Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols watches a solo homer in the 9th, his 3rd of the game, leave the park in Game 3 of the World Series on October 22, 2011 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Bring it by the truck loads.
Whatever team wins the Albert Pujols sweepstakes this offseason, they are going to need a lot of cash to do it.
Pujols is looking at potentially his last big paycheck, one that will not only be the largest of his life but quite possibly the biggest in the history of baseball.
It has become almost a signature to see Pujols standing in the batter’s box, holding his bat in his left hand like a small twig; his hulking glare watching another baseball travel to an undiscovered solar system. And from Brad Lidge in 2005 all the way to last night’s mash-fest, Pujols has continued to do it in the most fitting of times.
Pujols made history. He did something that only Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson have done in baseball: hit three home runs in a World Series game. But that historical feat was only a microcosm of Pujols ridiculous career.
For the past decade, Pujols has been the most dominant player in baseball. And his name is so synonymous with baseball that when you type in the name “Albert” in Google, only Einstein’s name stands higher in the auto-fill.
This past season, Pujols managed to hit only .299 with 37 homers and 99 RBIs. Yea, “only.” His lowest season average prior to this year was .312. His meer .906 OPS was only the third time in his 11-year career he didn’t eclipse the 1.000 OPS mark. It was also the first time he never hit 100 RBIs.
In 11 season, Pujols has 445 home runs, good for an average of 40.45 per season. He is a career .328 hitter and has a life time OPS of 1.037 the highest among active players and 6th all time behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gherig, Barry Bonds and Jimmie Foxx.
He led the Cardinals to a World Championship in 2006 and has three MVP awards while finishing in the top four nine out of 10 times heading into this off season.
With Pujols dominating baseball for the last 11 years, many assume he is older than 31. And with 445 homers already under his belt, another 317 looks like a very good possibility, especially if he averages 35 homers for the next nine years or a mere 22 for the next 15.
Long story short, Pujols is baseball’s best shot, besides a steroided Alex Rodriguez, at erasing the asterisk next to the sport’s most cherished record tainted by Bonds half a decade ago. That is, assuming, that Pujols has never tainted his body, a fact only he knows and many believe to be true.
So what does this mean for Pujols’ future pay day, which will come in the next month or two?
In 2007, Alex Rodriguez signed the sports world’s biggest contract, a 10-year, $275 million deal that would have the Yankees third baseman in blue pinstripes until he’s 42.
At a year younger than that, Pujols is looking at a very similar contract in years, but potentially a larger sum of money. Could he become the game’s first $30 million athlete? Quite easily yes.
But what team can give Pujols that kind of money? There will be no hometown discount for the Cardinals, who have enjoyed Pujols’ services for 11 years. But despite that, many still believe they will have the strongest chance of holding onto their greatest player in franchise history – yes, even greater than Stan “The Man” Musual.
Wherever Pujols finds himself in 2012, there are only two things guaranteed: his pockets will be fatter and he will continue to put up numbers that may never be seen again.
Phat Albert, you are now leaving the level known as “greatness” and entering the realm of “legendary.”