, built in the Angel Stadium parking lot, that would unite, through commerce and public transit, the city’s three big attractions: the Angels, Mighty Ducks and Disneyland. The Angels and the Ducks sent representatives. Disney did not, which is why you’ve never heard of “Sportstown.”
THE PUNCHLINE: It would be difficult to imagine an owner making a better first impression than when Moreno announced he was going to lower beer prices during Angel games. The move was greeted with a kind of gratitude and reverence, especially after fans had tired of Disney’s rather impersonal corporate leadership (though they did deliver a World Series win over the San Francisco Giants). But all that turned rather quickly and very ugly when, in 2005, Moreno decided to change the team’s name to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He was ripped for the ridiculousness of the name but, truth be told, Moreno would have really liked to just rename the team the Los Angeles Angels and be done with it. Remember, he has his degree in marketing, he made his money in outdoor advertising, he knows the value of words and first impressions. He was simply trying to improve the reach and value of his team and he knew Los Angeles could do that better than Anaheim, a city he has no special connection to at all. The name change outraged fans and city leaders who sued Moreno in court for damages in the amount of $373 million, at the time, arguably more than the team was worth. (Think something like that might stick with Moreno?) A move into L.A. County means the Los Angeles Angels would no longer provide fodder for columnist or sportstalk hosts. It would probably increase the value of the team even more. Ask the former St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers about that.
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