One homerun, 4 RBIs, and a .128 batting average.
Those were Albert Pujols’ numbers during the first two weeks of this season. Heck, he only had 5 hits. By months end, one of the best hitters the baseball has ever known “rebounded” to hit .257 for the month… a far cry from his then .331 career batting average.
Not exactly the start he or Cardinals fans were hoping for.
May was not much better for Albert, who only put up 2 HRs and 13 RBIs. That’s a total he’s nearly eclipsed already just 11 games into the month of September (2 HRs, 12 RBIs, and a .428 Avg. by the way). And that’s exactly the point.
Albert Pujols is still the man.
Has he had his flaws this year? Absolutely. With 15 games to go, there’s a decent chance he’ll tie or break the National League record for groundball double plays in a single season (32 – Miguel Tejada, Pujols has 29). His current batting average of .298 is well below his previous career low of .312 (’10). He slumped so much that teams started pitching to him late in games with the tying run in scoring position and first base open. His intentional walks, in fact, will likely be the lowest since 2004 (yes, teams still pitched to him in ’04. Crazy, I know).
But despite all that, plus a broken wrist and an overwhelming large contract cloud looming over him, he’s still managed to put up these numbers: .298, 35 HRs, 92 RBIs… and there’s still two weeks left. The man is simply absurd.
His value to the Cardinals is undeniable. In the team’s 79 wins, he has driven in 70 RBIs. In the team’s 67 losses… just 22 RBIs.
Many fans will think back on the 2011 season and think Pujols had an “awful” year. By Albert’s incredibly high standards, he truly is having an awful year. But luckily for the Cardinals, and “awful” Pujols means hitting .428 in September, (likely) driving in 100+ Runs, scoring another 100+, and leading the league in homeruns.
Perspective is a funny thing sometimes.
But with perspective in mind, fans have to hope that both the Cardinals’ management and team Pujols have it going into the offseason. Both sides know he was underpaid for 11 years of dominant baseball… putting up over nine-hundred extra-base hits during that span and leading the team to two World Series and one championship. Both sides must also know that the next 8-10 years will not yield that same kind of production unless Pujols goes Barry Bonds on us.
The Cardinals paid $116 million for Pujols’ prime, and he wants $300 million for his decline. It’s a tough situation for everyone involved. Hopefully they can settle things up for a less-than-franchise-crippling amount in the middle… because Cardinals Nation wants him back, and the team needs him back.
He is, after all, still the man.