Important Year Ahead for Pujols and Baseball

On October 6th, the St. Louis Cardinals picked up Albert Pujols‘s $16 million dollar option. Perhaps it’s because of the playoffs that this move went relatively unnoticed and unheralded, perhaps it’s simply because this move is the most obvious move in the history of baseball operations. That’s not particularly noteworthy on its face, but what is important is that this signifies the last season of Pujols’s current contract, meaning that barring a midseason deal, Albert Pujols will be a free agent after next season.

The greatness of Albert Pujols’s career to date can hardly be overstated by any metric. He has been in the league now for 10 seasons. In each season, he’s posted at least a .300 batting average, 30 home runs, and 100 RBIs. He hasn’t had an on-base percentage below .394 nor a slugging percentage below .561. He’s never posted a wOBA below .400. His UZR has only been below average once (before his move to first base). His 80.6 career Wins Above Replacement ranks 43rd all-time among position players, just below Johnny Bench and Reggie Jackson and just above Rod Carew and Dan Brouthers. His career path is extraordinary even for the extraordinary, as the following graph shows.


[Click to embiggen]

Pujols isn’t quite Ruthian, but with the radical changes to baseball’s landscape since the days of the Babe, that’s a given. Pujols’s career path to this point actually betters that of the most recent superstar, Barry Bonds. To find his best comparables through age 30, we have to reach back to the 1960s and 1970s, to two fantastic outfielders in Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Pujols’s career path so far tracks the career paths of Aaron and Mays (not pictured but nearly identical) almost perfectly. Aaron and Mays are the best non-Ruth players of the live-ball era, at least according to our implementation of WAR. One could argue the order, but there is no doubt that those are four of the best players ever to play in a Major League stadium. Albert Pujols, through age 30, is right on that level.

We saw a player of this kind of stature reach free agency merely a few months ago in the NBA, when LeBron James created a media frenzy surrounding his free agency and eventual departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers to join a “superteam” in Miami. James’s free agency was anticipated for years by NBA media and fans. Albert Pujols’s impending free agency is an important topic of conversation among those in the know, Part of that is probably due to the culture of the leagues. Baseball doesn’t advertise its players to nearly the level that the NBA does, with players like James and Michael Jordan earning loads of money through endorsement and creating media empires. That’s not to say that Pujols or other MLB players don’t endorse – obviously, that’s not the case – but individual players clearly aren’t as big of a selling point for the MLB as they are in the NBA, and Albert Pujols is definitely nowhere near the personality that LeBron James is.

Pujols’s decision can impact the competitive balance in the MLB in much as James’s decision has shifted power in the NBA. The Cardinals have a tremendous amount of resources tied up in just a few players right now, resulting in a top-heavy roster. The greatness of Pujols allows this model to succeed, whereas with a team like the Astros, it will fail. Without Pujols, that model will likely fail the Cardinals much as it figures to fail the NBA’s Cavaliers this season. Meanwhile, Albert and his agent will have every single team lining up to add the ultimate roster booster. If Pujols does indeed become a free agent, realize that it isn’t normal. Players this good become free agents maybe once a decade.




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87 Responses to “Important Year Ahead for Pujols and Baseball”

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  1. Brian says:

    “Aaron and Mays are the best non-Ruth players of the live-ball era, at least according to our implementation of WAR.”

    Is this an error or a purposeful shot at Bonds? Just curious

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    • bakes says:

      He said before the age of 30.

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      • JimNYC says:

        Ok, so do Rogers Hornsby’s defensive metrics really fall out that badly? Because through age 30, almost exclusivey as a SS or 2B, he had a slash line of .359/.427/.570.

        Or what about Mickey Mantle? Chuck Klein and Al Simmons also probably deserve at least a passing mention.

        I’m not trying to undersell Pujols, but that seems a pretty sweeping statement to make, especially considering that Aaron’s value is more in consistency and longevity than the type of overwhelming production you got from guys like Hornsby or Mantle.

