Owner Moreno discusses Angels' season, future
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Angels owner Arte Moreno told MLB.com last week that he is in the process of determining how to improve the on-field performance of his club. Despite big free-agent signings of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to long-term contracts worth a combined $365 million over the past two offseasons, the Halos didn't make the playoffs last year, and at 55-68, in fourth place in the American League West, they appear headed toward another October at home.
The Angels are healthy financially, Moreno said in an interview conducted at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, where baseball owners met for their quarterly meetings.
"I've been very upfront with people about how we've done economically and attendance-wise," Moreno said. "But the reality is, when you're not going to the party, you better figure out what you need to do to improve the team."
Speaking before Monday's news that Pujols would be shut down for the rest of the season, Moreno said his ongoing evaluation of the organization encompasses "everyone." He'll determine the future of veteran manager Mike Scioscia and second-year general manager Jerry Dipoto by the end of the season.
Moreno isn't precluding himself from that evaluation.
"I have to look in the mirror and say, 'Am I making the right call?'" he said.
MLB.com: When you put the product on the field together, you probably never could have conceived these results.
Moreno: You never think it's going to work out that way. When you look at it on paper, you feel you're prepared to play at a high level. We haven't played there the last couple of years.
MLB.com: Why do you think that is?
Moreno: I always go back to the comedian Richard Pryor talking about going to the doctor. The doctor says, "Well, what are the symptoms?" He says, "You're looking at the symptoms." So the reality is sort of redundant. I tell people that by the time we get to mid-August, we've already had X amount of repetitions. Don't get me wrong, we've had injuries; but you'd think at minimum, we'd be a .500 team. Plus, Oakland is playing very well. Texas has gotten healthy, and they are playing well. We've had injuries and haven't played well.
MLB.com: The poor starts the last two seasons have been inexplicable, considering the talent the Angels have. That means digging out of a deep hole, which is a tough thing to do in this day and age.
Moreno: I agree with that. It's a combination of things, and it's something I probably won't discuss in detail until the end of the season. We're 15 games out right now. Earlier in the week we played in New York, and everyone on the field was practically up from the Minor Leagues. ... It's a combination of injuries and not pitching well and fielding well.
MLB.com: What do you think of the job [Scioscia] has done through all this?
Moreno: I think Mike has been patient, and he tries to mix and match the best he can.
MLB.com: I know you have him signed through 2018. Will he work his way through that contract?
Moreno: I'm not going to answer that question right now. At the end of the year, you always sit down and try to evaluate your field personnel and your management personnel -- the front office as well.
MLB.com: So you'd say the same thing about [Dipoto], too?
Moreno: Everyone. As a business, you try and evaluate the performance of the organization. You try to be as objective as you can. You try to say, "How are we going to be better? How's the fan experience?" You go through a whole list trying to evaluate. We've owned the team for 10 full years, going on 11. You've got good people there and you try to do the best you can.
MLB.com: You said you were going to wait until the end of the season, but you sound like you're already in this evaluation process.
Moreno: You're always evaluating. If you're not in a situation where you're trying to improve, then there's something wrong. It's not like there's some miracle formula. A few years ago, we pitched very well and didn't hit and thought that we needed to bring some offense in. When you look at our homegrown players, we have a tremendous amount on our roster. And the fans want to win. They don't want to be in a situation where we're building to win in five years. Up until the last couple of years, we've been a very competitive team.
MLB.com: Talking specifically about your manager and general manager, how long after the season do you want to come to that decision?
Moreno: I would say we're doing it as we're moving along here. It's not something that all of a sudden some big ray of light is going to shine here and you're going to say, "Geez. I need to do this. The roof is leaking, so maybe I'll wait until next year to fix it."
MLB.com: What's the long-term prognosis on Pujols?
Moreno: Good. He feels good. The doctor said that he was going to have surgery after the season, and now it's looking like that might not have to happen. He has that natural separation in the heel of his foot, it should heal better without it. It's like a knot gets in there, a deep bone bruise. It was really painful for him in every step or move. He's going to be in a walking boot for three weeks without any exercise.
MLB.com: What do you think the issue was with Hamilton's adjustment?
Moreno: I look at it like this: Your guess is as good as mine. There's always a comfort level.
MLB.com: Do you think he's comfortable now?
Moreno: I think he's getting comfortable. I think anytime you transition, especially a first transition, you don't have your family with you. Now, his family is there and settled in a little bit. He's been great with the fans and great in the clubhouse. He's a good guy.
MLB.com: Obviously, he came with other complications in his background.
Moreno: He's been dealing with that for a long time. It's not a new thing. You come to a new team in the same division. You put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform. As a team, when you're not performing, everybody starts feeling the pressure. You want to be the guy to pull us out of it. It just hasn't mixed right.
MLB.com: Moving forward, does the pitching staff need to be rebuilt to a certain extent?
Moreno: Like I said, we've played 4 1/2 months. You can read the statistics as well as I can read the statistics. When your defense is one of the worst and your pitching has not performed, that's pretty evident. We've hit well. [Jered] Weaver got hurt. [Jason] Vargas was gone for six weeks. C.J. [Wilson] has been great and he's a bulldog. But overall, we just haven't pitched well.
MLB.com: What about the bullpen? Do you want a more experienced closer than Ernesto Frieri?
Moreno: Well, we gambled and lost on Ryan Madson coming back from Tommy John surgery. [Sean] Burnett also got hurt. Those are two free agents we didn't get much out of. We just spit it up at the end of the game. We lost three walk-offs to Texas just recently. It's a combination of the mix and how they pitch.
MLB.com: What's new with your stadium situation?
Moreno: Let's put it this way: We've been in conversations with the city [of Anaheim]. There are ongoing conversations that I would say have been positive. Not talking completely out of school, but in a perfect world, hopefully we'll be able to work something out long-term. We really have until the end of 2016 or '17 if we're going to opt out. We have a window. All we're trying to do is be proactive and make sure that we're doing the things that need to be done.
MLB.com: Angel Stadium has been remodeled a couple of times since it opened in 1966. What's the infrastructure like?
Moreno: It's the fourth-oldest stadium and has gone through some remodeling. We have worked hard to maintain it physically and cosmetically. We had an All-Star Game. You were out there. We keep it clean. Would we like to have more amenities? Sure. But our access to parking and in and out of the park is good. We're going to draw 3 million for the 11th year in a row. We would like to have a long-term plan to make sure all the mechanical parts are working, a long-term capital plan that includes the electricity, plumbing, elevators and escalators. We want to make sure we're in a seamless transition going forward. But as far as sight lines, I think it's a good park to go watch a ballgame.
MLB.com: How does what the Dodgers are doing under their new ownership impact you?
Moreno: I don't think it impacts us. They're in the National League, we're in the American League. What the Dodgers are doing is great, because when all the other [ownership] stuff was going on, it wasn't good for us, it wasn't good for baseball. [Los Angeles] is a huge area. There are 18 million people in the metroplex. There are plenty of people to draw from. The economy is still in transition. I would say that from the economic side, we have no debt. We have a really good long-term television agreement. We own our own radio, and we don't lose money. We may not always make the right decisions, but we try to stay competitive. When I look at it from a macro side, I think the health of the organization is good.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.