Wednesday, March 14, 2012

http://desertsky.smugmug.com/Sports/Baseball/2011-03-10-Angels-Fan-Fest/i-ZN2pNBV/0/L/IMG7360-L.jpg
Arte Moreno answering questions from Geoff Stoddart, AngelsWin.com's Director of Social Media. 

Interview conducted with Arte Moreno on March 10th, 2012 at our Spring  Fanfest Dinner Party located at the Fiesta Resorts Conference Center in Tempe, AZ.

For those of you who are hearing impaired, or would prefer to read over watching an HD video that could take a bit to load on your PC or handheld device, here's the text transcript of our night with the Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno. 

Enjoy!

Geoff: My name is Geoff Stoddart. Most of you know me as Spiritof2002. So I would like to start off by introducing the founder of Angelswin.com Chuck Richter. 

Chuck Richter: Thank you all for coming and Arte, thank you for being able to come and be a part of this. Arte, I can speak for the entire group here that what you have put on the field over the years, giving us winning teams, that is something that we really appreciate from a fans standpoint. (Applause).  What’s interesting is that Geoff and I were talking earlier and we realized that I put together Angeslwin.com in 2003, the same year you (Arte) purchased the Angels. So I think that’s a good omen.  I can just speak again for all of us that Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, Jered Weaver, the guys that you put on the field for us going into 2012 is just amazing and we’re still buzzing even now. You can even see that in the sold out crowds, the fans in the stands for these spring training games - that they’re buzzing as well.  Thank you for showing up tonight and we really, really appreciate the product that you put on the field. (Applause)

At this time I would like to bring up Geoff Stoddart as we put together a list of questions from our staff of writers that we would like to ask you tonight and if you can do your best to answer them that would be great. 

Geoff: As Chuck mentioned, the writers of Angelswin.com put together a list of about 437 questions. I guess I’ll start with number one.

When you were young, did you play baseball, and if so what was the position that you played?

Arte: I did play baseball all the way through high school and I was a second basemen and later I was a first basemen.  Not good enough anywhere to get passed high school.

Geoff: Who were your favorite players as a kid?

Arte: I like Roberto Clemente a lot. Playing second base, I like Bobby Richardson a lot. But I was one of those fans that liked players from every team so I didn’t have a special player I liked to watch, but by position. 

Geoff: When you were thinking about buying a major league baseball team, were you interested initially only in the Angels or were there other teams you were looking to pursue to purchase?

Arte: I started in the minor leagues like a lot of the players did. I started with A team with a bunch of my buddies, my drinking buddies, we bought a Pioneer League short A team and moved it to Salt Lake. That was in 85 I think and had it til 93. Then 95/96 I was one of the original owners of the Diamondbacks so I was a minority partner with the Diamondbacks. In 01 we beat the Yankees in the World Series.  I won 3 championships in the minors and then won with the Diamondbacks. Then in 03, or 02/03, I tried to buy the Diamondbacks first and there were a couple of other teams for sale. There was 4 or 5 teams available.

Geoff:  What drew you to the Angels?

Arte: A couple things. I grew up in Arizona and used to go to Southern California all the time. Not only to the beach and whatever but to catch a ball game. My wife just walked in the back. But anyways, I came from the advertising business and really like the size of my market and we can get into all kinds of argument about the name change and whatever but really the metropolitan. New York is #1 metropolitan area, Los Angeles metro area second largest and really felt that with some kind of development marketing that we could start attracting bigger crowds, generate more revenues therefore being able to put a better product on the field. Not being in a situation where you’re always open to that perfect job in the minor league system but also there was an opportunity to develop the minor league system and being able to invest in free agents. 

Geoff: Speaking of free agents, this offseason you got the top hitter, you got the top pitcher on the market along with a new catcher and relief pitcher. This compares to the 2004 season when you got Vladimir, Bartolo Colon, Escobar, how would you compare those two offseasons?

