Advertisement

Angels Draw Up Winning Blueprint

Share

By the time Darin Erstad came to bat in the first inning Tuesday night, the Angels being the last of 30 teams to get their ups, the Dodgers had lost in the manner everyone thought they would in San Francisco, and Adrian Beltre had doubled home two runs in Seattle.

But, this isn’t about the Dodgers.

This is about the best organization in town, name the sport. And about how that has nothing to do with what the Dodgers have or haven’t done, or about who is or isn’t playing third base in Chavez Ravine, or whether the new owner up north is legit.

Arte Moreno’s Angels, Bill Stoneman’s and Mike Scioscia’s Angels, have settled into something like organizational composure, give or take a name-change fiasco, and isn’t that nice for a change.

Advertisement

While the Dodgers learned their new phone system, and the Lakers the hard lessons of NBA reconstruction, the small-market team down the freeway grew into a champion, then lived with that expectation, and had a plan, and a backup plan, and as the season opened awash in red, it was again the consensus pick to win the American League West.

In the five years since Stoneman hired Scioscia, the two years since Moreno became the every-man owner, the Angels have risen, fallen and risen again with dignity and transparency.

They don’t have their All-Star third baseman either, but had a guy with minor league credentials waiting. Shortstop David Eckstein was every bit as popular as the local catcher, but, for some reason, nobody’s complaining about his being gone. If there is a firemikescioscia.com, no one goes there.

In a city that once belonged to the Dodgers and Lakers, that could hardly believe the Angels could fall into a World Series and then actually win it, assumptions have sprung and grown. And so when all else fails downtown, there’s always the southbound carpool lane.

In 14 seasons, Tim Salmon had seen it all come and go, sometimes at the same time -- managers, general managers, owners, teammates, uniforms, stadiums, name it. Boring in on his late 30s, Salmon can’t leave now, not with his shoulder and knee healing, not with the organization swinging upward again.

He stood Tuesday in front of his locker, having gotten as far as changing his socks to red, the rest of his uniform slung over the back of his chair. That World Series isn’t a fluke yet, not when the organization puts together back-to-back off-seasons as it has, Steve Finley and Orlando Cabrera following Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar into town.

“It’s finally become what it should have been,” Salmon said. “Based on the things I remember, there were years they had the big-time free agents and they were the big dogs. But, after that, everything was small-market, and maybe you buy into it the more people talk about it. Maybe that was the reality of the situation, and [Moreno and Stoneman] found ways to stretch that.”

Moreno bought the Angels for $183 million. Two years later, riding new local revenue streams and a league-wide resurgence in attendance and interest, the organization, by some estimates, is worth twice that. On the field, the parts seem to fit. They do not run with the New York Yankees -- no one does, or can -- or the Boston Red Sox, but they have a few traits that Dodger fans of the ‘70s and ‘80s may recognize.

Scioscia, for one.

“Hopefully, we’re going to grow into that,” Scioscia said. “The Dodgers have incredible tradition. The O’Malleys were integral in that.... We’re just kind of taking our baby steps. It’s a great goal to have.

“There are a lot of positives happening in the organization. We’re not trying to emulate anyone, but that wouldn’t be a bad family to emulate.”

Stability, for another.

Even Buck Showalter, the Texas Ranger manager who has a notion or two on how to run a franchise, said he has replaced a few pages of his own organizational notebook with Angel ideals. Showalter called it “verification.”

“You’ve got to stay the course,” he said. “They did, hit a bit of a bump and didn’t go to the quick fix. They do it the right way. They’re a great model for a lot of people.”

The Angels pitched and defended themselves to 1-0 on Tuesday night, leaned again on Guerrero, followed a direction set by Moreno and Stoneman and Scioscia, along with a coaching staff that’s together and happy for another season. They filled the stadium, and the people will be back.

“It’s something to know when you’re playing for an organization that’s really behind you,” Salmon said.

This isn’t to say the Dodgers won’t get there again; transitions take time, even Moreno’s. But, in the meantime, there is an alternative.

Advertisement