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  2. Ellis says:

    “Players this good become free agents maybe once a decade.”

    I think even less often than that. Who’s the last player as good Pujols to play baseball, let alone become a free agent?

    (FWIW I don’t think Bonds is as good as Pujols, though I see the argument).

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    • Andrew says:

      I think the world of Pujols, but he’s fairly one-dimensional compared to Bonds. Bonds played some of the best LF the game has ever seen in the early 90’s and he stole over 500 bases.

      But without a doubt, he’s the best hitter I’ve seen SINCE Bonds and there’s obviously an argument that he was/is the better hitter (when you factor in the artificial performance).

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    • Alex Rodriguez.

      http://www.fangraphs.com/graphsw.aspx?playerid2=1177&playerid3=1274&playerid4=&playerid5=

      Alex became a free agent much earlier than Pujols, but his career was awfully impressive already, and he had a higher cumulative WAR through age 30 than Pujols does now.

      It’s not exactly apples to apples (different career start times, Alex being a SS, etc.), but I feel like people are forgetting exactly how good Alex is and was. It’s only in the last couple of years that he’s fallen off the Mays/Aaron pace, and he’s still ahead of where Barry was at this point in his career. That there’s only one other comment about him and no mention in the article is baffling to me.

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      • phoenix says:

        i agree. he may be falling off his pace now that he’s something like 36 but his start to his career was incredible. as you said he had more cumulative WAR (yes he did start earlier) but he played SS, the most demanding position, instead of 1B, the least demanding besides DH. not to say pujols isn’t a great firstbaseman, because he is, but he’s no shortstop. Alex won gold gloves, joined the 40/40 club and is currently on a 13 year 30HR 100RBI streak… pujols will get there barring injury, but Arod is the only player IN ALL OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL HISTORY to do both for 13 straight years. and you can’t say he doesn’t count because of steroids because bonds is still in this discussion, and bonds is the posterboy/posterbehemoth for steroids in the MLB. the only reason i think he is never mentioned in discussions like this is because he is a total asshole and everyone understandably hates him. i mean hell, im a yankees fan and i know how good he is, but even i want to punch him in the face when he does some self-aggrandizing interview…

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      • Steve says:

        isn’t it 14 years now?

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      • Steve says:

        Nope. I guess I could have looked that up before typing. Duh.

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      • JTC says:

        In Alex’s first 10 full years (and his first of these years matched his highest WAR for his career,) his cumulative WAR was significantly less (upwards of 6) by both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. Alex has been probably the 2nd best position player of his time, but he doesn’t match Pujols. (And I am not a Cards fan.)

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    • Alireza says:

      Bonds was undoubtedly better than Pujols. Indeed, he was likely the best player ever across generations. The only argument is from Mays.

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  3. Lee says:

    “Pujols’s decision can impact the competitive balance in the MLB in much as James’s decision has shifted power in the NBA.”

    Strongly disagree. It’s (pretty) easily quantifiable, too. Not to be dismissive, but the sports are just very different in the way one singular player affects a team’s performance. It’s not even really close.

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    • JP says:

      Lee is right on here. That Lebron’s free agency was such a big deal has nothing to do with the different cultures of the games. As great as Pujols is, he, or any baseball player, can never impact a team the way a great basketball player can.

      Pujols gets roughly the same number of plate appearances as the scrubs in the line up. Lebron takes a lion’s share of possessions, either to shoot himself, or set up team mates. Pujols’ glove only comes into play when balls get his his way, whereas the Cavs can sick Lebron on whomever they want. Lebron also rebounds and creates turn overs to help give his team a larger share of total possessions. There is no comparable skill in baseball. No baseball player can give his team a larger share of innings or outs to work with.

      If Lebron had an impact akin to a MLB MVP, he would be worth something like 4 wins above replacement over the 81 game season (as MLB MVPs are something like 6-8 WAR over a 162 game schedule). Sub in a replacement level player for Lebron, and I guarantee the team will suffer more than a 4-game drop off.

