The talk of the town lately has been the health of Cardinal slugger Albert Pujols. Everyone knows Albert’s been dealing with elbow soreness in his throwing arm for some time now. He played through pain for much of the 2007 season. Eventually, he could require Tommy John surgery, which would cause him to miss nearly a year of baseball. For now, Pujols and the club have elected not to green light the surgery, although there have been reports that he may decide to undergo the procedure if the pain persists.
“I was in pain,” Pujols said. “I’m telling myself that I ain’t going through the same pain that I went through last year.”
The obvious question here is how will the Cardinals fare without their most valuable player? I suspect a Cardinal team without Pujols would struggle badly. An easy comparison would be to look at how the starting pitching performed last year without staff ace Chris Carpenter. Not only did the Redbirds lose their best pitcher, but also a clubhouse leader. We know how it turned out for the rest of the starters in ’07, so no need to revisit it. Pujols is the team’s best player, and a leader as well. I’d rather not see him on the DL.
On the other hand, if surgery is imminent, wouldn’t it be wise to have Albert miss the “transition” season of ’08 rather than the far more optimistic looking season that follows? Not only should Carpenter be back at full strength by 2009, but top prospect Colby Rasmus will have cemented himself in the everyday lineup by then too. Any holes in that year’s team could be filled from a much better looking free agent class than the one we saw this winter. A healthy Pujols would be very important to a run at another division title.
It’s a tough call. I’d hate to practically concede the upcoming season by shelving El Hombre, but if we look at the bigger picture, maybe it’s best after all.
For now, let’s just hope Albert’s elbow stays together and the decision doesn’t have to be made. I’m looking forward to some exciting baseball this year, and would like him to be a part of it. Pitchers and catchers report on Thursday!