Arte:  A lot of times you want short answer to a long situation. Obviously 02 won a championship, 03 by all star break my wife and I purchased the team in late May, we were out of the race. In our system we lacked outfielders and starting pitching. Originally what we went for we felt that they could make a deal on Guillen even though had a question with temperament, he was a hard hitter and drove in a lot of runs, home runs, and a big arm.  They felt we could make a deal on Escobar, Stoneman was very familiar with Escobar making him from a reliever to a starter. So we started right there. Colon was on the market and looked like he was going to sign with the White Sox at the time but we offered him an extra year which really didn’t work out for us but he did win a Cy Young.  Really on the 25th hour is when Guerrero came up. The McCourts were getting prepared to buy the Dodgers but they hadn’t closed. His brother played for the Dodgers and they could not make that deal baseball was not going to conclude it. So they called Stoneman, Stoneman said if you match the contract the Dodgers are offering we could do that. So for us at the time, we added 2 very good outfielders, 2 starting pitchers that really put us in a position to compete again and made the playoffs in 04. The last 2 years we obviously didn’t make the playoffs. Last year won 86 games, had 25 blown save. Bill Plunkett is here from the Register and can back up my numbers. We made the decision to make changes in the front office, just felt that we weren’t doing a good enough job in our system to let the players coming up weren’t as prepared as we needed to be to compete at a championship level.  When Jerry came in we sat down with the baseball people and talked about our needs. We felt we need a 4 or 5 pitcher, some kind of power bat, but really believe or not focused on third base. Just left a lot of players on base last year and then something in the bullpen. We didn’t feel like we were getting the production at catching. That is what we would call the short list, those 4 positions. The baseball people looked at the menu of catchers and felt we could make a deal with Colorado. So we sent our young pitcher up there for Chris Iannetta. At the same time we were going through hitter available, infielders, outfielders, and pitching. With Albert, Jerry (Dipoto) had a meeting early on with his agent. Felt that it was just the agent shopping around who had interest. But later found out there were more connections that that. The other positive thing, this family had been in Anaheim for the all star game and enjoyed the weather, environment, etc. Mike and our baseball people over a period of time and our fans built a very good reputation in the baseball world about being a good place to play. The American league could potentially extend his career by not day in and day out situations especially as he gets older can transfer and playing DH more often. So I guess sort of kicking the tires. They were kicking our tires, we were kicking their tires but I guess at the 25th hour I probably felt he was going back to the Cardinals. The homegrown Cardinal been there 11 years, the family is a native of Kansas City, he was moved there by his aunt when he was 16. So we ended up just trying to stay in the game at that time.

The same time Jerry had dinner with Mike and Carpino, the agent (Bob Garber) and Wilson up in LA. So we just tried to keep our name in the ring there. As we moved along, kept looking at relievers and saying where we could spend the money and where we would get the best return. My wife and I at the winter meetings were going on, I was talking to the agent and I asked if I could talk to the player which was Albert. So I put my wife and myself to talk about 5 minutes but we ended up talking 30 to 40 minutes and really had a great conversation. His wife was at a Quinciera so she was on the phone. We really felt he was going to make a decision quickly so we positioned our self.  Now I know this is a long answer to a short question. 

Also knew that CJ was flying in that night so we knew we were going to have to games going because we had the agent there for Albert and CJ was personally coming in. I started talking to Carpino and Jerry about our position when they happen to be in I think they were in two different towers. 

Everybody was sort of running back and forth. When we made the deal with Albert, I made the deal with Albert but at the end of the day you have to dot all the I’s and cross the T’s.  Anytime you have a MVP type player the whole bag of goodies that come. I like to use the excuse like my wife, instead of just getting the wife you also get three families. But we made the deal with Albert started working on all the details with Albert and that night around 2 or 3 in the morning we made the deal with CJ. Both players had better offers from other teams and we felt that our package of where they were going to play, and I think CJ got a little bit of a wind that we already made the deal with Albert he was very anxious to come home.  Ironically Haren and CJ played with each other in college. Apparently Weaver and CJ are all from Southern California. Anytime you get local kids, I think that always help with the fan base. 

Geoff: What was it like seeing over 4 thousand fans show up to the press signing conference of CJ and Albert.

Arte: Pretty wild. John told me that early on that people were coming at 6 in the morning and it’s going to be wild out there. It looked more like a Championship celebration. It was a fun day for us and players really enjoyed it. Weaver, Haren and some of the other players showed up, Bobby Grich and some of the coaches showed up. 

