Angels in the Outhouse

Revisiting the Weeklys Tao Jones

Wall Street watchers, we're not. Rather, it is an ancient energy and spiritual truth that generate and reward our periodic fascination with things financial—our Tao Jones, we call it when we get to feeling that way. And the recent reports that the Walt Disney Co. is reconsidering its investment in the Angels has us feeling . . . oh . . . like saying we told you so!!! But, of course, in the humblest possible way.

Three years ago, while the rest of Orange County was heralding the marriage of its most prominent entertainment and sports institutions as a match made in heaven, we were warning otherwise. While everybody was wishing on the star of Disney's long tradition, we were turning over the rock that the Angels have lived under for decades. While everybody was assuming the world's most successful entertainment conglomerate would confer instant salvation on one of professional sports' most obviously cursed teams, we were predicting the opposite.

In the Weekly's cover story on April 26, 1996—three weeks before Disney and the city of Anaheim agreed on the terms of a deal that would make the Angels part of the Magic Kingdom—we said:

"If there is a force capable of destroying the Disney mystique, it is the negative energy that hovers over the Angels like a horribly inappropriate halo. . . . Squeezing Disney and the Angels into the same lane does not herald a merger . . . It sets up a high-speed, head-on collision. . . . Somebody's going to get hurt. History says it's going to be the Angels. Karma suggests Disney has earned a major-league comeuppance, the likes of which only our Angels can deliver."

And so it has come to pass. Disney was riding a 12-year winning streak when it purchased the Angels in 1996, a dozen years in which its profits increased by more than 20 percent annually. That trend continued while Disney's financial experts and entertainment Imagineers poured money and creativity into a new "Anaheim" name, new "Flying A" logo, new "periwinkle-based" colors and a remodeled stadium—not to mention Mo Vaughn, a hulking $80 million free-agent first baseman who was billed as the missing piece to the team's World Series puzzle.

It all seemed to be a tribute to the Disney magic. But it was actually just a dramatic device in the Angels' black comedy. By the time Vaughn severely sprained his ankle—and that was in the first inning of the first game of the season—Disney's act was already playing for the cruel laughs. Its stock price has continued to tumble, from a high of 4217/64 in April 1998 to last Friday's close of 273/16—which was up a couple of ticks on news that OC technology billionaire Henry T. Nicholas III had been approached by Disney about investing in the Angels.

Meanwhile, the Angels have been a disaster on the field. Beset by bizarre injuries, internal strife, underachievement—in other words, all their usual traditions—they have been in free fall since July, not even going through the motions of competing. And, again, that's exactly as we predicted:

"Disney's financial resources, marketing expertise and business savvy represent an opportunity for the team to improve. Experience suggests the Angels are more likely to respond by finding ever more inventive excuses for falling short. . . . It's always been impossible to throw a party with the Angels around. They've never stood on the Happiest Place on Earth."

This isn't all bad, and we suggested that back then, too. By feeding Disney even a spoonful of humble pie, "the Angels tradition [has] finally served a higher purpose."

 
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