Around a month ago, a fever pitch swept through St. Louis. Former superstar and future first ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols had been released by the Los Angeles Angels in an embarrassing display of “we give up, but will still pay his salary.”
Right away, Cardinal Nation swallowed the idea whole for a week: Could he come back and make it right while hitting a few home runs at Busch Stadium? While many were for it, quite a few said it wasn’t worth it. He’s old, like 49 or something. He hasn’t hit well in a few years. He had his chance… blah, blah, blah.
The doubters were wrong. Pujols stayed on the west coast and signed with the Dodgers, who had starts and at-bats for him. 19 games later, he is flourishing in blue and white, hitting five home runs and driving in 17 runners. He’s slashing .268/.317/.571, which equates to an .888 OPS. Some kind of old guy. Who could have guessed he would put up these numbers? More than a few good souls did.
Hitting savant Zach Gifford liked the idea. He knows things. Michael Girsch once picked his brain at a Cardinal blogger event. Girsch is a General Manager, by the way. Gifford loved the barrels Pujols had collected during his last days with the Angels and the exit velocity of the baseballs he was connecting with. There was something there. Sabermetrics colliding with the past like an empty glass and a cold beer. Oh boy… but too bad. Pujols is in Los Angeles, but he’ll visit St. Louis in September.
Meanwhile, Paul Goldschmidt is busy popping baseballs up in the air during crucial at-bats and overall looking like a guy who is older than his birth certificate reads. But unlike the tomfoolery of Dominican Republic paperwork that confounds Pujols’ real age, Goldschmidt just looks baseball old. He’s behind on heaters and fooled by too many. He collects singles, but are we paying him $25 million to reach first base and barely add any postgame quips or humor? That wasn’t the plan, and I like the trade/extension.
For shits and grins, here’s how the two players are doing since Pujols joined the Dodgers:
AP: 5 HR, 17 RBI, .268 BA, .571 SLUG.
PG: 2 HR, 8 RBI, .256 BA, .423 SLUG.
Don’t mistake that stat grouping as a declaration that Pujols should have come here and taken Goldy’s starts. Overall, Goldschmidt has him on WAR and will hopefully pick up bat speed as the temperature rises, something that has marked his entire career. He’s a slow starter, but it’s hard to ignore what Pujols is doing and what Goldschmidt is NOT doing right now. Crucial times call for big hitters.
This is really about disregarding the worth of Pujols even as a bench bat in St. Louis. Taking the DH starts and giving a slumping Goldschmidt a rest on occasion. There were reports that he was ready to embrace a supporting role in St. Louis, but the Cards said no while LAD said sure thing. It’s paying off… for them.
Here’s the real deal. Forget this season. When he becomes available this offseason and if there is a 2022 season (watch out, new CBA lingering), the Cards need to take a long, hard look at bringing him back. The DH would be in season and he can still hit. This isn’t about now-even if you can’t take your eyes off what he’s doing there-but more about the next chance the Cardinals will have.
Screw up once, and there’s some kind of excuse. Screw up twice, and it’ll just be embarrassing. After all, do you really think this team is going to win anything other than the title of a weak division this season? Sure would have been nice to collect some fresh Pujols memories. For the people who thought he would be bad… you were wrong.
Don’t doubt legends, folks. They decide when it’s over.