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Prince Albert, the Babe, and Stan the Man

December 10, 2011

Hugh Atkins

Albert Pujols leaving the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this week is the most significant player transaction since the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.

Pujols leaves St. Louis after 11 magnificent seasons. He led the National League in runs scored five times and has 1,291 for his career. He led the league in home runs twice and has a total of 445 for his career. He led the league in runs batted in once and has 1,329 in his career. He has 2,073 hits, leading the league once with his one 200-hit season. He led the league in doubles once and has 455 in his career. Pujols was the National League Most Valuable Player in 2005, 2008, and 2009; steroids users cheated him out of the award in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Pujols hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBIs this past season; it was the first season in which he did not hit .300 or drive in 100 runs. Pujols parlayed his accomplishments into a 10-year, $254 million contract from the Los Angeles Angels.

The main difference between the Pujols deal and Ruth leaving Boston is that Ruth’s biggest days were ahead of him in 1920 when he arrived in the Big Apple. The Yankees had reason to believe Ruth would be a dominating force; he was coming off consecutive seasons in which he had led the American League in home runs with 11 and 29 respectively. But Ruth’s major accomplishments at the time of his departure from Boston had come on the pitcher’s mound. He had 89 wins with just 46 losses and a career earned run average of 2.19. He was 3-0 in World Series play with an 0.87 ERA, including a string of 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, which held as a record until Whitey Ford broke it in 1961. While Ruth had only 49 home runs at that point, it must be noted that Roger Connor was the career leader with 138. While the Red Sox still are criticized roundly for selling Ruth to the Yankees, no reasonable person could have conceived that Ruth would become the player that he did.Stan Musial

The impact of Pujols leaving St. Louis is even starker when comparing his first 11 seasons to those of the greatest Cardinal in history – Stan Musial. Stan the Man hit .345 from 1942 – 1953. (Musial played 12 games in 1941 and missed the 1945 while serving in the Navy.) He had 2,203 hits, 1,120 RBIs, 411 doubles, 133 triples, and 256 home runs. Musial won six batting titles, three MVP Awards, and had six 200-hit seasons. During those 11 seasons he led the league in hits six times, doubles seven times, triples five times, runs scored four times, and RBIs once. While Pujols may have been off to a better start in his career than even Stan Musial, Pujols leaving ensures that Stan will remain “the Man” in St. Louis.

By the way, if there ever were a player worth $254 million over 10 years, it is Albert Pujols. That being said, I do not agree with the bonuses included in his contract. Pujols will receive a $3 million bonus for his 3,000th hit and a $7 million bonus if he passes Barry Bonds on the all-time home run list. I am of the belief that, if the Angels are paying Pujols $254 million, then he should reach some milestones. But if they insist on giving him a bonus for becoming the all-time leader in home runs, he should get it after he hits home run number 756.

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