The moment Albert Pujols signed on the dotted line, his 10-year, $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim became the most expensive mistake by any team in Major League history. The fact that Pujols is about to finish up the worst April of his career with no home runs and only 4 RBI highlights what a foolish and horrendous deal the Angels have shackled themselves to for the next decade. I’m not afraid to throw around the term ‘bust’ in this case and I’m not just piling on with other pundits who are currently crucifying the archAngel. I pointed out owner Arte Moreno‘s folly in my 2012 Predictions a month ago.
No statement could have been more self-evident than when the Angels first baseman told reporters: “I don’t try to hit home runs” this past weekend in Cleveland. Well Albert, you might want to start thinking about trying. While it’s ridiculous to think he’ll remain on pace for 29 RBI and bat .216 for the season, a severe decline in his production should be a surprise to no one.
Pujols has strung together arguably the greatest 11 seasons ever with a career average of .327 with 42 home runs and 125 RBI per year. But the 32-year old’s (if that’s truly his age) numbers have been declining for the last two years. It’s probably unfair to accuse him of lying about his age, but it certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented. Record keeping in his native Dominican Republic could hardly be described as meticulous. We only have to look to this past off-season with the Fausto Carmona, a.k.a. Roberto Hernández fiasco. Age and identity fraud has been rampant for decades in the D.R. as there’s obviously tremendous incentive for a prospect to shave off a couple years when signing his first deal with a major league club.
Even if Pujols truly is 32 and doesn’t drop a Lionel Hutz on the world (“Say hello to Miguel Sanchez!!!”), to hand a deal like that to anyone that age is asking for disaster. It has been proven time after time that players begin to decline in the early 30s. As stated above, we’ve already seen that decline begin with Pujols over his last two years in St. Louis. While I’m certainly no fan of the Cardinals, I have to admire their decision to cut ties with their demigod, knowing they got the best years out of him. The Angels have made the same mistake the Cubs have time after time—paying for past performance rather than future returns.
Even if he turns things around in a major way this year, to think that he will be putting up numbers worthy of an average of $24 million per year even for the next two or three years is optimistic at best. But it is certain that the shadow of his former self we’ll be forced to watch as he creeps into his 40s will be a sad commentary on the short-sighted hubris of baseball owners in the early 2010s.
Thank God I’m not an Angels fan.