Albert Pujols played a grand total of three games as a Memphis Redbird in Class AAA in 2000, but it was clear he wasn’t minor league material.
Pujols made the big club in St. Louis the next year and never looked back, batting .329 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs in his rookie season. He was National League Rookie of the Year.
It was all uphill from there. First, he clobbered opposing pitchers for 11 seasons playing for the Cardinals. Then he signed a contract for 10 years and $253 million with the Los Angeles Angels. Nice climb.
But now, he is not Angels material either.
When the Angels released Pujols this month, it caused a gasp then questions as to what exactly they were thinking. It seemed to be an admission that their $253-million man was done. It was also a signal that 27-year-old Jared Walsh was the first baseman, leaving Pujols with nowhere to go except to another team.
The Angels have a habit of giving truckloads of money to players who have already peaked in their careers. Pujols followed Josh Hamilton in that category. Hamilton, a former American League Most Valuable Player with Texas, signed with the Angels for five years and $125 million. He had his troubles and wound up being traded back to Texas.
Presumably, the Angels have since realized that neither Pujols nor Hamilton was a pitcher. The Angels have historically been more interested in selling tickets than winning games. It isn’t hard to imagine how far that money would have gone if the team had invested in arms, not bats.
So when Pujols was sent packing, it immediately caused speculation if he was still able to play, and if so who would want him. It turned out the most likely team to not want him wanted him. The Los Angeles Dodgers saw Pujols on the metaphorical side of road and gave him a ride, immediately putting him in the lineup. It was a perplexing decision for a team that doesn’t like one-dimensional players (like Pujols) who basically play only one position.
Pujols, being Pujols, promptly collected an RBI within hours of joining his new team. Suddenly instead of wondering if he could play, the speculation was whether he could make the roster in the playoffs.
It’s easy to look at a player batting .198 and bid him goodbye. It’s hard to look at that player and give him a job. The Dodgers must be feeling the crunch of injuries, which are considerable.
But if Pujols says he still has gas in the tank, it’s hard to say no to him. He’s Albert Pujols. The Dodgers seem to look at it as an obvious decision.
Let the geezer play.