Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pujols has a lot to learn from A-Rod

Albert Pujols' deal with the St. Louis Cardinals expires at the end of the upcoming season. He's played his entire career in the St. Louis system and Pujols is definitely a Cardinals icon. It would be absurd to see him go anywhere else, no? It'd be like Ichiro playing for the Mets or Mariano Rivera suiting up for the White Sox: it just doesn't seem right. With Albert setting February 18th as his negotiating deadline, getting a deal done to lock up the slugger for the remainder of his career is important for the Cardinals and Pujols. And although Albert is clearly the best player in baseball year in and year out, he needs to look at another player who was considered "the best" and what has happened with his contract. That man would be Alex Rodriguez.

Alex was once considered the best prospect and young player the game had ever seen. He's no doubt been a tremendous player despite his attitude and public persona. He inked a 10-year, $250 million contract with the Rangers, which nearly bankrupted the franchise and made them an uncompetitive team, then took his game to New York where he's still with the Yankees and has since signed an extension that pays him even more money, but at least its with a team that can actually afford to pay an aging third baseman $33 million a season. Fans around the game, from city to city, have long resented A-Rod for his salary. Pujols would be wise to recognize this and not alienate himself from fans around the world by asking for an Rodriguez-like contract, which has been reported by many news outlets.

Pujols is quite deserving of "A-Rod" money. Evaluating the players' WAR (wins above replacement), its clear that Pujols has outperformed A-Rod. From the ages of 21-25, Pujols racked up a cumulative war of 41.2 while A-Rod only put up a WAR total of 36.4. This trend continued between the players' season when they were/are 26-30 years of age. Albert's total WAR was 42.6 while Rodriguez only put up 34.7 total WAR.

By basic metrics, Pujols has outperformed even Alex Rodriguez, so shouldn't his contract exceed A-Rod's historic deal? The answer is no. St. Louis, first of all, doesn't have nearly the payroll to give Albert $30+ million per season and remain competitive. They wouldn't be able to afford their other key players, like Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Colby Rasmus. This would make the Cardinals completely uncompetitive and Albert wouldn't likely be happy making $35 million a season on a team that only won 70-75 games a year. St. Louis is also an entirely different place than New York. New York City is all about flash and money whereas St. Louis is a largely blue-collar city in America's heartland. The fanbase in St. Louis has a different set of values than those who religiously tune into the YES Network to watch the Yankees all around the globe. If Pujols were to sign that type of contract, he would be running the risk of separating himself from his fans and teammates.

Overall, a 10-year/$285 million contract would be a bad thing for Albert Pujols. He'd lose some popularity amongst fans would simply view that massive of a contract as a greedy, selfish money-grab. He'd render his team much less competitive in the long run and he'd be earning more than double the money of any of his teammates, making him an obvious target in the clubhouse. Pujols' popularity today is largely due to his likeable persona, friendly demeanor and play on the field. A mega-deal would potentially compromise two-thirds of that. A-Rod's historic deal has distorted the market and Albert Pujols needs to recognize the dangers of making so much money.