Moreno takes light-footed approach

Moreno treads lightly with Angels

ANAHEIM -- Barefoot and wearing sweat pants, a T-shirt and a hat, Arte Moreno was soaked to the bone, champagne dripping off the bill. He's rarely seen in these parts of Angel Stadium, but when you own the team, you have bought your own ticket to the party, and the right to dodge corks in the clubhouse.

He was drenched from the moment he walked beneath the plastic. Let's face it, who doesn't relish the chance to hose their boss and get away with it? Moreno never misses a chance to come to his clubhouse upon clinching, and will always toe the Angels party line, and insist that this is not about him, but his players.

But with every American League West championship and every 90-victory season -- the latest title coming on Sunday afternoon thanks to a 7-4 win over the Mariners -- this franchise becomes more his own in a way that not even Gene Autry achieved. Mike Scioscia knows he has the best deal a manager can have -- a choice seat next to the business man, but the business man doesn't pretend to know how to swing a fungo bat or steal a sign. More importantly, he doesn't try to fix that which isn't broken.

"It's always really important to let baseball people do their jobs," Moreno said. "I don't ask them to do my job. I let them do their jobs."

And there's your difference.

In no other season has this been as clear and as beneficial. Moreno wouldn't be the first owner in Major League history to get spooked the moment the plan for the season didn't begin to evolve as envisioned. But what has separated him is the ability to stay involved by not being involved, by growing a business that drew more than 3 million fans for the fifth consecutive season, and by letting the Angels fall into the patterns established by Scioscia and general manager Bill Stoneman.

"During the winter, when we created the model for what we thought this team was going to look like this season, what it turned out to be didn't exactly look like what we thought it would look like," Scioscia said. "That's because of our depth. We had a 35-deep roster."

The Angels have been much criticized for not making trades in the past to acquire a power bat or impact player, as they were in the summer of 2006. But holding onto that organizational depth helped Scioscia to fill holes and buy time in 2007. The Angels left Spring Training with Chone Figgins injured and found they had developed an everyday leadoff hitter in Reggie Willits. That allowed the Angels to move outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. -- the one with the $50 million contract the Angels handed out last winter -- into the middle of the order to help them protect Vladimir Guerrero while Garret Anderson got healthy.

The balancing act is to find the right young players to put around the veterans, so that no club veers too far to either extreme. That's difficult and often leads to transition. The Angels, then, are one of the few teams that have won in a constant state of transition. The best Angels teams have been built in that manner. The 2002 World Series champion had just enough youth around its veterans. The 2007 season shares similar qualities.

Moreno has given the resources, and then stepped aside. That is rare in any business, much less baseball.

"This doesn't get old," Anderson said. "I'm happy I was able to help in the second half. Being healthy is a lot of fun these days."

The Angels are a healthy franchise from top to bottom and that, too, begins with the barefooted owner. As he continues to mold the Angels into his ideal of the West Coast Yankees, the Angels have succeeded because Moreno has had the faith to let his baseball men act as baseball men.

You can see the Montreal method in Stoneman's fingerprints: the reliance on scouting and player development. You can see the Branch Rickey-Dodgers influence in the way Scioscia manages young players, demanding that they adhere to the mental aspects of the game.

And because the depth was here and not shipped out, you can trace that to Moreno for being calm in his owner's box and not storming into meetings demanding impatient moves. As he once famously said, the business plan is not written on a cocktail napkin.

These barefoot visits downstairs are rare, but more often than not, annual occurrences. In times past, Autry would make a similar journey to a room that he spent a great deal of time in. Reggie Jackson once removed the cowboy hat to douse him, then gleefully put the hat back on Autry's head.

"He never stuck his nose in," former pitcher Dean Chance once said of Autry. "He didn't try to be a pushy owner."

The same can be said for Moreno, except, of course, for when he had to push through his players to find his shoes.

John Klima is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.