After reading all of media reports from professional sports writers, two things seem to remain constant: Albert Pujols is the best baseball player in the galaxy and is worth the highest paying contract in baseball history. After hearing this diatribe over and over again, I felt I had to put pen to paper and do some research. Is Albert good? Yes. Is Albert great? Absolutely. Is Albert the best? Is he worth a 10 year contract worth around $300 million? Let’s see.
Who led MLB in batting average last season? Not Pujols. Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers did at .359. Where was Albert? He hit .312. Who led MLB in slugging last season? Not Pujols. Josh Hamilton did at .633. Pujols sat at .596. Who led the league in on-base percentage last season? Not Big Al. Joey Votto of the Reds was on top at .424. This trend continues when it comes to HR (Batista/TOR), RBI (Cabrera/DET), Walks (Fielder/MIL), Total Bases (CarGo/COL, Batista/TOR) and on down the statistical road.
So, what makes Pujols the best player in the game? It’s obviously not because he leads the big statistical categories from the previous year. But, it’s not just about last year, it’s about the entire Pujols portfolio. It’s his 9 All-Star games and his six Silver Slugger awards. It’s his three MVP trophies (3 runner-ups) and his two Gold Glove awards. Who can argue with that?
Fact is, when you start looking into the overall stats, or take a quick glance at Phat Albert’s baseball reference page, you quickly glean that he is the premier player in the game. His career .331/.426/.624 line is just ridiculous and it’s impossible to appreciate how good he’s been the last 10 years until you sit down and start looking over his numbers. So, that brings us to the next question: Is Pujols worth the money?
Jeff Passan stated in his recent article that the Cardinals reported offer of 19-21 million was “insulting” because it would make Albert the 4th highest paid at his position. While on the surface that makes sense, but when you stop and think about it, it’s off-base. Because the Phillies gave Ryan Howard 20-25mil a year (depending on the year), does that mean Pujols is worth that? Because the Yankees are paying Mark Teixeira an average of 22.5mil a year, does that mean Albert must make more than that? I think I can find a large number of people that will tell you that Ryan Howard isn’t worth Ryan Howard money and the same holds true for Tex.
We need to remember, it’s capitalism at its finest; someone or something is worth only as much as another person or entity is willing to pay. In this situation, the Cardinals are saying that Pujols is not worth 10 years/300 mil or more than the 19-21mil a year they were reportedly offering. One could also argue that the Cards are tacitly saying that Howard/Tex aren’t worth those contracts either.
In this day and age where professional organizations are constantly caving in to the pressures of the players, agents, fans, cities and even the media (see Barry Zito, Jason Werth, Mike Hampton, Vernon Wells, etc.), I commend the Cardinals for putting their proverbial foot down. Pujols, like I said, is great. But, let’s face it, he’s 31. The type of contract he’s reportedly looking for would have been better suited 5 years ago. For an organization to sign a player for 10 years and pay him nearly 30 mil a year into his 40’s is just ludicrous and not a sound business decision. Teams, when in contract negotiations, need to consider what the player CAN do in the future and not just what he HAS done in the past.
For the Cardinals not caving (remember, it’s a business), we’re giving you a Gold Star, especially considering the heat you’re taking (and going to continue to take). As an owner/GM, it is your responsibility to do what’s best for the team. You’ve still got Pujols through this season and can continue to evaluate the situation moving forward. For the record, I don’t fault Pujols, either. He’s got an idea of what he’s worth and he needs to do what he thinks is best for himself and his family. In the end, I’m sure he’s going to land a lucrative long-term deal somewhere and it will likely be in St. Louis. However, in the end, any team that signs him to an 8-10 year contract will be regretting it halfway though.