      I know the WAR formula is obviously not directly applicable to the NBA. But I’m guessing Lebron is worth something like 15+ wins above replacement over an 82 game schedule (i.e. Cavs would’ve been 46-36 last year with a total scrub getting Lebron’s 40 minutes per game. Heck, they probably woulda been worse than that).

      No baseball player will ever have anywhere near that impact.

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      • Kool says:

        Well, I think that makes it even more incredible. He has just as much opportunity as every other starter on the team, and yet, with his time, he accumulates 7.5 wins above replacement. But still, it’s hard to compare to very different sports.

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      • me says:

        pujols could probably have that kind of impact if he were an ace caliber pitcher who could play first base on days he’s not pitching and still hit like he does, which would be amazing but not exactly realistic

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        There is a number of metrics available for wins added in basketball, which probably means that there aren’t any as respected as WAR, but I’ve seen James valued at between 20 and 25 wins. Considering that 50 wins makes you a great team in basketball, James alone gets you halfway there.

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      • Jason B says:

        Minor quibble – 50-32 is by no means a great team. 60 is very good, probably 65 begins to touch greatness.

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      • JTC says:

        I think that Lee made a very good point, and JP expanded on it well, although, perhaps unnecessarily. I also think that Jack’s original point was excellent on two levels, when kept in context. First, the best player in his sport for a number of years becomes a free agent. Second, the loss of Pujols to the Cards, from a baseball relative perspective, will probably be of a similar magnitude as the loss of LeBron to the Cavs, from a basketball perspective. (Why does any kind of comparison of similarities automatically have to mean an equality?)

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    • Billc says:

      And how about the fact that a basketball team starts five players, and a baseball teams starts nine position players plus 5 starters and bullpen. Without going into the comlexity of how the games are played, LeBron is one-fifth of his team, something Pujols can’t be, not unless he can hit 3rd and 6th in the same game and join the regular pitching rotation. He’s almost that good, but not quite.

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    • Tim in Springfield says:

      No matter how tempting you just can’t compare “a” baseball player, regardless of skill, to an NBA star. Chase Utley is the best second baseman I’ve ever seen but you put him on the Pirates and they do not contend for their division. You put LeBron on a team like the Cavs and they win 60 games rather than 35-45.

      The NFL is similar to the NBA in that a specific player can make all the difference(now that the rules favor QBs and WRs). For instance, NFL pundits like John Clayton have said that the Colts are an average of 6(and as many as 8) wins worse without Peyton Manning. Those 6 wins are the difference between winning the AFC South and not making the playoffs.

      The bottom line is that Baseball is unlike other sports in that it is more dependant on the whole team than other sports. No matter how much someone else might want Pujols it would be a bad idea if you couldn’t surround him with a core like the Phillies or the Red Sox. That’s the problem St. Louis faces; they may not be able to provide that core.

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    • Alireza says:

      Actually, I completely disagree with you. Indeed, despite its marketing, baseball is the most heavily individualized team sport.

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  4. Jack says:

    did i misread or does the article imply ruth was not a live-ball era hitter

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  5. Matt says:

    I’d say A-Rod was the last comparable gargantuan free agent superstar situation in MLB, and yes just a hair over a decade ago. He certainly didn’t have the combined WAR yet at 25, but he had huge talent and youth on his side. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pujols surpasses $25 mil/year though.

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  6. MikeS says:

    Pfft. He had his worst season since 2002. He’s clearly in decline. Can’t believe the Cards bothered to pick up the option.

    OK, before you start, I’m kidding. Amazing that his worst years are MVP worthy. Since we are comparing baseball to basketball it reminds me of something Phil Jackson once said about Michael Jordan. Phil said Michael’s could win the scoring title every year. He’s going to get his 30 points a night. Somebody else might have a big year and take the scoring title, but Michaels going to get his 30 every year.

