By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
Angels fans, what a day! We just pulled off the best signing of the offseason. From the 30-team derby, we emerged as the finalist and signed Shohei Ohtani. If you don’t know who that is by now, check your internet connection.
Every baseball team wanted him. Every baseball team could use him. We needed him. And we got him.
It’s hard to imagine for younger fans, but there was a long period of time when the Angels didn’t get players of this caliber. There was a time when we were an after thought for a player or agent. When all else had been exhausted, or a star wanted to extend his career by a year or two, maybe he’d come to the Angels. We didn’t get young, in their prime players, especially international players. We didn’t beat out the likes of the Yankees, Dodgers, or Red Sox when it came to signing talent.
Sure, we had some splashes. When Gene Autry ran the team, especially in the late ’70s and early ’80s, he made some splashes. And, we made it to the playoffs three times from ’79-’86. But, we never seemed to sustain it. And, after the ’86 season, Gene’s interest and commitment seemed to taper off. By the ’90s, when Jackie Autry was running the team, we had shrunk to a “small market” team. We were on a downhill trajectory, and at one point, were in danger of contraction.
When Disney bought the team, they didn’t seem to know what to do with it. They tried to make it more “Disneyish” with periwinkle uniforms and cheerleaders. But, they also wanted to run it as a stand-alone enterprise, capped their spending, and never really integrated it into their overall corporate enterprise. The one time they made a big splash, Mo Vaughn, he fell on his first play of his first game in the visitor’s dugout. Needless to say, it didn’t work out well for us, or him, and we were still an afterthought until 2002.
When Arte Moreno came along, he had a plan of what he wanted to do with the Angels organization. As he told us at our Spring Training Fanfest, he wanted raise the overall trajectory of the Angels. He wanted to raise our overall profile and our floor so that we would be a West Coast championship team now and forever. He didn’t see us as a small market team–he saw us as a large market, and then took steps to achieve that. He didn’t want to win just one World Series, he wanted us to compete for the World Series every year.
For younger Angels fans, it’s hard to imagine what it was like before. While there are many similarities between Arte and Gene (both strike/struck me as handshake individuals where their word was their bond, and both struck me as guys who really care about the fans and want to win), Arte has done what Gene never did–he raised the franchise’s profile and made us a large market team. He’s raised our budget year after year, raised our brand, and made us a series player in overall scheme of baseball. He didn’t just do splashes, he committed to the team for the long haul.
And today, Mr. Moreno did it again. He took us from a large market team to a global market team. It is truly hard to put an estimate on how much signing Shohei Ohtani raises our global recognition, but needless to say, besides having the best player in the game with Mike Trout, we just signed the premiere player from Japan, who may just become one of the best players in the game. And, we didn’t do it after he reached his prime–we got Ohtani for the prime of his career! The Los Angeles Angels will be known and seen worldwide, and we will have fans everywhere.
While we will never know all the details that led to us signing Shohei Ohtani, there’s one thing that I do know–Arte Moreno was involved in this. When we signed Albert Pujols, one of the comments that Albert made was that he liked his meeting with the Morenos (both Arte and his wife) and how comfortable the Morenos made them feel. At the press conference for Josh Hamilton, he too made the same comment. The only time I ever heard players talk about the owner liked that was when I talked with old-time Angels players who would reminisce about playing for the Cowboy, and how much they enjoyed his passion.
As much as Billy Eppler, our GM, deserves credit for making this deal happen, and many other anonymous people in the front office, I firmly believe that having Arte as our owner made a big difference. It was his salesmanship, his vision for the franchise, his passion for the team that gave us our best shot at landing Ohtani. He combined the best of Autry with his own long-term desire for a championship organization to put us in a position to make this signing ahppen.
Think about it: if you were a player like Ohtani, would you want to do with a corporate front office or a passionate owner? If you could pick from any Major League team, wouldn’t you want an owner who is as much a fan of the team as the people in the stands? I know I would. And I know Arte Moreno is that kind of owner.
Angels fans, today was a great signing. With one move, Arte just raised our franchise’s trajectory again, and in a very positive way. The offseason isn’t even over, and we have infinitely improved our team for now and forever. No matter what happens on the field, we are very lucky that we have him as our owner. And, thanks to him, we now have Ohtani on our team.
It’s a great time to be an Angels fan.