Everybody who had the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the “next MLB team to rattle the move threat saber” pool, come collect your winnings!
The mayor of Anaheim came away from Tuesday night’s city council meeting convinced that Angels owner Arte Moreno is looking to leave the city the team has called home since 1966.
But Angels President John Carpino said the team would use a three-year extension on the opt-out of its current stadium lease to explore ways to remain in Anaheim, not bolt.
“Based on the city council’s actions, we’re hopeful a deal can be made and we can stay in Anaheim for many years to come,” Carpino said before the Angels’ 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night. “We want to be part of a community and deliver a high-quality fan experience.”
Count me among those who didn’t see this coming at all, but it certainly makes sense from Moreno’s perspective: He has a stadium that’s about to turn 50 years old, and though it got extensive renovations in 1998, that’s still the kind of thing that gets all the other kids laughing and pointing at the owners’ meetings. So, sure, threaten to leave Anaheim, if you think it’ll get you either a new stadium or more publicly funded renovations to your old one.
What doesn’t make sense is why on earth Anaheim is going along with this. A city consultant apparently told the city council that Moreno “has made clear in our discussions he has the resources and willingness to build his own stadium” and could move to Irvine, Irwindale, or several sites in Los Angeles. That seems dubious — a new stadium in the L.A. area could cost $700 million, plus land costs. And given how much of baseball revenue is tied up in cable rights fees — something Moreno has been pretty good at grabbing already, and can’t renegotiate for another 18 years anyway — you have to wonder if he’d really be up for spending close to $1 billion just to get a snazzier place down the freeway.
More to the point, though, even if Anaheim thinks that Moreno wants to move, why the hell are they giving him three more years to look around? The current Angels opt-out was for 2016, and there was no way that Moreno was going to get a stadium planned and built by then anywhere else. By pushing things back to 2019, though, Moreno’s leverage is suddenly restored, since the possibility of getting a stadium elsewhere by then is at least conceivable, if not necessarily likely. (To his credit, Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait seemed to get this part, saying, “If they do leave in three years, you can trace it right back to the action of this council tonight.”)
Carpino told the L.A. Times that the team is exploring whether it would rather have another upgrade of Angel Stadium (estimated cost: $130-150 million) or a brand new stadium next to it (estimated cost: $600-700 million). No word yet on what Anaheim would be expected to kick in, though there’s apparently been talk about giving the team development rights to the parking lots around the stadium.
In any event, toss out the window any hopes that the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays battles would be the last baseball stadium controversies for a while. Anyone want to wager on who’ll be next? Toronto Blue Jays? Chicago White Sox? I can get you good odds on the Baltimore Orioles…