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It must be asked: Is Arte Moreno the Angels’ problem?

When I first heard Arte Moreno wasn’t talking, I figured he was just taking orders from Mike Scioscia like everyone else in the Angels organization.

It never crossed my mind that maybe he was acting like Frank McCourt and going into hiding because things haven’t gone well for him.

That’s always been the best thing going for Arte, no one thinking poorly of him when compared with the owners of the Dodgers, first Fox and then McCourt.

Arte has pretty much received a free pass since taking ownership of the Angels the year after the team won the World Series — lower beer prices taking him a long way.

I’m guilty of going easy on him, my harshest criticism to date when I suggested he should have lowered the price of soda and water rather than make it easier for the drunks to buy more beer.

But I like the guy. What’s my other choice, McCourt?

I like the way, if you ask Arte a question, and he’s not hiding under his desk, he provides an immediate answer.

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I like the way he walked among the fans without first advising the TV cameras he was going to do so. I like the way he didn’t raise parking prices, while making baseball caps affordable for kids and the price of tickets more reasonable than most every other place in baseball.

I have met his wife several times and she’s terrific. I also met the Screaming Meanie.

I watched Arte with his son in public settings, admiring the way Dad included his kid in everything he had to say. And he wasn’t paying him to be there with him, or for that matter paying him to go away.

We had his daughter on the radio show I did with my daughter, and although we had Arte’s daughter on only briefly, we weren’t on the air much longer.

Before being embarrassed by his Angels this season and curling up in a ball somewhere in Arizona, Arte really did seem to be “The People’s Owner,” as Fortune magazine once called him.

That’s what made him different, an everyday man with a family, who looked at the baseball experience as a family man as much as he did as a businessman.

And he was so accessible to everyone — unlike McCourt, who seemingly couldn’t speak without a lawyer doing it for him or having a PR type write out what he should say.

But once again that’s comparing Arte with Dodgers ownership, Arte the winner every time.

If Fox and the McCourts have taught us anything, though, it’s that there should be no apology for keeping a close eye on whoever owns our local baseball teams.

Looking more closely at Arte, he’s got some explaining to do, the Angels going in reverse under his leadership the last two seasons.

For starters, how about stepping forward and accepting responsibility for his team’s being such a letdown?

The best anyone can gather right now, it was all Tony Reagins’ doing, as well as a bunch of other insiders who have now been dismissed.

Asking Arte to be forthcoming, of course, presents a problem. When speaking in the past, Arte has let his emotions get the best of him, too often coming across as a blowhard.

A year ago, he spoke to Plaschke; no one said it’s easy being an owner.

When Arte was finished talking, Plaschke wrote, “Did I really just hear what I thought I heard?

“Did the owner of an underachieving Los Angeles major league baseball team just tell me that he was angry, disappointed, and would spend whatever it took to return his team to the playoffs?

“ ‘Yes,’ Arte Moreno said. ‘That’s how I feel. That’s what I’ll do.’ ”

Well, as people know now, he didn’t — unless you count the acquisition of Vernon Wells. If so, then he would have to apologize for spending foolishly.

Here he is, nine years on the job as owner of the Angels, and his teams are known best for falling short of expectations and just shy of signing the best free agent.

It’s almost uncanny how the Angels have been so close and so unsuccessful, almost signing Paul Konerko, Alfonso Soriano, CC Sabathia, Carlos Beltran, Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre, Miguel Cabrera and Mark Teixeira.

For the record, though, they landed Gary Matthews Jr.

To hear Arte tell it when he was still talking, it was never the Angels’ fault they lost out on a free agent.

But Arte’s the problem, his emotions usually getting the best of him when having to deal with greedy agents and players. And aren’t they all?

As tyrannical as Scioscia is in controlling the kind of players who roam his clubhouse, Moreno is the same when doing a deal.

He still doesn’t understand why Teixeira refused to sign with the Angels for $160 million, even after Teixeira went on to sign with the Yankees for $180 million.

He stopped talking to Teixeira’s agent, Scott Boras, because Boras told him the $160-million offer was disappointing, Moreno furious because that’s almost as much as he paid to buy the Angels franchise.

So all together now: Which team really needs a strong general manager to keep Scioscia and Moreno in check?

The search is supposedly on, although I don’t have much faith there’s any big change coming.

The only change so far is the People’s Owner hiding from people, everyone left to watch the Rangers in the World Series.

I suspect the Angels will find someone who is just happy to have a job again as a GM after losing an earlier opportunity.

Or maybe someone strong with the potential to be successful who won’t last long sandwiched between Scioscia and Moreno.

Whoever it is, there’s no question the team is desperately in need of a new fall guy.

t.j.simers@latimes.com


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