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  7. exxrox says:

    When the Cardinals signed Matt Holiday to 180 million or so, I (and everyone else) had one thing in mind: if they don’t resign Pujols because their money is tied up in this other massive contract, they will have made the greatest mistake possible.

    So, if the Cards lose Pujols and Holiday makes his money, I see that as a gigantic failure.

    The only acceptable way for them to lose Pujols now is if he himself simply chooses to go somewhere else for similar/less money. Which won’t happen. Albert will be a king in St. Louis for years to come.

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  8. CircleChange11 says:

    Yeah, this is an important year for Pujols … in contradiction to the other unimportant years he’s played.

    How does Griffey Jr before 30 compare to Pujols before 30, taking defense into account as well.

    Also, the comparison to Pujols in a sport where 9 guys are on the field at once, and take turns batting to a guy who plays a sport where 5 guys are on the court at once, and one guy can touch the ball every play, is pretty ridiculous … but so is the comment that this is an important year for Pujols … ininuating he needs a monster year to earn big free agent money.

    Seroiusly. The author’s of this site will say such things, and simultaneously continually rip organizations for over-paying for past performance, star power, reputation, or giving too long of contracts for the years after the age of 30.

    Sure, teams will get all sabermetrically smart and give Pujols less money if he has a downish year. Let’s see, he averages about 7.5 WAR a season, and his worst year was way back in 2002, where he nailed 5.7 WAR. Using this site’s own metrics, even at his worst, he’s worth 20M a year.

    Superstars of Pujols quality don;t age quickly, nor do they lose skills quickly. He’s not a pull happy power hitter that gets by with elite bat speed, he’s not a burner that uses speed to accumulate his bases and worth. I don’t really see the point. Even using FG’s own stats and methods, combined with what we see in everyday MLB, Pujols is darn near guaranteed MAJOR money. The key for his agent is to find a way to get BOS and NYY into the bidding the drive the price up to absurd amounts.

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  9. CircleChange11 says:

    My personal feeling is that StL will sign him, almost no matter what. By that, I mean at the expense of not being able to re-sign both Carp and Wain when their contracts are up.

    There are a few players that define a franchise. Musial, Gibson, Ozzie, and Albert. Ozzie’s the exception since he was first a Padre, but AP5 should only wear one jersey, and the Cards may have to overpay to do it. Still, over his career, he’ll still be underpaid, even with a mammoth 5-7 year deal. Pujols, to Cardinal fans, is literally this generation’s Musial, even if he hates the El Hombre nickname. The fans will want to enjoy seeing him attain career milestones in Cardinal red.

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    • CodyG says:

      I’m already in favor of trading Carpenter to clear some salary space and bring in a RF/SS/2b prospect(also I’m a cards fan).

      /screw you Kyle Lohse!

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    • Tim in Springfield says:

      St. Louis fans are ready for the “Pujols tax” of increased ticket prices. Also, although it may not seem to be that large of a revenue stream, the Cards are going back to KMOX which, due to its 50K watt signal, reaches almost everywhere in the continental US at night.

      Bernie Miklasz wrote that paying Pujols $26mm per year would actually only entail a $10mm per year payroll increase from current levels. That doesn’t free up a ton of money but it doesn’t “lessen” the payroll amounts used in the last several years and would only increase to about $100mm per year.

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  10. Bad Bill says:

    A fiscal exercise here. Let’s suppose that the Cardinals keep the non-Pujols payroll at the same level as in 2010, and simply bite the bullet and sign him for $25M a year (or pick a different number if you prefer). Assuming that none of it is deferred (not necessarily a good assumption), how much extra revenue must the team generate per year to break even, or at least have the same end-of-year bottom line as this year and next? $9M/year over 2011, right? Since they are routinely drawing more than 3M fans a year, that looks like they’ll have to raise ticket prices by an average of a bit under $3 per seat compared to 2010.

