What Arte Isn’t Telling You
The real Arte Moreno has stood up, all right.
The Angels’ owner finally has admitted that, contrary to earlier reports, he wasn’t ready to match, or even come close, to the $142 million the Red Sox gave to Carl Crawford. He also has reiterated, in his new poor-me posture, that he can’t afford to compete with the big guys.
“I’m not the Boston Red Sox. I’m not the New York Yankees,” he told the L.A. Times on Saturday.
OK, but here is what he is not telling you:
1. He bought the team in 2003 for $184 million. According to Forbes Magazine, the Angels are now worth — are you ready? — a cool $509 million. So no matter how Arte tries to spin it, he’s hardly losing money here. In fact, he is making a ton.
2. Forbes, in the same piece, rated the Angels the sixth most valuable team among the major league’s 32 franchises. Only the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs are ranked higher in total worth.
3. The team ranked directly below the Angels, the Phillies, just shelled out $120 million for Cliff Lee and currently have two other players with $100 milllion-plus contracts. Seems they are not afraid to spend the big bucks.
Interesting, huh? How about this Moreno quote to the Times from last October: “It’s going to cost money, but our fans need to know that we’re committed to winning.”
Well, here we are in late December, and the fans still don’t know it.
Moreno is lucky. He can still save some face by going out and signing Adrian Beltre, clearly the No. 1 free agent remaining and a perfect fit at the Angels’ most vulnerable position, third base.
But by failing to land Crawford in this free agent poker game, he gave Beltre’s infamous agent, Scott Boras, added leverage. Boras knows Arte and the Angels are desperate, so naturally he is nudging up the price tag on Beltre.
If the Angels had gone after Beltre first, they probably could have signed him for five years at $75 million. Now Boras reportedly is asking for something in the range of $90 million, and many close to Moreno think he won’t go that high.
If he doesn’t, he is in danger of losing major credibility with the fans. As much as they loved him when he lowered beer prices and signed stars like Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon a few years ago, they were deeply disappointed in last year’s dull, 80-victory season and want something to be excited about in 2011.
Moreno is lucky Lee didn’t stay in Texas and that the Rangers didn’t wind up with Zack Grienke, the potential ace whom the Royals dealt to the Brewers, instead, on Sunday.
But the Rangers lineup is still dramatically better than the Angels’ popgun group, even with Kendry Morales returning. And now Oakland, a pitching-strong team that quietly finished second in the division this season, has upgraded considerably on offense, adding Hideki Matsui, who is an improvement over what they had at DH, and David DeJesus and Josh Willingham, two quality outfiedlers, either of whom would have looked good playing left field in Anaheim.
So not only is Moreno misfiring thus far, so is inexperienced GM Tony Reagins, who is still sitting there with Mike Napoli as a serious trade chip while getting nothing done deal-wise.
By the way, how do you think someone like Jered Weaver feels watching all this go down? Easily the team’s best pitcher and one of the top 10 in all of baseball now, Weaver, despite a glittering ERA, struggled to win games last year when the Angels’ offense continually failed to score runs for him.
Starting pitching is the franchise’s one strength, but if they keep failing to beef up the offense, do you seriously think Weaver or Dan Haren or any of the club’s bigtime starters will stay around when they become free agents in a couple years?
The sense you get is that Arte knows the team will draw 3 million fans no matter what happens. That’s how many showed up last year, right?
So maybe he thinks it doesn’t matter where you finish. The same way he figures no one notices when he fires a bunch of loyal, longtime front office employees to save money.
Well, someone should clue him in . It does matter. Just as it matters when an owner announces he plans to spend whatever it takes to show the fans he is committed. And then he doesn’t.
If the Angels fail to sign Beltre, Moreno better prepare himself. Because there is a new word that more than a few Angels fans will use to describe him, one he definitely won’t like.
It is spelled f-r-a-u-d.
A few quick hits from another active weekend:
Everyone is eager to downplay the UConn women tying UCLA’s John Wooden-coached 88-game winning streak. But hey, 88 in a row is impressive at any level . . .
The Patriots’ Tom Brady is the NFL’s likely MVP, but nobody in the league has made more big plays this season than Philly’s DeSean Jackson . . .
How do you think the New York media will treat the Giants blowing that huge lead to the Eagles? It won’t be pretty . . .
What was Tom Coughlin’s team thinking at the end, punting to Jackson? Why not just punt it out of bounds? . . .
The Chargers might be the second best team in the AFC and not even make the playoffs. That’s because Norv Turner apparently doesn’t think the season starts until sometime in mid-November . . .
As UCLA and USC can attest, the reason Kansas has that 65-game home winning streak is that the Jayhawks somehow get all the late calls . . .
If transfer Jio Fontan is as good as he looked in his debut, the Trojans should make the NCAA Tournament this season . . .
As for UCLA, it should be fine as long as Reeves Nelson, the kid who plays basketball like a linebacker, keeps doing his thing . . .
I hate to say this about the Lakers, but as well as they’re playing, they haven’t really beaten anybody of late. When the Heat and you-know-who come to town on Christmas, Phil Jackson’s guys might not be as sharp as they will be in the playoffs . . .
Is the Clippers’ Blake Griffin a human highlight film, or what? . . .
Nice comeback for Mark Sanchez and the Jets in Pittsburgh on Sunday . . .
And isn’t it amazing how much better Peyton Manning and the Colts look when their running game is working? . . .
Packers’ backup Matt Flynn outplaying Tom Brady? Really? Yeah, the kid from LSU was remarkably poised in his first NFL start. Right up until the final minute . . .
— STEVE BISHEFF