Did Arte Moreno Just Throw In The 2011 Towel?

Arte Moreno has changed his tune about spending and winning. Has he given up on 2011 as financial realities appear?

Arte Moreno has changed his tune about spending and winning. Has he given up on 2011 as financial realities appear?

Countering numerous news reports and a never-ending stream of internet rumors, Angels owner Arte Moreno told the LA Times that the Angels never made an offer on Carl Crawford. Moreno expressed shock at the $126 million deal that Jayson Werth got from the Washington Nationals and broke down many reasons why the Angels would not go seven years on Crawford, pointing out that the asset of speed leaves a player before the power does. Moreno was crystal clear in his logic of not wanting to raise ticket prices in order to subsidize these somewhat risky deals. But why the bluster in October when, after the first sub .500 season of his tenure, he told the very same rag that he would spend whatever it takes to get to the playoffs.

Media reports of the Angels matching Boston's $142 million were flatly denied by Moreno in public. This whole appearance by Moreno seemed quite timed to push back a demanding Scott Boras and his power in the Adrian Beltre negotiations. But fighting through the media has never been Moreno's style. Why is he doing it now? Is he frustrated with some realization that 2011 might already be slipping away? Was the July Dan Haren deal his big offseason move because of some unspoken budgetary issue?

The Angels have been offering a season ticket special that would be the envy of every Dodger fan: four season tickets for about $2.50 apiece. Labeled the AM-830 deal after the Moreno-owned radio station, $830 gets you four Upper View seats by the foul pole for every game of the season. This is a team that only two seasons ago was limiting longtime season-ticket holder accounts to eight seats total. Someone may have quietly fallen on hard times. We can wait until Forbes publishes its annual billionaires list to speculate beyond this, but Moreno's public emphasis on the value of the stadium experience seems to be a tacit admission that the team has finally been held back by contracts that are not returning anything performance-related on the field (I am looking at you, Scott Kazmir and especially at you Gary Matthews Jr.).

They might sign Adrian Beltre for $15 million a year yet. Pitchers and catchers don't report until after Valentine's Day and it is not yet Christmas, but Los Angeles of Anaheim's Santa Claus is sending signals that every present under the tree has already been unwrapped. The only thing for Angels fans to ask for if we get a chance to sit on his lap is whether this emphasis on family-friendly third place is a lump of coal we can expect every offseason for the foreseeable future.

Or maybe Bud Selig has inspired Arte to start a campaign insisting that he needs a new stadium to be built for him by the taxpayers in order to reap profits that deliver the marquee contracts offseason discussion threads clamor for. With a window to leave Anaheim in 2016, this winter of our discontent might be a volley in a much larger strategy than placating the bloggers over a month of whining and a much longer strategy than holding the line on spending until Gary Matthews receives his last Orange County paycheck. This might be the type of financial hardball that requires taking two steps back in the standings in order to take one step forward in receiving public subsidies.

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