    So is that a lot, or a little? It looks to me like they’d be crazy NOT to do it … but I’m not a season ticket holder, or a market analyst.

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    • Ryan says:

      Assuming you’re right and all it takes is an extra $3 per seat, that’s a price I’d gladly pay. Most Cardinal fans would argue that the team could afford it even without a bump in ticket prices, their payroll hasn’t increased much — if any — the last few years.

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    • todmod says:

      Well there’s one big factor – teams don’t simply raise ticket prices to reach payroll. Those prices are independent from payroll, prices are set based on what they believe fans will pay to maximize revenue. If the Cards could make more money overall by raising ticket prices $3, they’d have already done it.

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      • Bad Bill says:

        If the Cardinals COULD HAVE MADE more money by raising ticket prices, they’d have done it. Notice the difference in tense. It matters.

        Give Cardinals fans some credit for intelligence here. They know they have a generational talent on their team who’s about to hit free agency, and that has payroll implications that didn’t exist for the last five years.

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  11. J.Leeker says:

    What about Jeff Bagwell? While not quite Pujols level, he did have five seasons with 7+ War during this 20’s.

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  12. Sean ONeill says:

    “Aaron and Mays are the best non-Ruth players of the live-ball era”.

    Ted Williams’ disembodied head is spinning in its freezer right now.

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  13. Zack says:

    “Ted Williams’ disembodied head is spinning in its freezer right now.”

    Aww. Too soon. Poor Ted.

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  14. Daven says:

    Has anyone done any research on how Pujols’ numbers would adjust to the AL? Presumably he’d still be awesome, but on the surface it seems like he has to be getting at least some kind of a boost playing in the NL and the NL central no less.

    I don’t know if it’s actually anything, but when you see players like Ronny Cedeno go from the NL Central to the AL and drop 50 points or so in their batting average, then go back to the NL central and pick that 50 points right back up. Always makes me wonder if there is anything to that or if it’s just those players like Ronny Cedeno and others like him simply not being good enough to adjust at the major league level against a ton of new pitchers .

    Now, granted, Ronny Cedeno is awful anywhere, so presumably if there was a dip for Pujols, it would be drastically smaller, if at all. Maybe Matt Holliday would be a better example, though not originally from the NL Central, coming from hitter friendly Colorado to Oakland and dropping around 30 points on his BA/OBP and then going to the NL central only to see that go right back up to his normal. Is it just an adjustment period and the small sample-sizes are skewing things, or is there actually something there?

    In any event, I’ve always wanted to see someone do an in-depth study on this to see if there is anything to it and if there is, try to, not only park adjust stats, but league and division adjust them. Particularly for Pujols, the question would be, is he really the greatest right handed hitter of all time, or is he just simply an exceptionally good right handed hitter who happens to play in a mostly 4A division where his team has tended to be the one team in said division who hasn’t been 4A-ish anytime recently? So basically padding his stats slightly.

    Anyways, for that reason, I’ve always wanted to see him come to the AL while he’s still in his prime.

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    • Bad Bill says:

      Well, his career line in interleague play is .347/.439/.635=1.074 — BETTER than what it is in the National League. Some of that is attributable, no doubt, to an excess of games versus Kansas City, but not all. The guy simply hits.

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    • ms says:

      Good Point. Wonder what Jose Bautista would do in the NL Central?

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    • B N says:

      I don’t see those kind of dropoffs happening with a top hitter, actually. Pure hitters like Pujols, Manny, Miguel Cabrera, Bonds, etc seem to be able to hit wherever they go. It’s the incomplete hitters that seem to have a dropoff. When faced against competition that is better able to pound their weaknesses, they tend to lose some stats.

      After all, it’s not like AL aces are much better than NL aces. It’s that there is just a higher average talent level probably. So you’re talking about the difference between Pujols facing Tom Gorzelany vs facing Carl Pavano. = No difference from his standpoint. While for a guy like Pat Burrell or Adam LaRoche, that might be a significant difference.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      Pujols’ career interleague line:

      .347/.439/.635

      That comes in a full seasons worth of playing time. What you say makes sense, but it doesn’t seem as though Pujols is that much effected by the tougher competition.

