Not that he needed an advertisement, but last night there was a brief period of time when Albert Pujols wife had declared this coming season the last of his illustrious career. She went out of her way to walk back later as this is how these things tend to go.
But this is the easiest 2 + 2 in baseball. Pujols is 41 years old and this is the last year of that gigantic 10-year contract he signed with Anaheim / Los Angeles. It’s been five years since Pujols was a decent hitter, and nine since he was a star. It’s hard to imagine any team offering you much in 2022. Perhaps a minor league contract and an invitation to spring training, but that’s the best you can hope for if you want to keep playing.
It’s hard for many baseball fans to remember that Pujols was the most feared hitter in the game for a decade. This is the product of modern sports these days, where players become more known for their contract than what they did on the field, especially if they go to the bathroom long before the deal ends. It really can’t be helped, even in a sport like baseball that supposedly doesn’t have a salary cap. Pujols’ contract kept the Angels from doing much in recent years, such as finding a real ace or letting Shohei Ohtani be a full-time designated hitter or the massive amounts of shuffling they had to do when Pujols could no longer play at the field. (which was practically upon arrival). But it’s not like Pujols is going to walk away from the rest of this contract. He’s still paying you $ 30 million this year. And he certainly didn’t force the Angels to offer him that contract. Work pays what it pays.
It’s pretty confusing to remember the seasons when Pujols hit .330 along with 40 homers and yet struck out less than 10 percent of his AB. He felt like he could get to base whenever he wanted, and he probably could have if he didn’t have to hit for power, which he did regularly.
What fans can remember most about Pujols’ heyday is that he never seemed cheated, never unbalanced. He never reached for a pitch, was never in front, and his lunge swing always seemed perfectly balanced and weighted between both legs. It was as if he knew. Probably because he did. I know from experience, too many afternoons watching him hit the Cubs mercilessly, that the ball sounded different from his bat than any other player. It was a thud. Not a creak, but a thud. The sound of a pitch actually dying on his bat.
Pujols was also one of the smartest players in the world – he stole bases at the exact moment pitchers were falling asleep on him and he was the most annoying thing in the world. I almost needed points when, unsurprisingly, he did it regularly against Carlos Marmol to lead to another failed save for the Great Red Enemy. He was also more than an acceptable first baseman when he finally landed there after his stints at third and left.
He’s a Hall of Famer on the first ballot, though it’s hard to think of another player in the Hall who spent the better part of a decade to the detriment of his team. Willie Mays as Met is always used as a symbol or metaphor, but he was only there for two years and got a 158 OPS + at 40. It was a long, hard slump, that’s for sure.
The second act of Pujols is the ghost story / bogeyman that every DJ tells when they were kids, and why almost everyone is terrified of handing over a contract to someone over 30.
Take care of your budget or The Pujols will cost you your job.
His first act deserves more than that, but it is.
As expected, the president of the Mariners Kevin Mather had to fall on his sword yesterday after saying all the quiet parts out loud at a rotating club meeting. There was no other way this was going to end, although the speed of it is a little surprise.
It’s still comical to hear Mariners president John Stanton claim that Mather’s comments don’t “represent our organization’s feelings about the players, the staff, and the fans,” when he was, you know, the president and was establishing the organization’s policy. Had he gone completely rebellious, it would have been a different story. At least when it comes to keeping prospects down and not starting contract clocks, we know that’s what most teams want to do. We know that television deals have kept them afloat during the pandemic.
The Mariners will hope that Mather’s resignation is enough for everyone, and that the new kid has good sense not to spread the team’s secret files. Will there be any institutional change? You can forget that. This is how baseball is run now. You’re not supposed to draw attention to that.