By Rob Goldman, AngelsWin.com Staff Writer -
Heeding Whitey Herzog’s advice, the Angels finally had a plan to build from within. GM Bill Bavasi was committed to the concept and together with Director of Scouting Bob Fontaine the Angels finally began building a home-based nucleus. From now on they would stick with their young prospects like Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson and Troy Percival and see if they could rise to their potential.
This of course, would take time and although things were coming together on the baseball end, the economics of modern baseball were making it impossible for the Autrys to operate at a profit. For years they had run the Angels as a family, mom and pop organization, but by the mid-nineties the times were changing. A restrictive stadium lease, industry inflation, collusion fines, and soaring salaries made it infeasible for the Autrys to make money. No longer able to absorb the losses and faced with mounting debt, they decided to sell the franchise.
The Disney Corporation, with its rising presence in Anaheim with the newly acquired NHL’s Mighty Ducks, had an interest in purchasing the club right from the start. CEO Michael Eisner believed the synergy the Angels and Ducks brought to the area could help boost attendance at Disneyland. A competition for the team began, with a group headed by former Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth serving as the frontrunner. A last-minute bid by Disney won out, however, when they agreed to not only match Ueberroth’s offer of 130 million but to take on Autry’s debt of 10 million for baseball operating loses as well.
Disney’s reign was a rocky one. New Angels president Tony Tavaras spent little on new players, had one of the lowest paid front offices in baseball, and was not known to be player friendly. To his credit he did manage to keep the core of the team intact and kept with the philosophy of building from within started by Port and Herzog.
Not unlike the Autrys, Disney found baseball to be a losing proposition—and even their pockets were not deep enough to overcome the high costs associated with running the Angels. Disgruntled shareowners who had no tolerance for corporate losses made it plain to Eisner that they felt the Angels were a liability. Eisner agreed, and in 1999 decided he would eventually sell the team for the right price.
Part of the process of grooming the franchise for sale was the adaptation of Anaheim Stadium into a baseball-only facility. With the Rams commitment to come to Anaheim in 1980, Anaheim Stadium began a transition from being one of the coziest and most popular ballparks in the league into a 60,000-seat, enclosed, multi-use monolith. Once the crown jewel of the American League, the “Big A” had lost much of its luster.
With the Rams’ departure in 1994, the city began the slow process of dismantling and downsizing the stadium. By 1998, Anaheim Stadium had morphed again, this time into Edison Field, a state-of-the-art baseball-only facility capable of seating 40,000-plus. The new park included artificial rock canyons in the outfield, a waterfall, dugout luxury boxes, bleachers, and an area designed with kids in mind. The familiar vistas of the Saddleback Mountains returned to view, and the Angels now had a stage equal to any in baseball. The changes seemed to parallel the team’s new ideology and vision, which had been ready for a facelift for some time. More importantly, though, the new Edison Field was considered an attractive bonus to potential buyers.
Part three of this three-part series will conclude tomorrow. If you've missed part one, you can read it here.