As I was out for my morning walk, a strange name came into my mind out of the clear blue sky, and I have no idea why. That name, Albert Pujols. At first I chuckled, knowing the Cardinals tied for the best record in MLB regular season for the second year in a row and without Albert, they are in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the 252 million dollar man is sitting at home in October. Poetic justice if you ask me.
Then my mind went deeper on this topic, and I thought about what our team might have been like the past 2 years and where would our team be headed in the future? Last year Pujols started out incredibly slow, and a lot of us Cardinal fans were chuckling. Albert got hot in the second half and brought his numbers up to above major league level, but no where near Pujols standards, .285, 30 HR and 105 RBI. The player brought in to replace him in the batting order, Carlos Beltran, put up very similar numbers of .269, 32 HR and 97 RBI. Then in the post season, where we all might think that Pujols would dominate, Beltran really stepped up his game to .357, 3 HR and 6 RBI. So looking at year one, I would say it would have been a push, and most likely we would have had similar results.
I don’t know about you, but this past off season I figured Pujols would come back in 2013 regular season to near his normal numbers. I really did not think his numbers would start to fall off till the 2nd half of is his ridiculous 10 year contract. He was injured most of this year, never got it going, and ended with a .258 average. After the Cardinals signed Beltran to his two year deal, everyone thought he would be the one who would suffer a season ending injury. Instead it was Pujols, who only played in 99 games this year before shutting it down. Meanwhile this year, Beltran played in a 145 games, hit .296, 24 HR and 84 RBI. Clearly, I don’t see any way the Cardinals would be where they are today if Pujols was wearing the Redbird jersey instead of Beltran.
Also along that lines, since the club did not sign Pujols, we have been able to lock up both Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright long term thru the 2018 season. It is very obvious to anyone who watches this team, and knows the amount of great young arms we have, how important Yadier is behind the plate every day. Not to mention, the offensive weapon Yadier has become standing at the plate by leading the team in hitting this year at .319. Wainwright is equally important with 3 rookies and a second year starter in the rotation with him. Every club needs to have an ace, but when you have this many young starters, you really need to have someone to anchor down that rotation.
The future is very bright in Cardinal Land! We have a group of young pitching arms that have us set, not only in starters, but the bullpen for 5 more years. Our only weaknesses are at shortstop and bench role players, and fortunately because of our shrewd general manager, we will have plenty of money to resolve those issues come the off season.
As much as I was disgusted with Pujols over the ending of his tenure in St. Louis, I never dreamed we would be sitting here 2 years later and the Cardinals would be in the playoffs both years and Albert’s new team, the Angels, would be shut out in playoff appearances during the same time frame. I am sure it was very difficult for John Mozeliak, Cardinals GM and the owners not to cave in to Pujols financial demands. Letting the modern day Stan Musial walk away in the prime of his career was very risky! Sitting here two years removed from that decision they all look brilliant!