Monday, February 14, 2011

Albert Pujols

Tom Verducci makes some excellent points in discussing Albert Pujols.
The biggest obstacle between Albert Pujols and a contract extension with the Cardinals is age -- and more specifically, what clubs know about how players age in the Testing Era. Pujols will play next season at 32, so an Alex Rodriguez-styled 10-year deal would pay him boatloads of money through his age 41 season. Look around baseball: The days of the superstar player in his late 30s are over.
While I agree in general with Verducci's thinking I also think there's something fundamentally wrong with a comparison that in any way lumps Albert Pujols in with Raul Ibanez.

The real comparisons to Albert Pujols are some of the hitting greats of history. If you look at OPS+ (which is perhaps the best stat to use when comparing players from different points in time) you find that great hitters also pretty much also had great longevity. Babe Ruth played until he was 40; Ted Williams until he was 41, Barry Bonds until he was 42, Lou Gehrig until he was 36, Rogers Hornsby until he was 41, Mickey Mantle until he was 36 and Ty Cobb until he was 41.

I think you can toss out Barry Bonds for obvious reasons and I'm hoping that Albert Pujols doesn't develop Lou Gehrig's disease which cut down the Yankee great in his prime. That leaves Mickey Mantle among Pujols' compatibles in OPS+ who did not play until at least 40 years old. Obviously Mantle playing the outfield with bad knees pretty much ended his career but Pujols is a first baseman which is much less demanding. And I'm guessing that Pujols doesn't have some of Mantle's self-destructing tendencies.

What I'd suggest is a 10-year deal starting this season (rip up the 2011 agreement) which would pay Pujols $30 million per year. That gets Pujols to 40-years old still in a Cardinals uniform. The two sides could even work out a deferment schedule that makes the contract less onerous.

Keep in mind that Stan Musial played for St. Louis until he was 42. I think Albert Pujols has much more in common with Stan the Man than Raul Ibanez.

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