Albert Pujols and big contracts – Are owners rockin’ the ganja?

28 Dec

I love to watch Albert Pujols play just as much as the next person, but is it possible I’m the only one that thinks his new contract is flat out batshit crazy? Is there reason enough to believe, evidenced by said deal, that Arte Moreno is rockin’ the ganja? This isn’t another pointless rant about high salaries, owners that make no sense or how the game used to be. I am all for players getting what they can – and Albert would be nuts to turn down the bank he just jacked. What I am against is players getting those big deals when they make little sense.

I don’t think there is a better hitter in the game than Pujols. Not for power or average or the intimidation factor he carries when he steps into the box. Albert is the complete package. Albert plays the field well. He’s not great defensively, and let’s not kid ourselves about that – but who cares? he is the best offensive weapon in baseball. That is what he is paid for. Ozzie Smith was the best defensive infielder I ever saw. Gary Maddox or maybe Paul Blair was the best defensive outfielder I ever saw. If they were playing today, neither would get Albert money because defense is secondary in today’s game. Ladies love the long ball.

The thing is, when I look at Albert he is 31. A 10 year deal carries him until he is 41. Players do not tend to peak in this portion of their career – no matter how naturally great they are. Pujols may have 3, likely 4 strong seasons in him before the inevitable slide begins. How bad that slide is going to be is anyone’s guess. He may taper off slowly. he may start a slow taper and then just crash. Speculation is a part of the game, but there is no speculation in that fact. Players age and their skills declines. It’s why they retire. How does a guy that has been as cheap as Arte has been give such a sweetheart deal to Pujols who we know is on the downward arc side of his career?

It’s the A-Rod principle. What he is being locked in for now may be a bargain in 5 years or possibly ten even with his reduced production. What Albert can offer a team in terms of merchandising, ticket sales, various transmission rights and assorted other cash grabbing vehicles is huge. Albert signed and the Angels suddenly became a popular ticket. that is fact. Albert signed and demand for his Angels jersey was more than was expected. that is a fact. When it comes time for Arte to negotiate radio broadcast rights etc.. Albert means more money. Period. It is the same logic used to legitimize the A-Rod signing – except he turned out to be a roided up fraud that is a 120 game player at best.

The value a player has to a team is not limited to what they do on the field. it may be driven by that, but merchandising is key. A player like Albert allows an owner like Arte to Always Be Converting. The question is whether Arte can convert Albert enough to make the deal fiscally responsible. The answer to that is no. The Yankees who have the biggest platform in the sporting world could not make a pre-flop A-Rod a fiscally sound investment in the way Arte Will need to do with Albert. The Yankees can absorb tens of millions of dollars of losses on contracts every year and not bat an eye. Arte can do that three or four years before he is screwed. As rich as Arte is, he doesn’t have Steinbrenner family money. From that standpoint, it makes no sense.

It makes no sense because now that the deal is inked, Albert has nowhere else to go. Moreno will never be able to trade Pujols without eating a huge portion of that guaranteed money. Ask Tom Hicks about how hard it actually was to trade A-Rod at the top of his game with the same basic deal Pujols has now – and A-Rod was younger than Albert is now. Hicks had to eat what amounted to 1/3 of that deal to move A-Rod – about $8 million/year to NOT play for the Rangers. Pujols would present the same problem. Factor in that Pujols is now proving to be more susceptible to injury and it is a tougher sell. Everyone has injuries at some point, but Albert is having those chronic nagging type of issues pop up. That is scary.

What about history? A-Rod got a big chunk of money on his last deal based on breaking the career home run record – assuming he can still do it. With 134 to go, it seems like he’ll make it and fans will fill the seats to watch it happen, but what about Albert? What will his history based draws be? Albert needs under 1,00 hits to reach 3,000, so that seems like a lock. As awesome as that is, it’s doubtful it will put butts in the seats weeks on end to work up to it or peel panties of the fannies of female fans. it’s a massive achievement, it’s just a kinda boring one.If he reaches 4,000, that will be worth watching!

He needs 318 homers to reach the current career record. I never say never, but how about saying highly unlikely? If he can continue to average 42 homers a season for the next 10 years – no problemo! The thing is, he won’t. Even averaging 32 per year is a stretch. he will have to retain his power, his eye, stay healthy enough to play 140 games plus every year and be lucky on top of all that. It always takes a little luck.

Pujols and A-Rod are different types of players and people – no argument. What you need to look at though is that A-Rod was about 32 when health issues began popping up – like Albert, he played through them. The next year, he missed 20 games more than his average rest for a season. by the time he hit 36, he was in under a 100 games and the goal is to just manage to get his bat in 120 games a season somehow – likely by DH’ing 30 or 40 of those appearances. I bring this up because only a few years ago, the idea that A-Rod would go down like Griffey Jr. did was unthinkable. We say it is unthinkable for the same thing to happen to Albert, but is it really? 5 years ago, A-Rod hit 54 homers. Each of the following three seasons he hit 30 or more. Last year he dropped to 16. Time takes a toll on everyone – no exceptions. Except for Barry Bonds…and Roger Clemens.

I’m happy for Pujols to get paid. I’m happy to see Moreno spend money. I’m happy to see Texas had an “oh shit!” moment when Albert went to their main division rival. it’s good for baseball. Based on what other guys are making and ho they are performing, Albert is worth the money. But let’s be real – as good as Albert is, over the lifetime of the deal, it is a loser for Moreno and the Angels and it is going to cost them dearly. They better win now, because with that deal hanging over them, winning later is a slim option.

 

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