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  15. franCYsco Liriano says:

    Bonds>pujols

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  16. neuter_your_dogma says:

    “Meanwhile, Albert and his agent will have every single team lining up to add the ultimate roster booster.”

    Unfortunately, unless there is a miracle, the Phillies won’t be in that line.

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  17. neuter_your_dogma says:

    On second thought, there will be more teams out of the Pujols line than in it. We can start with the Pirates…

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Oh it’ll be the same ol situation …. analysts throwing out a list of fringe teams that *might* sign him, such as Atlanta, San Francisco, White Sox, etc … yet, it will come down to 1 of the 5 same teams … luckily, due to already playing for them, the cardinals are one of the 5. I’m not sure many of the traditional big spenders really have room for or desire AP5 at 1B.

      Wondering if the financial situation eliminates the Dodgers, and I sincerely hope the Cubs are not an option. If not the Cardinals, SF makes a lot of sense. That might do wonders for Sandoval’s conditioning, as Pujols was a chubby JuCo SS at one time, and has his dedication and work ethic questioned as a result. Pujols & Panda is an interesting combo.

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      • B N says:

        Dodgers are definitely out. They can’t even extend their core, let alone add a 150-200m commitment. I’m not even sure if I see 5 teams seriously bidding actually. I mean, who are these 5 teams? They need to A. Have money to pay him, B. Not have a long term 1B signed, C. Have ownership stability (because you don’t take on big contracts before potentially selling a team).

        The only teams that fit all those requirements seem to be:

        Serious bidders:
        ————–
        Red Sox
        Cardinals
        Mets

        Maybe Bidders:
        ————-
        Giants
        Seattle

        Longshots:
        ————-
        Angels
        Cubs

        Everybody keeps listing the Yankees, but who are they kidding? Pujols isn’t going to DH and Tex won’t want to DH either. Dodgers could use Pujols, but don’t have stability. Red Sox would be a fit, as they have money and could use a long term 1B (Youk can play 3B). Mets could use a 1B (if they don’t trust Davis), so they could be a player if they want to contend next year. Likewise Giants and Mariners could really use him, but it’s unclear if they could rustle up the money. Angels and Cubs, same issue, but even less likely they can/would spend the dough.

        By my count, that’s 3 teams seriously bidding. Everybody else doesn’t have the money or has a long term 1B already. Of these, STL seems most likely to land him since he also has franchise value. The Mets could also do it if they want to make a quick improvement and compete in the division again. And the Red Sox will always wait in the wings on any deal, to see if they can get a solid value. But everybody else? Seems unlikely.

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  18. Gobstopper says:

    I thought the whole point of a Berkman/Nick Johnson Yankee DH was to keep a spot for Pujols next year?

    I’m not sure how easily this would be “solved” but do players who take “hometown” type contracts ever perform well? His competitive spirit should force him to want top dollar.

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    • Ted says:

      His last $100M contract didn’t effect his performance too much.

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    • chuckb says:

      He’s not going to sign w/ someone so that he can play DH.

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    • B N says:

      I think the whole point of that was to wait and see about the general glut of 1B types hitting the FA market. I doubt Pujols is actually their target DH type. If they signed him, he wouldn’t be the DH- Tex would. Pujols is an equal or better fielder. So they’d be blowing their long term 1B investment out of the water.

      Guys that would be better fits are D. Lee, Prince Fielder, Adam Dunn, etc. To be quite honest, they may just stick with Berkman. The guy still has some life left in him. But he might want to play 1B somewhere else.

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  19. meanderthal says:

    Pujols would be crazy to stay in StL. He’s already got a ton of money, and staying with the Cards is like living in Podunk. He should sign with some team that’s a media center so he can reap the benefits of his skills. If I were him, I’d go with the Yanks or Phils.

