Monday, October 3, 2011

Pujols Lite

We are possibly witnessing the greatest hitter to ever play the game in Albert Pujols. There are several legends that could be argued to be comparable, but the two closest would be Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds. The Babe did not play against minorities, play night games, travel constantly from coast to coast, or have as much competition. Bonds used performance enhancement drugs, and in the opinions that matter the most in baseball, his statistics are omitted from common acceptance and are not legitimate. In my opinion, no one will ever eclipse The Babe as the best hitter of all-time or the best player of all-time. The guy not only has a career line of .342 average (10th all-time), 714 home runs (2nd), 2213 RBI (2nd) but his pitching statistics are extroadinary as well: 94-46 record with a  2.23 ERA . He was a God.

 Now in the argument of Bonds, I really don't care if he used steroids or not. The only thing we've learned from the whole Steroid Era is that a lot of guys were using and we will never know who all was using. So yes, Barry juiced a record amount of home runs out of the ballpark while dominating his league in almost every offensive category annually, but who's to say he didn't hit the majority of those home runs against pitchers that juiced? Couldn't that be like simple mathematics, a negative times a negative equals a positive? In my opinion they should count reguardless. If you want to put an asterisk next to his name or stats you should do it for everyone that played during his time and have their own wing at the Hall of Fame. Negro League players and Dead Ball players like Babe Ruth already have their own seperate wings at the HOF. Should we hold it against the Babe for playing during segregation? No. Ball players, and men in general, have always been victims of their times. Sorry, end of soap box.

I have digressed. Back to what this blog is really about. This is the Era of Pujols and ever since he had his mind blowing rookie season, .329 average, 37 home runs, and 130 RBI, we've been fed a steady diet of Pujols is the greatest, an unrivaled talent. He has won three MVP awards and finished second three times. I imagine now being like as if Mike Schmidt didn't have George Brett as his contemporary and positional rival. Schmidt put up better career offensive numbers and is believed by most to be the best offensive third baseman in the history of the game, but they were always compared. It must have been a great sight during their all-star games, Schmidtty runs in the dugout to go hit while Brett runs by him to man the hot corner. They are almost linked together, it's hard to mention one without the other. Just look at where they were drafted in the 1971 MLB draf second round: George Brett (29th overall) to Kansas City Royals, and Mike Schmidt (30th overall) . Just take a quick moment and think about how baseball history would have changed if those picks were swapped. That's evidence that the baseball gods do indeed talk to us. However, most look at Pujols and say he has no match. And here's where I beg to differ. The essence of this article, finally!

If I said I'm thinking of a first baseman whose average season is one where he hits .317 with 33 home runs and 118 RBI, would you think Pujols? Or if I said this first baseman hit .344 with 30 home runs 105 RBI and is in the playoffs right now? Would you say, "Bro, I already said Pujols...?" Well you would be wrong and after doing some minor research most people have come to that same conclusion or a different player all together. No, this player is not Albert Pujols, or Joey Votto, or Adrian Gonzalez. It is another latin first baseman by the name of Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers. And his name wasn't mentioned once in the research. I often refer to him as the "American League Albert Pujols," or the "poor man's Albert Pujols." His numbers are very comparable to Albert's, however Albert's average season is a .328 batting average, 41 home runs, 121 RBI but no one else mentions them in the same breath.

Like Pujols (who begin his career at 3B and LF), Cabrera did not come up to the majors as a first baseman, but rather a short stop. It's hard to imagine such a big man at short stop but he was much slimmer when he first arrived on the scene, hitting a walk off home run in his big league debut no less (he also played some RF and a few seasons at 3B). Cabrera not only has struggled with his weight but he does have a highly publicised alcohol problem. I believe this is why he has not recieved nearly as much fan fare or admiration as Pujols. If only Cabrera lived in a different time where reporters did not delve into baseball players' private life he would of benefitted as much the same as Babe Ruth did. Also the rivalry between  Pujols and Cabrera would be of more note, like Schmidt and Brett.

Cabrera has played 8 full seasons in the big leagues, while Albert has 10. Also Cabrera turns 29 next April while Albert turns 32 in Janurary. If you go by average player peak career years in the ages from 27-33 Cabrera still has four more seasons in his prime, while Albert has two. This is also Albert's first year in his career that he hasn't reach a .300 average and a 100 RBI. He did miss some time due to a wrist injury and endured a beginning of the year slump, but it may be a sign that this statue of Greek God is cracking, or it may just be a "down" year for him. It's almost tragic to say that a player hitting .299, with 37 home runs and 99 RBI is down season but in Pujols's world, it is indeed a sub-par season. This is also a contract year for Albert who will be a free agent at the end of the World Series. Cabrera is locked up through 2015 but will be the same age as Pujols is now, so in theory he should get a comparable sized contract. However I've never heard anyone project Cabrera's annual salary climbing to 30 million dollars a year like it is rumored Pujols will recieve.

Love him, hate him, or overlook him Cabrera is just as much of a force at the dish right now as Pujols is and maybe one day he will get recognized for it. But in a year where he was a batting champion (.344 average) with 30 home runs and over a 100 RBI, his ace pitcher Justin Verlander recieved more hype for the American League MVP than he did.  To me that is tragic.

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