OK, I’m not quite ready to put “Prince Albert” in the can with Carl Crawford as a big contract – big bust acquisition, but after getting off to the worst start in their 46-year history, fans in Anaheim are definitely wondering what the hell is going on…….and so am I.  In fact, I still don’t understand why Albert Pujols even said goodbye to the St. Louis Cardinals after 11 years of incredible success and mutual admiration with the hometown fans and management.  Why would someone leave a city that he owned and a team that he lead to greatness?……oh yeah, about $20M.  It’s NEVER about the money though (wink, wink)!

 

Already at a career-worst of 31 games and 125 at-bats since his last home run (Sept. 22, 2011) and hitting a miniscule .208, Pujols is also irritated with Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher for telling the media how he stood up in a recent team meeting and said, “my slump will NOT continue”.  Hatcher meant it as a sign of his determination, but “The Machine” immediately went on the defense.  The pressure is on, everybody is getting a little edgy, and if you watch any Angel games you can clearly see the bewilderment in Pujols’ eyes.  He’s pressing big-time and probably trying too hard right now……just like Crawford did before he went on the shelf and became totally useless after his disastrous inaugural season for the Red Sox last year.  At least Crawford stayed in the same League, and unless Pujols is auditioning for a future DH role, it’s hard to understand why he would leave his National League comfort zone and have to learn about a brand new set of pitchers and ballparks at this point in his career.  Still, nobody expected this kind of unconscionable start for the 2-time World Series champion, 9-time All-Star, 3-time NL MVP, 2-time Golden Glover, 6-time Silver Slugger, NL Rookie-of-the Year (2001), and former NL Batting Champ (2003).

 

Albert Pujols has been a model of consistency throughout his entire career and is generally regarded as the greatest player in the game today.  Besides Jimmy Foxx and A-Rod, he’s the only player in history to have had 10 consecutive years of 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.  In last year’s World Series, he joined Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players ever to hit THREE home runs in a WS game.  But why any MLB team would give a 32-year old, even an Albert Pujols, a 10-year contract of epic proportions is mind-blowing.  Yes, he could probably help sell more tickets and perhaps bring another World Championship, but even the Cardinals back-loaded their incentive-based final contract offer.  Business is business as they say.  Pujols has been physically breaking down in recent years, and he’s also had to deal with increasing rumors of steroid use which we all hope (and believe) are totally unfounded.  He just has to start producing on the field right NOW!

 

To his defense, Pujols shouldn’t have to take the entire blame for the Angels’ terrible start.  With a team batting average of .236 (next to last in AL) and a $154.5M team payroll (4th highest in MLB), guys like Vernon Wells ($24.1M/yr), Torii Hunter ($18.5M/yr), and Bobby Abreu ($9M/yr) have to pick-up the load too.  Abreu has already been released for his lack of performance.   It’s certainly early, but the BIG question remains unanswered…….has Cardinals GM John Mozeliak pulled off one of the greatest and timeliest superstar salary dumps of all-time (oh by the way, without skipping a beat, the Cardinals currently sit atop the NL Central without Albert), or will Albert Pujols prove to the Angels (and Cardinals) that he’s still the best player in MLB and worthy of the best contract?  You also have to wonder if Nationals phenom Bryce Harper will hit his first MLB homer before Albert Pujols hits his 446th.       

 

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