Geoff: One of the things we like to do on the board a lot is talk to each other about potential trades. Are you like a lot of us fans as the trade deadline nears where you’re away from the other members of the front office and coaching staff. Do you ever put deals together in your mind or thoughts of people you would like to get a how you would go about making those deals happen?

Arte: Are we talking about baseball or something else? I think it was 03 in Chicago at the All Star celebration. The Angels won the championship the year before so Mike Scioscia and his coaches were there for the American league. I think Garrett won the MVP that year. I was out on the field and I think Dusty Baker was on the other side because of the Giants. We were out there talking to Mike saying “Now this is the team I would really like”, really looking at the All Star club. I think when you’re a baseball fan, you always play fantasy baseball and look at the players and who you pitch and how you pitch, when you pull them, when you put them in, what are they throwing. I always tell people we always already know what happened yesterday, if you could tell me what is going to happen tomorrow we would be in really good shape. 

Geoff: As you are going through some of these in your mind, do you ever make suggestions to the folks you have running your front office?

Arte: Yeah, I think that’s one of the benefits as owner. From my philosophy it has always been let baseball people make baseball decisions. It didn’t look this way this year, but we do have a budget. This is our ninth season so we’ve had 8 real good years of building the organization so we could compete at the highest level and we were going up pretty good but started plateauing at little bit. We felt on the financial side we needed to make an adjustment in the team. So a lot of times you can look at it as a straight expense and say he’s just spending money or what we are trying to do is position ourselves to go to the next level or the next “x” period of time. People a lot of times get mad at me because I’m always a 3, 5, 7 years in advance from an economic model and looking at players and contracts and mostly anybody else that’s on a sound bite. For us to be highly competitive over a long period of time we have to make investments and decision that are going to reflect on the organization long term. 

Geoff: The last 2 years from a marketing stand point have been big opportunities for the team.  There was the All Star game two years ago and last year was the 50th anniversary season. What were the hardest parts for you personally about having those two marketing year events then things on the field where the team didn’t produce as you hoped?

Arte:  I was Mr. lobbyist every time we had an owner meeting trying to get baseball people to commit to bringing the All Star game to Southern California because they just felt it’s important to showcase not only the Angels but Southern California fans, little league, pony league, high school teams, the big universities of Long Beach State and Fullerton. You just have a lot of really good baseball programs and just really felt we should try to showcase the fans, the weather. I always say we do play baseball on the West Coast. We have drawn over 3 million nine years in a row and on our way for a 10th straight year. That was really important. I guess from the negative side we didn’t really realize how much major league came in and it was their show and we got to put some things in but they really controlled the tickets and a lot of the marketing stuff. So we really didn’t get as many of our fans in the park as I would have liked.  But because we had a lot of season ticket holders, a lot of them got the opportunity for them and their families to go.  

If I’m ever going to blame somebody I’m always going to say “we”, if anything good happens I always say “me”.  Anyways, the 50th anniversary one of the things we did when we came in was trying to do is put all the little pieces together to show that the Angels have it this year.  We started planning before the games, Autry and his ownership, some of the teams, some of the players, some of the divisions, to really show some of the young generations that the Angels do have this long history of 50 years.  I think our people did a very good job of identifying players, every night we had an alum player throw out the first pitch and they went out and signed.  Really tried to integrate a little bit of our past with what our future is, and that was really positive. The negative is when you make an investment on the team and you really believe you put the pieces together and we as a team don’t perform at the level that the fans expect, that’s disappointing. You get invested not only buying tickets but you also emotionally get invested in the ownership of the team when they don’t perform.  Especially we had a really good team but lost a lot of games right late in the game and some of those things were caused by some inefficiencies and hopefully we corrected those. I’ll tell you in October.

Geoff:  Between buying the team, changing the name, landing Pujols, landing Wilson, have you accomplished all of your goals in making the Angels the number one team in Southern California.

