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Arte Moreno explains why he didn’t sell the Angels, shares plans for Shohei Ohtani

Angels owner Arte Moreno attends a spring-training game between the Angels and Dodgers.
Angels owner Arte Moreno attends a spring-training game between the Angels and Dodgers at Tempe Diablo Stadium on March 3.
(Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)
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Arte Moreno just couldn’t do it. The Angels owner, who put the team up for sale in August, told Sports Illustrated he wasn’t ready to give up his team despite receiving three offers worth more than the record $2.42 billion Steve Cohen purchased the New York Mets for in 2020.

“I had some big numbers,” Moreno said in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci. “Yeah, it was above the Mets’ number. Well, it was considerably above the Mets’ number.

“I had one buyer come to [Angel Stadium] to close the deal,” he said, then recounted the exchange with the buyer. “When you got right down to it, I didn’t want to go.”

Moreno has not spoken to local media in three years. His interview with Verducci represented his first detailed comments about the Angels in at least two years.

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He told SI that last year the Angels had five real trade offers for Shohei Ohtani and declared they would not trade him this year while they are contending for a playoff spot. Asked whether he would consider trading him if the Angels are not in playoff contention, Moreno replied:

“We expect to be a playoff contender. Everything in our plans putting this team together is about getting to the playoffs. So, I’m not going to sit here and wonder what happens in an outcome we’re not planning for. That would be like a fighter going into the ring and thinking, ‘What if I lose?’ If he does that, he will lose.”

While opening up about his decision not to sell, Moreno said his previous decision to put the team up for sale was not because he fell out of love with baseball.

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“It was more circumstantial than it was a change of heart. It wasn’t a change of heart,” he said.

Moreno announced his decision to explore the sale of the team in August 2022. The team was 52-71 at the time and mathematically eliminated from the playoffs 27 days later.

Four months earlier, the Anaheim City Council killed the deal to sell Angel Stadium and its surrounding property to Moreno’s management company, which planned to develop the property and either renovate or replace the stadium. It was a swift effort to limit the fallout after an FBI affidavit revealed Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu was under investigation for public corruption, with investigators alleging he provided confidential city information to Moreno’s management company with the hope Angels executives would reciprocate with at least $1 million in donations supporting his re-election campaign.

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The FBI never accused Moreno and the Angels of any wrongdoing and it was far from the only major company Sidhu and city representatives were accused of courting. Sidhu resigned and the council is still sorting through the fallout.

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The corruption probe triggered a deeper look at the Angels’ lost decade, with fans booing Moreno during onfield celebrations as the club posted its seventh consecutive losing season. The Angels spent too heavily on a handful of stars who didn’t always stay healthy, failed to develop a farm system that ranks among the worst in baseball, had no plan for upgrading one of the oldest stadiums in baseball, cycled through four managers in five years and four general managers in 12 years and are defendants in two high-profile lawsuits — one a wrongful death claim following pitcher Tyler Skaggs’ overdose and the other a defamation claim filed by former clubhouse manager Bubba Harkins.

Moreno declined to say why he decided to put the team up for sale, but SI reported sources close to Moreno indicated he was shaken by the intense negative discourse surrounding the franchise.

“I sort of learned a long time ago, you know, some things are better left unsaid,” Moreno told SI when asked why he briefly put the team on the market.

Moreno said he was not cheap when it came to building a roster. He shared his thoughts on the luxury tax rules, explained why he voted against raising the luxury tax and noted that he doesn’t hate super spenders such as the Mets or Dodgers.

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“I like the fact that people want to win,” he said. “But I just would like everybody to have a chance. Like if somebody came to my house [for a card game] and everybody is putting a thousand dollars in and one guy puts in a hundred, I mean, how many hands can he play? It’s just no fun.”

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He said although he has not always spent money on players who panned out, he has still invested in trying to win.

“We have been in the last eight to 10 years in the top 10 payrolls. I can’t tell you we’ve always spent the money right. But we spent money,” he said. “So, if anybody criticizes me that I’m not committed to winning, well, I am committed to winning.”

Arte Moreno has a long to-do list and not much time to convince the Angels fan base that he is the right owner for one of this market’s crown-jewel franchises.

Jan. 24, 2023

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