Albert Pujols signed a 10-year contract back in 2011 with Los Angeles Angels. For many who follow baseball, that felt like overpaying, but also an excessively long contract. Could he ever deliver on such a contract? However, Pujols wasn’t alone, he joined others with long contracts such as Ryan Howard, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. The truth is that these long term deals are often a disaster for the teams who accept them and the Albert Pujols story is a perfect example of this.
Cautionary Tale of Albert Pujols and Los Angeles Angels
Sure, Pujols is still crushing home runs, he will likely hit 30 homers and drive in 100 RBI’s this year. That isn’t terrible by the standard of most players, but Pujols was once deemed the best player in all of baseball. Someone who consistently hit around or above .300, a perennial triple crown threat. He has been a talented player for the Angels, but he has not won a single advanced postseason series with the team since he arrived. They have also failed to make the playoffs all except one year.
Albert Pujols the St. Louis Cardinal.
Pujils arrived in the majors in 2001 as a Cardinal. He was moved around the bases defensively, but it was clear he would take over for Mark McGwire at first base, a player who was just starting to feel the heat about his PED use at the very end of his playing career. Pujols would become a Cardinal favorite and with good reason. He was the 2001 National League Rookie of the Year and a nine-time All Star, NL MVP (2005, 2008 and 2009). Of course, the two World Championships in 2006 and 2011. Pujols as of now is a surefire hall of famer. However, after all of that winning with St. Louis, he moved his talents to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to try and repeat that success. The Angels gave maybe the most talented baseball player in the game at age 31 a 10 year, 240 Million dollar contract which ends in 2021.
Pujols Moves From the Midwest to West Coast.
It’s been a bit troublesome from the start of the Pujols story with the Angels. After a slow start, Pujols finished with 30 homers, driving in 105 RBIs, but his average dropped to .285 overall. This is solid for most people, but it was his worst year in average, OPS, Slugging, and OBP in his entire career by far. Plus, the team didn’t even reach the World Series that year. This trend continued for the next couple of seasons. Pujols battled injury and decreasing numbers, the team also struggled. If it did make the playoffs, they never advanced far. Again, that is not all Pujols, but he unable to push the Angels over the edge to postseason victory.
Last year, Pujols slugged 40 home runs, he made the All-Star team. Even drove in 95 RBI’s, but the team failed in its late run to the postseason. This season is more of the same, he doesn’t have the consistency to take over a game. He is still talented, but because of age he no longer the man to lead this team into glory. He has become just another cog in what could be a talented team. The window is closing on Pujols’s career and I think all teams need to pay attention to that. He will be playing four more seasons under this contract unless the Angels tell him to go home. You can’t expect him to hit better next year than he is now. He may still be somewhat productive by 2021, but that would be his 20th season in the league.
The Future of Pujols and the MLB Landscape
With players like David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez retiring, the biggest names of the steroid era will leave the game. Pujols, who has long been a student of the game and how to properly fuel his body has had his whispers, but his performance feels natural. Back when PEDs were prevalent, it would be common to see a player go into their later 30’s and early 40’s and at times be at their peak performance. That is unnatural, the reality is that one in their mid-30’s, players can still be quality players, but their prime is over. Pujols feels like a once great player who is now in the downside of his career. Meanwhile his massive contract will loom like a dark cloud over the Angels for another few years. Let it be a lesson to all teams, any extensive contract to a player above the age of 28 is a gamble. Be careful what you put your stock in. Because if one of the greatest players of all time can start to sag, think what will happen to others.
Pujols’s time is running down, but he still has enough to offer the Angels. If they can fix their pitching and solidfy the lineup again, maybe a championship is possible, but time is certainly is running out.