Arte: Umm..no.  I think it’s really hard when you do that. I think when you win the world series you want to win 2, when you win 2 you want to win 4. But I think it’s a building process. We had the president of the Hall of Fame with me at the game today and stuff we were talking about and spent 3 days there in Cooperstown. If you look at baseball and look at the history, the modern day history, Tim Mead and Plunkett are looking at me at what am I going to come up with.  The way I view modern day baseball is 1900 on. So this is 2012 so we are somewhere in that 112 years into modern day baseball. When you’re looking at a 8 or 9 year period, you’re only looking at a little blip on a long scale. The question is can we take that little blip and open it up so it goes up here and we stay there.  So the real objective for me to obviously I want to win but to be successful, we need to be able to produce at a very high level over a very long period of time.  So when anybody ever comes to our house they know they got to play. Those are the kind of things to me I’m really interested obviously in the younger generations of kids getting the opportunity to come to the ball park as see some of the best players. Get to see first, major league baseball, get to see their players and have part of that experience with their family, or mom, or their dad, brother, etc.  That is very important for us. You go to the marketing stuff or the branding stuff and some of the stuff we try to do and be more consistent with that whole thing we work on 12 months a year.

Geoff:  At the press conference with Albert and CJ, you announced the major of Anaheim as one of the VP’s in attendance.  Does this signify a solid relationship between the Angels and the city and will you look to renew the lease in 2016.

Arte: You’re not paying me enough. I happen to like this mayor. We had a nice relationship; we had lunch 3 or 4 weeks ago. He and his wife are coming in next week. We have a lot of our sponsors coming in for a sponsors weekend.  He and his wife are coming out and we are having a BBQ and get to see what we do here and meet the players and people.  Is that a good political answer?

Geoff:  Where do you go to read information and stories about the Angels?

Arte: I really look at a mix of information. Pretty much scan 4 or 5 newspapers. Tim and his people put the clips together and anything they believe is readable I get. Usually it’s 9 or 10 or 11 in the morning. Out here in Spring Training I’m getting them at 8 in the morning. Really all the staff gets clips from all the articles written good or bad. I happen to be on the band board which is baseball media and look at MLB.com, ESPN.com, I like other sports. The reason I delayed from being here at 6, because my alma mater was playing the PAC 12 Championship. Just got beat by 2 points. All my friends kept saying “have a beer”, I can’t talk normally when you give me a couple beers. I get real honest. I read blogs but a lot of times the same people are going through the same things and you don’t get a mix of information.  A lot of the times you aren’t getting information you should be getting. I should probably have my own tweet or whatever, can you imagine?

Geoff:  One of the things we have done on Angelswin.com is put together a list of the top 50 moments in Angels history. Every year after the season we tend to go through and talk about what happened in the past season and try to identify something that happened that deserved to go onto that list and what item to pull off. One of the big debates we are having on the board is December 8th, and whether or not the signing of CJ and Albert deserves to make the top 50 moment in Angels history.

Arte: I guess I met my wife in Kansas City and their motto is the “Show Me State”.  Maybe we’ll talk about it in October. Over a period you can be very optimistic when you make your investment or your signing, but you have to get production.  There has to be production that is going to help the team, not so much individual stats as much as performance of the whole team. For me I probably would wait and say in October “should that be in the top 50?”

Geoff: Can you tell us what you told Albert when you talked to him on the phone that convinced him to come join the Angels and make them his home.

Arte: I don’t know if it was one thing, I think it was a mix of things. I think when we first started talking of what we had to offer.  He has 4 children, young children 16 and under. I think his youngest boy is 2. To really uproot a family and the wife was born and raised in Kansas City and move them west. Went through our team and how long Mike and his coaches have been here, our commitment to our system minor league, major league, went position by position to show the depth of our organization,  our pitching, our infield, the outfielders, top to bottom, Bourjos and Trout and some of the young players coming through. Talked a lot about the environment weather wise and what kind of field we have. Out of the 30 teams, there are 2 teams that still play of turf, Toronto and Tampa.  Weather is very important because ironically we play our first three games then we go open in Minnesota. So we go from home for 3 days then send us to Minneapolis for 3 days for the first week in April. Then go from there to New York and open New York up. So coming home to the weather is always relaxing and the fans that we’ve drawn much like St Louis in drawing 3 million a year and consistently brought fans in to watch.  There’s no debt on the team and economically we are stable enough to make investments into the team in what we are doing.

