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The Albert Pujols deal should pay off immediately

With increased ticket and merchandise sales, Angels will recoup much of the $254-million contract. And winning would help too.

December 09, 2011|By Jim Peltz
  • Albert Pujols jerseys sold out quickly at the Angel Stadium team store on Thursday. Increased jersey sales are a small part of the potential revenue spike Pujols' signing could bring to the team.
Albert Pujols jerseys sold out quickly at the Angel Stadium team store on… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Within hours of the Angels acquiring slugger Albert Pujols, the odds of the team winning the World Series next year dipped from 22-to-1 to 12-1 on the betting website Bodog.com.

But even if having one of the game's great hitters in the lineup does not translate into a championship in Anaheim in 2012 — and history indicates there's a good chance it won't — the blockbuster deal still could pay dividends despite its whopping $254-million price tag, analysts said.

The Angels reported Friday afternoon that they had sold about 1,000 season-ticket packages and additionally had taken more than 500 on-line orders for season-ticket packages since Thursday's signings of Pujols and free-agent pitcher C.J. Wilson.

Photos: Albert Pujols through the years

Sports business experts said that kind of spike would be expected, along with a boost in merchandise sales. Attendance and concession income should also rise, they predicted, and show sustained strength if Pujols, 31, stays in the lineup and is productive over a number of years.

"You're talking about billboards, TV spots, attendance, jersey sales," said Ben Sturner, chief executive of Leverage Agency, a New York-based sports and entertainment marketing firm.

In the Southern California market, "Pujols is a competitor with [the Lakers'] Kobe Bryant and [the Clippers'] Blake Griffin; he's right up there," Sturner said.

Already the value of the Angels franchise has surely risen with Pujols' arrival and the news that the team has reached a new television deal with Fox Sports worth at least $3 billion. The new agreement dwarfs the $50 million per year the Angels currently take in from Fox. The additional income will help pay Pujols' contract, which is second in baseball history behind only Alex Rodriguez's $275-million deal with the New York Yankees.

Early this year, Forbes magazine's annual list placed the Angels' value at $554 million, ninth highest in Major League Baseball.

Pujols also should help Angels owner Arte Moreno's goal of grabbing the attention of more Southern California baseball fans from the ailing Dodgers, who are up for sale and don't have the deep pockets to pay for the game's most expensive free agents, said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.

"In many ways I see this signing [of Pujols] as an aggressive attempt to keep winning market share in a valuable market that has a distressed competitor," Swangard said. "You want a championship, but your bread-and-butter business is still your local revenue stream."

Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters Thursday, "winning breeds interest," and analysts said fans will expect the Angels to be championship contenders.

"Fans are not patient forever unless they starting winning," Sturner said.

Many bombshell acquisitions have not immediately translated into titles.

After infielder Rodriguez signed what was then a record $252-million, 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers in 2000, the Rangers' attendance initially rose but then fell back while the team struggled.

Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees in 2004, opted out of the final three years of his prior contract in 2007, and then signed an even richer deal. The Yankees won the World Series once since his arrival, in 2009.

The Minnesota Twins didn't win the World Series, or even reach the playoffs, this year after catcher Joe Mauer signed an eight-year, $184-million contract extension.

In basketball, the Miami Heat spent more than $325 million on six-year contracts for All-Stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh before the 2010-11 season, but the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the championship series in June.

How much the Galaxy's signing of David Beckham five years ago helped boost the popularity of Major League Soccer is still being debated, although MLS and the Galaxy said he has helped lift attendance and the value of TV rights, among other things. And the Galaxy won the MLS Cup last month.

As for the Angels, who were 86-76 last season and finished second in the American League West, 10 games behind the Rangers, Pujols' arrival will spark "an immediate tick up" in early-season ticket sales and TV ratings "no matter how they perform," said A.J. Maestas, president of Navigate Research, a sports and entertainment marketing firm in Chicago.

But Maestas cautioned that while such huge, long-term contracts send a bolt of excitement through the team's community, they often don't pay off unless the player helps improve the club's playing record, and finances, for an extended period.

The Pujols effect, Maestas predicted, "will be measurable, but not large until [the Angels] start winning regularly over a number of years and noticeably above their past performance."

Full coverage: Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson sign with Angels

james.peltz@latimes.com

Staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.

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