I finally got the chance to view 60 Minutes’ terrific profile of Albert Pujols, and it reinforced a few things that I already knew. Pujols is the greatest hitter in baseball, and perhaps the finest of my lifetime. By all information we have- we cannot look into a man’s soul- he is a remarkable person on par with his talent as a baseball player. Like many other great players incorrectly labeled as natural talents, his Hall of Fame career arguably comes more from hard work than simple genetic luck.
And most of all, it was a huge mistake by the Mets (and, to be fair, every other team) to let Pujols wait until the 13th round of the 1999 draft. Neal Musser, Jeremy Griffiths, Angel Pagan, Wayne Lydon, Prentice Redman are the biggest names among those the Mets drafted while Pujols was still on the board. Again, to be fair, even the Cardinals took Ben Johnson, Josh Pearce, and the immortal Josh Teekel, among others, before Pujols.
What’s done is done, but Pujols is set to become a free agent after the 2011 season. And the question I continue to mull over is this: should the Mets sign him? Granted, with their volatile money situation, it is probably a moot point. But as the song almost says, “It is a long, long time from April to the official free agency filing period.”
What are the reasons to sign Pujols? I’ll keep this short. He’s the best player in baseball. He’s the best hitter by far, a tremendous defensive first baseman. If you’re into off-the-field stuff, he’ll never embarrass you, and would give the Mets a huge marketing tool. People will pay to come see Albert Pujols play baseball. And with so much money coming off the books, if the Mets can maintain current payroll levels, they should be able to sign both Pujols and Jose Reyes comfortably.
The reasons not to? Pujols will be entering his age-32 season, well into a typical player’s decline phase. He’ll probably command 8-10 years at around $30 million per season, or A-Rod money until he’s around 40. And the Mets have a young, cost-controlled first baseman in Ike Davis, so they’d either need to move Davis to right field (a difficult fit, given Davis’ foot speed), or trade him for a right fielder.
In other words, this isn’t the obvious franchise fit that Alex Rodriguez was following the 2000 season. A-Rod, remember, was entering his age-25 season, while Derek Jeter’s presence across town meant the Mets wouldn’t have to bid against the Yankees. The incumbent was an overpaid Rey Ordonez. I have a whole chapter on this in my upcoming book. That was perhaps the single greatest baseball mistake this franchise ever made.
This one? I just don’t know. Last year, I happened to be in Milwaukee for a book event. The event was at night, and the Brewers were playing the Cardinals that afternoon. So I made certain I was in the eighth row, behind the St. Louis dugout, to see Albert Pujols hit. And he did not disappoint, hitting two home runs. That was one game, and I will never forget it. The chance to see Pujols hit every day is ludicrously exciting. And when his 2008-2010 OPS+ is 184, even a decline phase should be remarkably productive.
So I’m curious- what do you think? Should the Mets sign Pujols? Let’s hear about it in the comments, and I’ll put up a poll question as well.