Geoff: Two more questions. As you look at the youngsters on the team, what excites you most?

Arte:  You look at a bunch of young players. To me it’s energy, excitement, opportunity. We get a lot of people walking up and saying “Did you really love Moneyball?” Well I said, my partner used to own some McDonalds and used to say “Great for selling, not so good to eat”.  Moneyball to me was the fact that it was probably really good to watch as a movie, but not so great as far as looking at talent evaluation and the measurement of what I call heart, in EspaƱol is Corazon. Love for the game and how someone plays. A lot of times you can look at statistical analysis on a computer and got the speed and power and whatever, but really are they gonna want to show up and play every day.  We were trying to design the way we run our games, where people may only come to that game one time, they may be visiting or only saved up enough money to come to one game is like going to a Broadway play. We have to perform from the time you drive into the parking lot and walk into the gates and go to your seat and those players, you know you’ve invested this money to come and you have to give them the best possible product you can. A lot of those things you cannot measure on statistical analysis.

Geoff: Last question is kind of open ended. Is there anything else you would like to say to the Angels fans here tonight? 

Arte: I thank you very much. I can tell you are very passionate or you wouldn’t be here. Love the opportunity from me now that we can communicate with each other and speak your mind and talk about your likes and your dislikes and your dreams and wishes and expectations are. I think that media has given us the flexibility for that communication. It’s not always perfect obviously but we don’t always hear everything exactly that you would want to hear it but we are not going to get better unless we get the information. For us to be able to communicate back with you properly… did you hear that Bill (Plunkett)…  Just recently a lot of times I get interviewed and I feel like someone makes a decision of what I’m saying and told him to write something  I said a certain way from what I said so I’m not a real happy camper about that one right now.  Bill got to see that about a week ago. But anyway, I think that is a real important thing because we have such great fans and I really shouldn’t do this but I’m gonna say 4 or 5 of you, 4 or 5 of you, have individual questions you would like to ask me.  If I can answer it, I will do it.

Greg Pero:  First of all, thank you and your lovely wife for being here tonight.  Recently the players association and major league baseball made an agreement of changing the playoff format and addition to that one of the conditions of the new ownership of the Houston Astros move into the AL West, just wondering what your take is on the new playoff format and the addition of the Astros to the AL West?

Arte: I think if you’re a real traditionalist and they keep adding games, sometimes you dilute it. Sometime you’re in a situation where you do have a division that has 3 really good teams because they miss by half a game. I think we found out last year that on the last day of the year two teams lost and two teams won to go to the playoffs and the Cardinals obviously ended up winning the NL wild card with the Cardinals and Tampa ending up on the last day. I think with the sudden death one game playoff as long as it’s not extended too long, you get that sudden death feeling of watching the game and knowing that at the end of the game they’re moving on, that’s A. And D, usually to win that game you have to throw one of your better pitchers or your best pitcher because there is no tomorrow.  A lot of times the wild card team, especially with TV and delaying the start of the playoffs that you get a wild card team that has no arm pitchers and all of a sudden they are in. So if you burn out a pitcher or a bullpen trying to get to the playoffs, a lot of times the team they are playing is not seeing number one. Probably the other thing that you asked me which I probably can’t remember very well…

Greg: Houston going to the AL.

Arte: I was being sarcastic. This is a very, very political business we are in. I really believe that we should be in a situation where within reason you should be able to get in your car and drive and see your competition. Like for a lot of you might be able to drive here and catch a game and/or spend a few days and I think when you’re talking a couple time zones away affect us from a fans standpoint, television standpoint, there are just a lot of things. But I’ve tried to be polite about the situation.

Carlota Komp: I work for Lotus Broadcasting. Yesterday we booted the Yankees and now we are the official Angels broadcast partners. They know I’m a huge fan so they were showing me the contract and running around my office like “We’re Angels now”. The greatest gift I’ve ever gave myself quitting smoking, what is the greatest give you have ever given yourself?

Arte: (Arte turns to his wife). Does anyone have any questions for the players? 

Question from Unknown Guest: How much influence did it have being a Latino owner in landing Albert?