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    • fredsbank says:

      yeah, fans of players typically love it when hometown stars become sellouts to play on a superstar team, especially when there’s not a whole lot else going for that team, read: Lebron

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    • Shane says:

      satire right???

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    • Ted says:

      there are only two teams which would give him more exposure. The Yankees and the Red Sox. And the Red Sox only because they have a rivalry with the Yankees

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Pujols grew up in Podunk. St. Louis is BIG Podunk.

      Are we really saying that StL is small-time place to live? I say that as one that grew up closhish to StL and now lives close to Chicago. But, there ain’t a whole lot of difference between the two Midwestern cities … one definitely has more suburban sprawl than the other, but it’s not like Chicago is opera, and StL is drive-in movie.

      I’m not sure Pujols would like to play in NY, BOS, LA … he’s never been about self-promotion, he doesn;t seek out the media (actually the opposite), and pretty much just likes to play ball, stay home, and do work with his organization.

      Reap the benfits of his skills? He’s going to get 5y 100M + no matter where he goes. … and being known as the “best player in baseball” isn’t enough respect?

      Even without Ryan Howard, I could not see Pujols in Philly. The two personalities couldn’t be more opposite.

      I understand that in our current society, there are quite a few thsat view anything outside of the 3 largest markets as minor, or that one has to get all they can or it’s a waste … but there are others that view things differently.

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  20. Cooper says:

    Nicely done on the embiggen.

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  21. JoeyD says:

    Bonds and Rodriquez should not even be mentioned in the same conversation with Pujols, Aaron, Mays and Ruth. Their careers were, shall we say, artificially enhanced.

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    • Richard says:

      Joey, Ruth didn’t face fair competition (segregation in baseball), while Aaron and Mays both used “greenies”. So they all had their careers artifically enhanced.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Babe Ruth hit as many home runs as WHOLE TEAMS. Can we stop using the segregation argument as if it somehow nullifies or reduces what Ruth did actually do against his peers.

        Every generation had *something*, that doesn’t mean that all of those *somethings* are equal. If people want to equate segregation, greenies, and steroids as being equal in performance inflation, I can’t stop them. But, I have severe doubts that they are equal.

        I’m not the biggest babe Ruth fan … but what he did in his era compared to peers and what anyone else has done in their era is drastic. Even with segregation, it’s drastic. I don;t need to try and figure out how Bonds would have fared in the Polo Grounds, or whether Ruth could hit a slider, or how Pujols would do with only train/bus travel and decreased physical/medical treatment, etc to know how each player did do against the peers they faced.

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      • Richard says:

        I think we agree on some points CircleChange11, let me explain.

        I think that if you arbitrarily decide to toss out Bonds for steroids, you have to go down the line to Aaron to Ruth, etc. I fail to see how steroids are hated yet greenies are overlooked or segregation gets overlooked (they all make you look better). If you are going to say that Bonds’ numbers aren’t legitimite (i.e. he wouldn’t have hit that many home runs, without steriods) than how can you say Ruth’s are 100% accurate? If people want to ignore some issues but punish players for others, I can’t stop them. But I have severe doubts in can be done in any worthwhile manner. In this we disagree.

        Thus, I prefer to ignore all of these issues and just compare the player to their peers at the time they played. To me that is the only legitimate comparison. In that we agree.

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    • Tim in Springfield says:

      Agreed. One thing to think about is that, right now according to BBR.com, Pujols is the most productive Right Handed hitter in history. Arod comes in at 19th overall. I believe that, barring injury, Pujols will FINISH his career as the greatest Right Handed in history.
      1. Babe Ruth+ 1.1636 L
      2. Ted Williams+ 1.1155 L
      3. Lou Gehrig+ 1.0798 L
      4. Barry Bonds 1.0512 L
      5. Albert Pujols (30) 1.0502 R
      19. Alex Rodriguez (34) .9583 R

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      • Scott Boras says:

        Agreed. Albert Pujols has been the most productive Right Handed hitter in baseball history in his career so far. Therefore, I see no reason why Red Sox or Angels or Mets should be worried about dolling out a $300M/10 yr. contract come next year’s winter. I mean, Pujols will continue to produce at this similar OPS rate until he turns 40.

