Chat with Moreno seals deal for Pujols
Angels owner preaches all right things to ink all-world slugger
ANAHEIM -- With Albert Pujols seated to his right and C.J. Wilson to his left, owner Arte Moreno stepped up to a podium Saturday in front of Angel Stadium a little after 11:30 a.m. PT.
Then, roughly 4,200 fans that showed up to be a part of one of the biggest days in Angels history began chanting.
"Thank you, Arte! Thank you, Arte! Thank you, Arte!"
Two days earlier, Moreno committed $331.5 million to Pujols and Wilson -- nearly twice as much as he paid for the entire franchise in 2003 -- and now his team is an immediate title contender and national brand.
It's obvious that the Pujols deal never happens without Moreno. But it wasn't just because of the deal he approved.
It was also because of the things Moreno spoke of.
Angels sign Pujols, Wilson
"Arte was pivotal," said Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto. "At the end of the day, I feel like Arte and Albert made this happen, and the rest of us were just working through the details."
Pujols had never met Moreno. Never spoken a word with him, actually. His first conversation with the Angels' owner came on Wednesday, the day after Dipoto told agent Dan Lozano that he was seriously interested in pursuing the free-agent first baseman.
Moreno and Pujols spoke for 30-40 minutes on Tuesday night. On Wednesday afternoon, Moreno stepped out of a movie with his wife to speak with Pujols, and told the slugger he'd hop on his jet to meet him in St. Louis for dinner that very second if he wanted.
It was that type of commitment and passion that eventually swayed Pujols into turning down the Cardinals and signing with the Angels.
"What transpired in that conversation definitely touched a point with Albert, cleared some things up for him that made him feel wanted, made him feel that this wasn't just a business decision -- that it was also something very personal for Albert," Lozano said. "And I think, again, that was something that Albert wanted to hear. And I think Arte was able to convey that to Albert, and ultimately led to Albert being an Angel."
The Angels were expected to go into the offseason with somewhere between $15 million and $20 million to spend on free agents. But the team went way beyond that by giving Pujols a 10-year, $254 million contract (with a full no-trade clause and a 10-year commitment that makes him a consultant to Moreno after he's done playing) and handing Wilson a five-year, $77.5 million deal (with a full no-trade clause in the first two years and a partial no-trade clause in the last three).
A new TV deal has surely helped facilitate that kind of spending.
A source confirmed a Los Angeles Times report that the Angels have agreed on a 17-year deal with FOX that's between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, pumping some extra revenue into the franchise and allowing for lucrative spending of this nature to occur.
Also, as Moreno pointed out, the marketability and nationwide appeal of a star like Pujols is enough to tempt a team to extend a preset budget.
The Angels were never considered a serious threat to the Cardinals until just before the deal was agreed upon. But it was always an organization that intrigued Pujols, and adding the three-time Most Valuable Player was never a notion the Angels ruled out.
"I just felt, let's keep our hands in the cookie jar," said Moreno, who has previously missed out on signing the likes of Mark Teixeira, Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre and CC Sabathia. "But I didn't want to be in a situation where I was disrespectful to the Cardinals in trying to run up the price."
Dipoto met with Lozano over a dinner about a month earlier, but it was more out of due diligence.
During the Winter Meetings, with the Cardinals and Marlins seemingly going head-to-head for Pujols' services, Dipoto reached out to Lozano and asked if he had time to chat the next day.
The two did, and then Moreno stepped in.
"I told him that we'd like him to be an Angel," Moreno said. "The community that we live in is family-oriented. We work very hard to make it affordable for kids and families to come to the park, and that we don't only just focus on what's going on in the park, we focus on the community."
By the time Wednesday came to an end, the Marlins backed out of the race, three other clubs -- the Cardinals, Angels and a third, unidentified team -- were in the running, and Pujols had heard all he needed to hear from Dipoto.
At about 7:30 a.m. on Thursday -- after lots of thought, lots of prayer and, admittedly, lots of emotion -- Pujols told Lozano he was ready to sign the second-largest contract in baseball history and make a 20-year commitment with a man he barely knew 24 hours earlier.
"I only spend five minutes talking or meeting a guy and I know pretty much [all about him]," Pujols said. "God has given me that wisdom. Talking with [Moreno], and just everything, obviously, he wanted me really bad. But that's who he is. When I talked to different players, and found out a little bit more about him ... I mean, people love him here in Anaheim. People love him everywhere he goes because he's present in the way that he is, and how involved he is with the ballclub. It was about winning and all that stuff. Those were the things that he was concentrating on."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.