Party's Just Getting Started (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday July 10, 2007 11:58AM; Updated: Tuesday July 10, 2007 11:58AM
Says Moreno, "I knew before I bought the team that we had to think bigger than the box that was Anaheim, break down the walls of that box and establish the Angels for what they should be: a team from the second-largest market in the country, the greater Los Angeles area."
Moreno officially renamed his club the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a switch that withstood a court challenge from the city of Anaheim and tipped off baseball to the man's ambitions for the franchise. In four years Moreno has raised the number of televised Angels games from 90 to 150, increased local media revenues from $12 million (26th in baseball) to $60 million (third), moved from a mid-market payroll of $79 million (12th in baseball) to an elite one of $109 million (fourth), grown his season-ticket base from 12,000 to 30,000 (yielding the franchise's only four years with attendance in excess of three million) and put the club on track for a fourth straight winning season (a first in team history). Since 2004, Moreno's first full season of ownership, the Angels have won more games (329) than every team except the Yankees (334) and the Red Sox (332).
Moreno has pulled off such growth while maintaining Angel Stadium as a place for what he calls "fun, safe, affordable family entertainment." In his first day on the job, Moreno famously cut the cost of beer by as much as 20%. He's even prouder, though, that he hasn't raised the price since. When Moreno learned that the cheapest cap at the ballpark was $19.95, he ordered concession stands be stocked with $6.95 Angels caps so that kids in lower- and middle-income families could go home with a souvenir. His average ticket price of roughly $20 is one of the game's better deals. "We're branding three things: Angels baseball, the a in our logo and the color red," said Moreno, who ceased making the confusing uniform and logo changes favored by previous ownerships. (Periwinkle, anyone?)
He is also branding stability, having remained loyal to the two top baseball decision-makers he inherited: general manager Bill Stoneman and Scioscia, who is signed through 2010. "The church says, Build your church atop stone," Moreno says. "You need a solid foundation. Everything I've done businesswise is from knowing you have to have stability with your top management. If you don't have stability there, the rest of your employees are saying, Are we in transition? Or, What's going on?"
Stoneman and Scioscia learned about Moreno's commitment to winning just two months into his ownership, when they informed him that ineffective starter Kevin Appier had become a drag on the team. Moreno accepted that Appier should be released, then swallowed the $16 million left on his contract. No owner, to that point, had eaten that much money on one deal. "I contended from Day One that it is the baseball people who make the baseball decisions," Moreno says. "They came to me and said they thought it wasn't going to work out. You're still paying him, whether he's on the 40-man roster helping you or not."
That winter, his first as a free-agent shopper, Moreno shelled out $146 million. He acquired pitchers Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar, outfielder Jose Guillen -- whose suspension, after a run-in with Scioscia one week before the 2004 postseason, Moreno also agreed to -- and Guerrero, who signed a $70 million, five-year deal that, at Moreno's insistence, was going to be pulled from the table 48 hours after it was made. Last year he spent $76 million on Matthews, DH Shea Hillenbrand (since released) and relievers Justin Speier and Darren Oliver. Cabrera ($32 million over four years) came aboard in December 2004.