        Plus, when is Albert going to dump that loser Dan Lozano and sign up with me?

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  22. awayish says:

    it’s amazing people still treat ruth’s stats at face value when he played against guys who would not make double a in today’s game.

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  23. betoftheweek says:

    Hey guys,

    Long time reader, first time poster here from the UK.

    Firstly, I would just like to say a huge “thank you” to FG’s and the community.

    I check in every single day, and I have to say, I enjoy the reader contributions just as much as the writers pieces.

    I am a huge sports fan, and being both a little nocturnal and a bit of a Math(s) geek in my youth I discovered baseball almost 10 years ago now and my love for the game has developed such that it is my primary sport.

    And that isn’t easy I can tell you given that first pitch for West coast games is 03:15am!

    I just wanted to throw one thing into this debate, in a little support of Barry Bonds over Pujols. I don’t want to get into the obvious topics/debates on Bonds’ situation as I feel it has been done to death, but instead wanted to point out something that isn’t obvious from Jack’s analysis above, as I think the graph is a little misleading and doesn’t paint the whole picture

    Although Pujols has indeed significantly outperformed Bonds over the first 10 years of their respective careers in terms of WAR (80.7 vs. 73.8), this entire differential can be accounted to their 20 – 22 years.

    From 23 – 30, Bonds actually matched/marginally outperformed Pujols on a cumulative WAR basis (59.4 vs. 57.8) over the 7 year period.

    Pardon the pun, but if Bonds was guilty of one thing early in his career, it was only being a slower starter in the first years of his career.

    One final observation I would also make is that Bonds’ also recorded two 10 wins seasons during these early years of his career and actually recorded a third 9.8 win season, which are all higher than anything recorded by Albert during his ten years in the league.

    The combination of speed, power and defence that Bonds managed to display in those early years as a scrawny outfielder is quite remarkable. The value of his defence in the outfield back then should not be underestimated, nor clouded by his latter years in San Francisco on a baulky knee.

    The most staggering statistic I ever see about Bonds is his sole membership of the 400/400 club. And the 500/500 club.

    As a member of the 700/500 club, Bonds’ closest rivals on the combined counting stats are Mays and Rodriguez, who are both back in the 600/300 club.

    That is still some way back, and personally I find that quiet astounding.

    That said, I don’t want this to appear like a Bonds love in. I just wanted to display the facts a little differently.

    So, I would have to point out that Albert has been the model of consistency, something that Bonds never managed to achieve. Personally I think this may say more about Bonds’ attitude back in those days that is may his talent.

    As much as anything else often discussed, as he became more comfortable with who he was in later in his career I feel it enabled him to be a more consistent player.

    Apologies for the monologue.

    Hopefully somebody found my take interesting.

    Let the flaming begin…

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  24. JTC says:

    betoftheweek – yes, very well put together and excellent post. It doesn’t win over my sensibilities, however. Bonds has one major strikeout that he can’t overcome for me: 1) steroids; 2) 5 or 6 year period in the middle of his career when offensive numbers baseball-wide were ridiculously high; 3) bad teammate.

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  25. Lanidrac says:

    There’s a big problem with this article: It will likely become moot from Pujols resigning with the Cardinals this offseason.

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  26. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Truly hardly ever will i encounter a weblog that’s both educative as well as enjoyable, as well as let me tell you, you’ve hit the toe nail about the head. Your own concept is exceptional; the issue is something which not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am happy that I found this particular in my search for something relating to this.

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  27. I recently passed this onto a co-worker who was simply doing a little study on that.

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