Prince Albert Does Not Belong in Royal Blue
Talking about Albert Pujols is like treading on sacred ground, so I’m going to avoid the other thoughts that come to mind when you think of the Cardinals slugger – thoughts about his Christian image, his approach to contract negotiations, how his numbers just seem too good to not be steriod aided, etc.
Instead I’ll limit my commentary to this: Pujols belongs in St. Louis for the remainder of his career, and he definitely does NOT belong in Kansas City.
There have been ruminations that KC might be a good spot for Pujols to land. The reasons for such speculation? 1) He’s sort of a native of the city (he graduated from Fort Osage High School in 1998 after moving there from New York in 1996), 2) the Royals have lots of money to spend, having just cut Gil Meche and Zack Greinke off the books and chronically under-spending, and 3) the thought that Pujols could anchor a lineup of budding young stars.
Now I don’t speak for all Royals fans, but I for one feel this would be a disastrous idea for everyone involved. I am under no such delusion that the Royals are about to start spending money willy-nilly, but for the sake of argument, I say Prince Albert has no business wearing the Royal Blue. My reasoning may not be compelling to a big league GM, but here’s my case:
1) Pujols, who turned 31 in January, is about to experience a natural decline in production. There are many studies out there that clearly indicate that beyond the age of 30, the average baseball player’s production declines rapidly. You can search for your own results, but one such study put it this way:
The age curve in general suggests that overall offensive performance peaks at a young age. Very few individuals have a peak age of more than 32 (only 8 out of the top 50 offensive players)… the peak age for home run hitting was 29 and the peak age for batting was 27. It seems that in terms of offensive player performance, any benefit gained by experience is offset by the deteriorating effects of age. (Michael R. Smith, Brigham Young University, 2006)
The only player of the top 100 studied by Smith that defied this curve to a significant degree was, you guessed it, Barry Bonds. Bonds’ arc continued upwards into his late 30s while everyone else declined. Wonder why?
Pujols is by no means average. He’s one of the greatest of all time. But he’s also proclaimed to be steroid-free. If that’s true, one would assume his career will follow the trend of Ruth, Gehrig, Musial, Williams, and every other elite slugger you care to study. If he follows the trend of Bonds… well then, you draw your own conclusion.
2) I don’t want to stir up rumors, but there is unfortunately a bit of uncertainty about Pujols’ true age. Those who saw him play in his amateur days complained that he just looked too mature physically to be a high schooler. That has been an issue with natives of the Dominican Republic. Not to stir the pot to much, but here’s a quote from the Independence Examiner’s Bill Althaus from 2001, before Pujols debuted in St. Louis:
The first time I saw Albert Pujols, I thought to myself, ‘What’s that man doing out there with those kids?’ . . . He had a Mark McGwire body, and he was a junior in high school. When he hit the ball, it made a sound that high school players aren’t supposed to make.
If Pujols isn’t truly 31 it doesn’t make him a bad person. But based on the age/decline projections, it might make him a bad investment.
3) Eric Hosmer. Billy Butler. Kila Ka’aihue. The Royals have a budding superstar, an established big league hitter, and a youngster with potential, all jockying for the first base job. The Royals have no need to spend $30 million a year on a first baseman/DH when they have so many other needs.
4) My favorite reason of all, and I’m not even a Cardinals fan: it would be nice if the greatest player of the current era spent his entire career in one city. I grew up in the days when you looked at the back of a baseball card and saw that great players played for one team their entire career. Or at least it seemed they did. It is a true pleasure to look back on George Brett’s career and not have to remember seeing him bat .220 in a Florida Marlins uniform. He was loyal to one team, they were loyal to him, and he knew when to walk away.
I can only imagine that Cardinals fans would like to say the same about Pujols. He’s been great for the city of St. Louis, and St. Louis has been great for him. For the sake of the great game of baseball, I hope he stays.
I also hope another I-70 Series is just a couple of years away, and that when it happens, manning first base for the Cardinals is none other than Prince Albert.
One thought on “Prince Albert Does Not Belong in Royal Blue”
Reasons 1 and 2 are reasons for nobody to sign him to a large contract. Only 3 is relevant to the Royals, and 4 is what some fans (including me) would like to see, more players playing their entire career with a single team.