On Pujols

I should admit upfront that I am a bit of an Albert Pujols fanboy. Maybe it’s because we are the same “age”. Maybe it’s because I’ve never lost a fantasy baseball league where I had him on my team. Maybe it’s because I called that moon shot he hit off Brad Lidge in the playoffs a few years back. I don’t know. But he has been my favorite non-Giants/non-Red Sox player for years now.

Since I’ve moved to Boston I have actually met a number of people from the midwest. Far more than I ever knew in California. Which means I’ve met some Cardinals fans. The response to Pujols-to-the-Angels has been somewhat surprising. A little sadness but a whole lot of relief. As in, “I’m so glad we didn’t forfeit our future just to keep El Hombre around.” And I understand that…Cardinals fans look at Pujols and see the next A-Rod, but know the team has much less ability to absorb a bad contract when compared to the Yankees. They knew keeping Pujols meant seeing a lot of good young talent walk away over the next ten years. I get it.

But I also get the Angels. The Angels have been taken to task by the national media over the past few years for all of the free agents they have not signed. Especially last year when they were supposed to get Carl Crawford and/or Adrian Beltre (and before them it was Konerko, Sabathia, Texeria, etc). Everyone thought: “They play in a huge market, make money, won a World Series, and a have an owner willing to spend, why do they keep chickening out at the last-minute.”

Because Pujols. Now, I’m sure they have not been sitting around for the past 3-4 years with a plan to grab Albert when he hit the market, but he did, and because they had passed on some of these other guys they were ready for it.

seriously, who would you rather have for the next 7 years? Carl Crawford, Mark Texeria, Alex Rodriguez, or Albert Pujols? No brainer.

Because here’s the deal. Pujols is a once of a lifetime opportunity. My apologies to the Prince Fielder’s of the world, but this guy is the best player of this free agent class, of the past 5 years, and of this generation. He will slow down a bit, but barring a catastrophic injury, Pujols is going to hit 700 home runs. He is going to be a force at age 40. He is going to guarantee they have a good offense every year for the next 10 years. There are not enough superlatives.

Now, I am not as cynical as I once was, and so if the Giants don’t win the 2010 WS I probably don’t look back on the Bonds’ years the same way, but I’ve lived the reality of having a once-a-generation player as the heart of the team. The Giants had a chance in 1993, ’97, ’98, 2000, ’01, ’02, ’03, and ’04. Yes, it didn’t happen to any of those teams, but as we all know, it could have. How are the 2010 Giants really all that better than the 2000, or the 2002 versions? Pujols himself has won two rings with teams no one thought had a chance, and has lost with teams that were juggernauts (2004, 2005).

Bottom Line: when a player like Pujols comes along, you go all in and you see what happens. No guarantees, but the Angels will be competitive, interesting, and relevant for a decade. Done.

So, while I get all the arguments for letting him go, I don’t fault the Angels for opening the bank vault and rolling out the red carpet. It’ll be interesting to see how we think about this 10 years from now, but I can tell you this, having lived through Bonds, you WILL enjoy every minute of it Angels fans. You will.

(-SB)

Games 3&4…

…Or a short treatise on greatness. Albert Pujols is great. He’s already proven that. He doesn’t need to do anything in this post-season to prove that. In fact, post-season greatness really doesn’t reflect who is actually a great baseball player. (I ran into a Phillies fan just after they got bumped by the Cards and he is still more upset about Cody Ross than this year’s playoff bounce). All that to say, just because you succeed in the post-season, it doesn’t make you a great player.

But Albert Pujols is great and there is something special about a great player having a great night on baseball’s largest stage.

I’ve always had a strange connection with Pujols (I think because we born in the same year and because I have never lost a fantasy season in which I drafted him). And even though I kind of want the Rangers to win this series, I always love watching the guy and root for him except for when he is playing the Giants.

Derek Holland is not great. At least not yet. We might be seeing the birth of a star. We might not. He had a horrible WS last year, so good for him, having the night of his life last night. Again, this is baseball: one night its greatest player has the greatest night ever. The next night he gets shut down by a guy who looks like this:

Baseball. Got to love it. Three more games please.

(-SB)

Game 2

Baseball is such a humbling sport. Yesterday all the World Series analysis focused on the wizrdry of Tony LaRussa and how his cagey wisdom and guttiness allowed to pull all the right strings to help his team win. Now he’s a bum. Well, maybe not a bum, but no other job in sports is as second guessed or as misjudged as the baseball manager. We almost always over (and/or under) estimate how important the manager really is.

Then there’s the Pujols situation. The greatest player of his generation is a huge goat today. Baseball is the best sport at making even its best practitioners look horrible in small sample sizes. Plus the skipping out on the media thing doesn’t look good.

Also, there’s been some pitching in this series, which is a welcomed development. The bottom line is these teams are incredibly evenly matched. 90ish win teams with good, not great starters, the ability to hit some home runs and score, and bullpens that have a lot of options. What’s the X factor? Is it the managers? Is it the stars? Is it Allen Craig? I say whoever can get two more quality turns out of its starters takes this series, which is going to go seven. That’s about all I am convinced of so far.

(-SB)

Fat Albert

People don’t always earn the money they make. Here is an example. I work for Best Buy. I’d say I work my sorry carcass off. I put in 50 to 60 hours a week and come home drained. During the Super Bowl we ran an ad featuring Ozzy and Beiber. In that 30 second ad, those guys probably made more than I will make in 10 years COMBINED. Discouraging? Um, yep!

I have thought about this a lot during the last couple of weeks and the latest Albert Pujols contract talks have got me thinking about the money that players earn. Now I am well aware that they make this much because it is a percentage of the revenue and teams can afford to pay it. I’m also not here to whine about how much they make, but I think this contract negotiation could be huge for the trends of those salaries.

I don’t think there is any debate, or at least any sane debate, that Albert is the best player in baseball. If I’m running a team and could pick any guy for the next 5 to 7 years I would take him every time. I think the tricky part of Pujols’ contract extension is what to pay him.

Ok, obvious, but it’s still pretty tricky. Why? The Yankees have set a precedent over the last few years to way over pay players. Last year 4 out of the 5 top paid players were on the Yankees (A-rod, CC, Jeter, Teixeira). I would want Pujols over all of those guys and so would any team or GM.  Because of their enormous salaries, NO offer for Pujols should be below what A-Rod makes.  Fair or unfair, ridiculous or not, Pujols has earned that kind of money.

These contract talks are so interesting because St. Louis can’t afford to pay him 30MM over 10 years.  That is a third of their annual payroll. I’m not sure any team is going to be able to pay him that much. So, will he take less than that?  Will any team offer more?  I’m not sure they will. If they don’t, I believe salaries in baseball may have reached their cap.

This could have a serious ripple effect throughout baseball. And this becomes huge when the Giants try to sign the likes of Cain and Lincecum.  As the system is right now, they would have every right to ask for 20+ million because of the contracts given to Zito, Santana or Sabathia. However, the Pujols contract talks could play into this big time. Although salaries will remain exorbitant, perhaps this will help keep things in check for a while.

Or not. Now that I have written this into the web, St. Louis will probably offer him 35 million for 15 years.

(-JS)