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Trouble in the Southland

In 2000, the then-Anaheim Angels made the fateful decision to bring former Los Angeles Dodgers’ catcher and later coach Mike Scioscia aboard as their manager. It was a fateful decision that helped lead the team to their first American League Pennant and World Series Championship in 2002. The Angels followed with American League West Division gonfalons in 2004-05 and 07-09, but failed to advance to the World Series. During that time they expanded their brand and consistently drew over three million fans finishing second in the American League in attendance to the New York Yankees.

Arte Moreno bought the Angels from the Walt Disney Company on May 15, 2003 the year after the World Series Championship. Talk about selling high! Moreno became a billionaire in the outdoor advertising business, and follows a Jack Armstrong-type American success trajectory, having been born in Tucson, Arizona, the oldest of eleven children and serving in Vietnam in the U.S. Army. He won over the fans by slashing ticket, beer and hot dog prices then he upset many diehards, not to mention his landlords in Anaheim, by adopting the unwieldy sobriquet “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” as the team’s name. Arte wanted to increase the team’s range throughout the Southland far beyond their base in Orange County. Billboards appeared throughout the area touting the Angels as the “A Team”, causing the Dodgers to fire back, “Fine, but we’re the LA team.” The city brought suit, but the Angels won and continue to use their name.

In late 2011, Fox Sports signed the club to a 20-year, $3 billion contract guaranteeing $150 million per year for the TV rights. No surprise, then, that the Angels showered $331.5 million to free agents Albert Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson. Moreno demonstrated great acumen in making that deal happen.

Since then, however, it has been all downhill for the Halos. Clubhouse rancor (a famous altercation between Torii Hunter, now with the Detroit Tigers, and Pujols in 2012), feuds and disputes between General Manager Jerry DiPoto and Scioscia (reportedly one or both of them may be gone next year), reports of Moreno’s volcanic temper and poor performance by the team’s $153 million payroll, among the largest, has contributed to a sense that things are out of control in the Golden State.

Bad trades (getting Vernon Wells from the Toronto Blue Jays and eating most of his contract), bad signings (Pujols who can’t stay healthy and Josh Hamilton who has stumbled all season) and an overall sense of disarray plague the team. Their attendance is still healthy (currently fourth out of fifteen in the AL) but these days the Angels are making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

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