Pujols–Going, Going…almost…Gone

News came out of LA last week of the immediate release of Albert Pujols. It’s stirred all types of reactions. Let’s take a deep dive and dig out the facts….
…Albert Pujols is in his 10th & final season of his $240m contract. He’s 17 of 86 at the plate—a .198 average. 5 of his 17 hits have been Home Runs. He’s hit into 4 double plays with 13 strikeouts. He’s at the end of the road. And…it’s been a glorious road…but most of the “good years” were in St Louis. He’s only been on the AL All-Star team ONCE in his last 10 years. The 3x NL MVP as a Cardinal isn’t the same player.
…Facing retirement is tough for all professional players. More than likely they’ve played..and excelled.. in baseball since they were a small boy. It’s been their life. In current days, its’ led to a very lucrative career. But….many of us…and almost all performers (yes, MLB players are performers) have a difficult time facing retirement. A quick look through history of the “GREATS” of the MLB are similar.
….the man who “made baseball”, Babe Ruth, walked down the same road. Released by the NYY after the 1934 season @ 39 years of age, Babe was signed by Boston Braves to draw fans (sound familiar). He started with a bang in the first 5 games…hit 2 HR & held a .400 mark . But his age quickly caught up to him. Quickly, his lack of conditioning (which he NEVER did in his career), his age, his slower reflexes took hold. He went almost a month before getting another hit. However, he did have 1 glorious day—May 25, he walloped 3 Home Runs with the final one being an unbelievable moonshot that went over the Forbes Field Roof (a feat that had never been done previously). He played 5 more games, going hitless and then retired without a ceremony.
…the Great Willie Mays enjoyed but also suffered personally in his final year of 1973 playing for the NY Mets. Called by most experts the worst team to reach the World Series, the Mets were 82-79 for the season! The Mets played the Oakland A’s in the World Series. The afternoon Game 2 of the Series was a nightmare for Mays in front of a national audience. Entering the bottom of the 9th, the Mets led 6-4 in a game filled with miscues, weird plays, surprises. In the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs and leading 6-4, the leadoff hit a fly ball to left center. Mays lost it in the sun, then shockingly, fell down chasing down the all so the ball fell for a single. The next 2 batters were retired sooo.. the game should have been over had Mays caught his routine fly. Of course, the A’s rallied for 2 runs to tie game and send it to extra innings. This wild & crazy game moved into the 12th inning. This game was filled with many errors, mental miscues, baserunning goofs & more shoddy play. In the 12th, Mays was on 2B when a ball went through the legs of the A’s 2B and rolled into the outfield. Willie tried scoring from 2nd and again slipped & fell after rounding 3b. He did score but the scene of the once graceful Willie Mays losing fly balls in the sun and falling down on the bases & in the outfield on 3 different plays embarrassed him. For many fans….it was a final, lasting, very, very sad memory of him. Willie retired immediately after game 2.
….How did this all come about so quickly? As often happens, seemingly small incidents set off latent deep feelings that had been brewing, developing for a long time. Maybe so here–When the Angels were due to face Andrew Heaney (TB), Albert expected to be in the starting lineup since he had achieved good success against Heaney in his career. Not in the starting lineup, Albert “lost it”! He ranted and raved at Joe Maddon, told John Carpino & GM Perry Minasian that he wasn’t going to retire and that he didn’t want to spend the rest of the season on the bench. Further, he burnt all bridges when he blasted Maddon’s managerial skills. (according to 2 unnamed sources—who refused to be identified—real men these LA writers) The next day, the Angels released their Angel turned devil—Albert Pujols. (to no one’s surprise)
…now since the Angels released him, they are on the hook for the rest of his huge salary. If any team signs Albert, it’ll be at the league minimum.
….soooo….where does that take him? The Cardinals are the MOST logical team to sign him. Another team thought to be interested was the White Sox because Tony LaRussa, who has strong ties with Pujols is there. But…Tony said this, “We Have Jose Abreu and Yermin Mercedes and even if Yermin gets a little less hot, it’s a good way to maneuver that DH and get other guys off their feet. There’s not a fit here”. That’s a strong NO! Tony knows that the MLB is a business.
….there are many factors..mostly negative about Albert donning the Birds on the Bat again….1b is clearly owned by Paul Goldschmidt; the NL has no DH; Albert can’t play anywhere else. The only positive factor would be to have the outstanding StL fans demonstrate, as they did last summer, their appreciation for his glorious years in the Lou. We’ve heard numerous complaints about Matt Carpenter being on the team this year. Would the Cards, in effect, cut Carp to gain Albert? Frankly, Albert is only a small notch above Carp at this point of his career. Albert is batting .198, 17 hits, 13 strikeouts with an OB% of .250 (lowest of his career). While Carp’s average is an embarrassing .111, his OB% is higher than Pujols @ .269. According to Fan Graphs—Pujols currently ranked #986 of 1065 MLB players with a WAR mark of -0.5 mark thus far in 2021.
… I must say though…I’ve been extremely lucky to enjoy watching many times, the 2 greatest Cardinal batters (Musial & Pujols) and their greatest pitcher (Gibson). They excelled day in..day out…for long periods of time. When one considers that Stan batted .255 at 42 years of age and finished his 22 year career with an amazing .331 average, its remarkable!
….sooo, here’s another possible solution but I don’t know if Albert will accept it. He doesn’t realize yet that HE doesn’t have the leverage here…or anywhere… for that matter. I’d suggest hiring him for a very limited number of days. From the ownership point of view, they’ll want the ability to draw the maximum number of fans at each game. That would probably mean that the ”Albert“ games would be scheduled later in the year so that the attendance could exceed the current 25,000 level. Here’s some possibilities that fit into this “short term” hire : June 22-June 30 –total of 9 games–2 away games @ Detroit as a DH; followed by a 7 game home stand v Pirates-3 games & D-Backs-4 games. July 16-22 two 3-game home series against Giants & Cubs. Aug 13-25—11 total games– 3 road games @ KC; 8 straight home games (Brewers-3 Pirates-3 Tigers-2) Now while the Aug 13-25 has the most games, what’s Albert going to do between now and then to stay sharp? He doesn’t want to return just to repeatedly strike out. It’s clearly a ceremonial recognition. He’d be used as a Pinch Hitter in the NL games or maybe a start with 1 at-bat limit. In AL games, he could be the DH.
…But the real questions are… for the Cardinals–will he “get in the way” of the Cardinals real goal—winning games!! For Albert—can he accept these showcase roles on a farewell tour?
…Well….my Albert thoughts are going…going..gone…..just like Albert!!! What are your thoughts? Please share!!! You can share by posting on my FB page (Bob Ryan), send to me via email/messenger to post for you. If you enjoy these blogs, please pass the word to other StL sports fans.

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