Arte: I think objectively there should be 29 or 30 other teams that would love to have a player like Albert. I think as you’re going through the process of what your needs are and who do you have signed and who’s already in that position, I think you go through that process. But you would like to think that you’re looking at objectivity of what that player is going to mean to the team instead of just saying the owner likes this guy and we should sign him. I think anytime that happens I have the old plumber theory.  All you need to do is get a plumber and “it” goes downhill and I feel that way about management. You let them make the decision you have someone to blame.  I was being sarcastic.

Dave Snyder:  On behalf of all of our fans, certainly the people of AngelsWin.com, thank you for what you’ve done for our team. 

Eric Moses:  I was just wondering if you could be a little candid with us on what you said to Albert about this whole marketing situation that didn’t sit well with him. 

Arte: (Waives John Carpino to the podium)

John Carpino: You know, it’s pretty simple. What we did when we were trying to lay out our marketing campaign, we did what you guys do. We literally googled Albert Pujols nicknames and that was one of them. We put it on there and we handled it internally primarily with Albert. It was done more of a marketing campaign as it relates to “no you’re the man, no you’re the man”, not any disrespect to Stan Musial or anything else like that.  I believe the fans got it, I believe everybody else got it, I believe the media took it to a different level. That’s basically the short story and the long story all in one.  The process is an interesting one.  Arte and I both became pseudo creative directors played around creative for weeks. We go through the whole office like what ideas you have. We did it on the Sports Lodge on Roger Loge the show in the morning on campaign ideas.  We rolled them all out, we stick them on the walls, and see what looks good and what doesn’t look good and we try to narrow it down narrow it down. We’ve had some from my daughter saying OMG to everything.  We just kind of go through the process to keep everyone involved creatively that ideas come from everyone. Try to do a mass appeal, try to not only market to you and make you feel proud of the team, but try to activate passive fans and go OK let’s go to a game, let’s go to 2 games, let’s go to 4 games and then build it from there.  The process is pretty simple but it’s time consuming.  We take our time; we believe it’s real important.  That whole El Hombre thing I think got spun out of control so can say we handled it internally. 

Arte:  Albert understood and we sat down and talked to him. He’s fine about stuff. 

Arte: Love the hat (as Percy stands up). I’m a Vietnam Vet you know; usually we were shooting at them. 

(PercySquint slowly sits back down). 

PercySquint: I will side with my friend over here and thanking you for your commitment to winning. My question to is that most successful corporations and businesses have a mission statement. What is the Angels mission statement? 

Arte: That’s a good one. I would always say you want everyone to have a lot of fun, but at the end of the day you really have a lot of fun when you’re winning. When you put so emphasis on winning all the time that covers everything else up. When Tim said “would you do this?” (referring to the Angelswin dinner), and I said yeah I would love to go see it. You guys are so involved and to me the fans are having a good time and they like the product and they see that we are really working hard to make sure that you’re taken care of and that we’re trying to win. I know not everybody agrees with everything when you do it and how you do it but as a whole we receive high marks from the fans and we try to listen and I appreciate that, thank you.

I see one more hand back there. I used to always sit in the back of the class never wanting them to call on me but usually the toughest questions come from back of the class. 

Cory Hinkel:  My name is Cory from Thousand Oaks California and my question to you Arte is: What’s your personal favorite moment?

Arte: I have lot of them, we had 86 of them last year. I think there’s a bunch of them, 04 making the playoffs, 05 we had a great team knocking the Yankees out then went to Chicago on short rest. Flew all night and won the first game, the second game was you know the (Eddings call), but anyways whatever it was that was a fine year. Really felt we were a few games away.  Thinking every good team you’re gonna go in and play somebody like New York or Boston. In 09 we had a very very good team and swept Boston. I really felt that we turned the corner and went to New York and gave one away minimum. Didn’t play well in the first one, the second one, and still ended up in 6 games. You get real close in getting to the Championship and really felt we were getting to the place from an organization that we were going to compete at a high level. Texas was going pretty hard from the behind and I don’t think we were prepared. Like I said, there were so many of those things that I enjoy and sometimes it’s really nice to walk around the park and everybody is polite and sometimes they tell me what they don’t like.  

Thank you very much. 

Here is the video of the interview.

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