I don’t especially care for the St. Louis Cardinals. I did enjoy their miraculous run to the 2011 World Series championship, and I admire the organizational consistency that seemingly places the Cardinals in relevant baseball games well into September annually. The organization is run with a very large pair of stones, as evidenced by the decision this off-season to decline offering Albert Pujols the premiere contract on the open market.
Teams that pay for past performance will only live to regret it. For additional evidence, please see Zito, Barry; Soriano, Alfonso; Jeter, Derek; and Rodriquez, Alex. The shortsightedness of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the foresight of the St. Louis Cardinals, offer us a not-so-subtle reminder that the most well-developed economic minds in the world both DO and DO NOT occupy the well-funded offices of Major League Baseball franchises. Assuming Pujols fulfills his new ten-year contract as a Major League baseball player, the Cardinals might regret this decision in 2012 and during Pujols’ Hall of Fame induction in 2026, but I have a hard time imagining them regretting it in any other year between the two.
Simply put, Albert Pujols has been the greatest baseball player of his generation. There are not enough allegations of steroid or anti-aging pharmaceutical use on earth to change this fact. Pujols has been great, and he has been since his first day in the Major Leagues. His improbable rise to Major League glory should be celebrated, and his seemingly team-first, good guy orientation is a refreshing trait amidst the great sporting egocentrism of the 21st century. Barry Bonds, Pujols is not, and that is good all the way around this evaluation.
However, to suppose that Pujols will be earning his contract for quality of play or turnstile appeal much past the next three seasons is irresponsible. Pujols has recently been plagued by several nagging injuries, as should be expected for an aging slugger facing his 12th Major League season. My previous claim does not even consider the possibility that Pujols actually is only 31 years old, which is questioned by both media and front offices throughout the league. My esteemed readers, please allow the statistics to support my musings. In the last three seasons:
- Pujols’ batting average has fallen from .327, to .311, to .297.
- Pujols’ home run total has fallen from 47, to 42, to 37
- Pujols’ on-base percentage has fallen from .443, to .413, to .366
- Pujols’ slugging percentage has fallen from .658, to .596, to .541
- Pujols’ extra base hits have fallen from 93, to 82, to 72
Herman Cain wishes his performance ratings fell at this pace; Newt Gingrich does not. On line #2, Todd Helton is openly wondering when the Rockies will open up their vaults for yet another 5-year contract extension. This simple analysis of three-year statistical trends suggests that Pujols will perform at no higher clip than a $12 million 1st baseman in 2014. Has anyone heard from Dr. Anthony Galea lately? Perhaps Bill Romanowski can offer up the elixir to the Angels’ new problem.
The performance of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals should be our strongest indicator of the shortsightedness of the 10 year, $254 million contract inked today by Mr. Pujols. No doubt, Pujols was incredible in the Cardinals triumphant run to a world championship. But so was ace starter Chris Carpenter, default closer Jason Motte, now-retired manager Tony LaRussa, pitching coach emeritus Dave Duncan, immortal relief pitcher Arthur Rhodes, record-setting journeyman Octavio Dotel, and hometown hero and World Series MVP David Freese. One need look no further than this year’s edition of the Cardinals to find that the success of a Major League franchise is directly proportional to the cumulative excellence of its 40-man roster, farm system, coaching staff, and front office.
If I learned anything in Economics 101, it is that scarce resources are just that (scarce) and must be allocated judiciously. St. Louis represents your classic mid-market Major League franchise, winning this year’s Series on the league’s 11th highest payroll (just north of $105 million, according to USA Today). The Cardinals success was as dependent upon the backs of shrewd personnel moves, inexpensive reclamation projects, and a handful of quality young farmhands as it was on the excellence that was Albert Pujols. I’d like to see what they can do with the $25 million they won’t be paying Pujols. Unless Angel owner Arte Moreno intends to channel his inner-Steinbrenner, I’m also curious to see where his team is headed with his new overpaid 1st baseman.
The Angels committed approximately $325 million to Pujols and new staff ace (that sounds funny) C.J. Wilson. Arte, I watched the World Series too, and I expect more of that out of Wilson. Two seasons ago, Wilson was an overachieving middle relief pitcher with a high ceiling repertoire of pitches. Now he ranks among the game’s most overpaid starting pitchers, and the living embodiment of a high quality third starter earning ACE money. I’m not sure that the Rangers even offered Wilson a contract for next year, let alone 5 years, $77 million. That’s okay George, excuse me, Arte; you won the race for the December headlines.
I’m sure your fans will be elated to live this glorious December day after a 5-game knockout in the Divisional round at the hands of the Texas Rangers.