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Winning, Inc.

Rescued from decades of mediocrity and shortsighted vision by Scioscia's and Stoneman's leadership, and from corporate inertia and timidity by Moreno's ownership, the new-millennium Angels are thriving as never before

September 25, 2007|Ross Newhan | Special to The Times

The meeting that helped produce a franchise renaissance was conducted behind the scenes at Angel Stadium shortly after the Walt Disney Co. had hired Bill Stoneman as the club's general manager following a tumultuous 1999 season and shortly after Stoneman had hired Mike Scioscia as the manager.

The meeting was designed to introduce the two to the administrative staff.

It became more than that -- Stoneman and Scioscia heatedly and pointedly declaring the need for an overhaul of focus and direction in an organization that had known mostly failure, frustration and frequent fluctuations in personnel and philosophy during the 45 years Gene Autry owned the team and the four that Disney had.

"What happened," said a person who was in the meeting, "is that Bill and Mike kept getting peppered by questions from the marketing staff as to which of the players they would build an advertising campaign around since, as one of the marketers said, they were not going to win a World Series and it would be foolish to build a campaign around the team.

"Bill and Mike looked at each other incredulously. I thought they were going to come out of their chairs. They'd been on the job for only two weeks and they were being told that the organization's expectations didn't include a World Series. Well, both of them laid it out right there, saying that every day they came to work the goal from top to bottom should be and would be to reach the postseason and to win the Series."

Now, preparing for another playoff shot at the Series, again on top of a division in which they were so often an also-ran, Scioscia refuses to discuss that meeting in depth, saying in general terms that the expectations that were clearly defined during his time with the Dodgers under Peter O'Malley's ownership were not as clearly defined when he and Stoneman joined the corporate Angels.

"I hadn't kept tabs, I didn't know the organization's whole history," he said. "I knew there was a nucleus of young players that you could get excited about, so it wasn't like we were coming into a totally bad situation. It was strictly a matter of getting it together, defining an approach, and that meeting proved to be a real eye-opener. After it, I think, everyone knew what the goals and expectations were."

The red tide that has swept into and over Orange County in each summer of the new millennium has made it almost difficult to remember those summers, seasons and even decades devoid of the stability, continuity and success that the Angels create automatically now.

"The bar has definitely been raised here," Joe Maddon, the Tampa Bay manager and former Angels coach and instructor, was saying in Anaheim last week. "All you have to do is walk into this stadium now and you can sense the winning vibes and home-field advantage."

Beginning with the hiring of Stoneman and Scioscia, ignited by the 2002 World Series breakthrough and title under Disney and elevated to new baseball and business heights since Arte Moreno bought the team in 2003 (revenue has about doubled in that time, according to two people familiar with the figures), those once-elusive expectations are now accepted -- and achieved -- on an almost annual basis.

There have been three division titles in the last four years, four playoff appearances in the last six and five straight seasons of more than 3 million in red-clad attendance. All that has helped turn the Angels into a revenue-sharing donor -- they gave $11 million to the industry pool in 2005 -- rather than many years as an under-marketed and underachieving recipient.

It is an unprecedented chapter in the history of a franchise that often featured a revolving door to the offices of the general manager and manager, an often shortsighted attempt in misappropriated dollars and talent to win one for the Cowboy during the Autry ownership, and an often miscalculated drive to compete with the Dodgers on the marquee.

"Ultimately," said Tim Mead, the longtime vice president of communications, "we had to find an identity from within. We had spent too many years worrying about the Dodgers."

If it is the Angels who now own the marquee, pushed beyond the Orange curtain in name and deed by Stoneman, Scioscia and billboard magnate Moreno, consider this synopsis of those three full and troubled decades in Anaheim before Stoneman and Scioscia arrived and Moreno took over in '03:

The '70s

Three general managers, seven full-time managers, one division title, three seasons of less than 1 million in attendance and only one of more than 2 million, and a decade probably best remembered for Nolan Ryan's four no-hitters and the failure to re-sign him as a free agent after the 1979 season.

The '80s

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