PHOENIX — The Los Angeles market is star-driven, at least according to conventional wisdom. In Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, the Angels have three of the biggest stars in baseball.
Yet the Angels' season-ticket sales are down — by more than 20% since 2012, by about 40% since a record high in 2006. As it turns out, star power does not attract fans if the team is not winning.
The Angels have not appeared in the postseason since 2009, after winning the American League West in five of the previous six seasons.
"Everybody has the same challenge — basketball, hockey and baseball," said Robert Alvarado, the Angels' vice president of marketing and ticket sales. "We operate our business in an event town. It's not a sports town. Although there is a rabid following for the local teams, the following tends to follow performance. It's always been like that in Southern California.
"We've had a pretty good run over the past decade. We've hit a lull here. The Dodgers just recently came out of one. It will be interesting to see what happens with the Clippers. It will be interesting to see how the Lakers come out of it."
Tickets still are available for the March 31 opener, although Alvarado said he anticipates a sellout.
The Angels expect to sell between 18,000 and 19,000 season tickets, Alvarado said — down from 24,000 two years ago and a record 31,000 in 2006. The Angels sold about 21,000 season tickets last year.
The Dodgers have sold more than 32,000 season tickets this year, with a renewal rate above 98%. Alvarado said the Angels' renewal rate this year is in the "low 80s" but said fans deciding not to renew have not indicated they would get Dodgers tickets. Instead, Alvarado said, those fans are buying tickets to a few Angels games and waiting to see how well the team plays.
"They're canceling their season seats," Alvarado said. "They're not canceling the Angels."
The Angels have sold more than 3 million tickets in each of owner Arte Moreno's 11 seasons. Although that streak appears in jeopardy, Angels President John Carpino said he believed the team again would sell 3 million with a contending team, and with increases in group and individual game sales to offset the drop in season tickets.
Carpino also said the decline in season sales did not restrict the Angels in their winter spending.
"It has not affected our ability to sign any player," he said. "We are fortunate to have an owner who has no debt on the team and is committed to win a world championship every year."
Lighting it up
The Angels' first-team offense played together for the first time this spring and made quite an impression: The varsity lineup played six innings and scored in every one of them, nine runs in all.
The Angels ranked sixth in the American League in runs last season. They expect to do better this season, if they can keep Trout, Pujols and Hamilton out of the training room.
"It's going to be fun," Trout said. "I'll be ready to run. We'll have a lot more opportunities with Albert healthy and Josh healthy. We've got to stay healthy."
The Angels figure to need that high-octane offense, given that three of their five starters — Hector Santiago, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs — have not completed a season in a major league rotation. They are determined to avoid another slow start after a 9-17 April last year and an 8-15 April two years ago.
"We can't do what we did last year," Trout said. "I don't even like talking about it."
ng about it."