Peyton Manning, Albert Pujols, Jimmie Foxx, Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Robinson

Peyton Manning and Albert Pujols have one thing in common. That one thing is if they both retired today, they would both be locks to make the Hall of Fame. That’s where the similarities end. I’m writing this entry because a friend of mine who says we should sign Albert at all cost said that Albert is every bit as important to the Cardinals as Manning is to the Colts.

I’ve long felt that Manning was the one player in sports worth every penny he makes. I stated in an article about a year ago that the Colts would be lucky to go 2-14 without him. In the 2011 season, that’s a very real possibility, and the Colts will be lucky to win 2 at this point. I think there have only been a few players like that in professional sports, the problem is, none of them are in MLB. No matter how young or inexperienced a team in MLB is, there’s no shot of anyone ever going 0-162. The only player in MLB in my lifetime that I could honestly say a team needs to re-sign at all cost was Mariano Rivera. Let’s face it, when the Yankees have the lead after 8 innings, the game is as close to over as it’s ever going to get.

Some would jump on me here and argue that Tom Brady is one of those guys. Well, a few years ago, Matt Cassel stepped into Brady’s role and led the Patriots to a 10-5 record after taking over in week 2 and after not playing much since high school. Until that moment, he previously had 22 completions in the NFL at that point.  What do you think Manning could have done with that Patriots team? How many more Super Bowls would Manning have if he and Brady had switched teams?

Manning makes both the offense and the defense better. He puts pressure on the opposing team to take chances to score early and often, forcing opposing offenses to take chances they normally wouldn’t take. He allows defensive players like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis to shine because of the opposing team’s sense of urgency in trying to pass and score. He rarely has a 3 and out, giving his defense time to rest and play fresh. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

No MLB player can do these things. It takes a complete team. With Pujols, the Cards were going nowhere in 2011, until the team fixed a few of the problems, most noticeably the defense at shortstop and the bullpen, along with adding a starting pitcher. If the Cards re-sign Pujols, they are going to have to strike gold with a big number of prospects in the coming years to put together a consistent winner. While we all like to dream about Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Ryan Jackson, Matt Adams and others, the chances of all them working out and being successful at the major league level are not good.

The Cardinals are going to need payroll flexibility to deal with in season issues like they did in 2011, adding pieces along the way due to injuries, old players hitting the wall, etc. If the Cards re-sign Pujols, you can forget about that. The Cardinals payroll is around $110 million and probably isn’t going to increase anytime soon. Having $42-$45 million tied up in Matt Holliday and Pujols just isn’t a smart business decision and a recipe for winning for a mid market team.

If Adam Wainwright comes back and continues his trend of being a top 3 starting pitcher in the game, where will the money be for him in 2014 if the Cards re-sign Pujols? What about future stars that will come along? The few things I think most fans should think about is that Stan Musial retired in 1963, and the Cards won it all in 1964. The Giants never won a WS with Barry Bonds hitting juiced up bombs, but after him retiring or run out of baseball, they’ve already won a WS, and have a starting rotation that will make them the front runners in the NL West for years to come. Losing Buster Posey this year was crucial, but even as anemic as their offense was, they still came close. I think the Giants model is the best one to follow for a team with a similar payroll like the Cards. And then you have the Texas Rangers, who after a few years of finally paying off their portion of the A-Roid salary have won the AL Pennant for 2 years straight. They’ve won it with a balanced team.

So no friends, it’s not my hate for Albert Pujols. Pujols has put up historic numbers in his first 11 years, but that trend is not going to continue. Yes, I think if he wanted to be a Cardinal for life he would have been already. Yes, I get tired of some of his antics over the last couple of years with the bat flipping, admiring every ball hit to the outfield whether it’s a HR or not. For those that come to his defense about him not hustling out ground balls because of his nagging injuries, that’s fine, but shouldn’t that reason to give pause for giving a 32 year old player a contract over $200 million? Finally, I think him putting up the lowest number of walks in his career with 61 is something to be worried about, especially since he had the best protection behind him since Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen in Lance Berkman and Holliday. All I really want in the end is for the Cards to be a contender on a yearly basis. History says Albert is going to decline. Recent history suggests that putting all your eggs in the one basket such as Bonds and A-Roid doesn’t guarantee success, in fact, it hurts your chances. Unlike what Peyton Manning is able to do with a bunch of scrubs around him in Indy, MLB is different. You need a complete team, not an aging, overpriced first baseman.

For one final thought, I’m going to be comparing Albert against the greatest of all time. In the coming weeks, I’m going compare him against everyone in the 500 HR club, along with the top 10 first basemen of all time, but I want to start today with the 3 top players on his baseball-reference page of most similar batters through the age of 31.

In order, the three are Jimmie Foxx, Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Robinson. Here is a list of the number of HR’s they hit in their careers, the number they hit before age 32, and the number they hit from 32 on.

PlayerCareer HR'sHR before 32HR from 32 on
Jimmie Foxx53446470
Ken Griffey Jr.630460170
Frank Robinson586381205
Albert Pujols445445?
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8 Responses to Peyton Manning, Albert Pujols, Jimmie Foxx, Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Robinson

  1. WainwrightandMiller says:

    J.D.,

    As usual, you nailed it! The Birds will be better off in the future without Pujols, no doubt. I’m sure many Cards fans will think Pujols will give money back like Big Mac if he doesn’t perform like he has, but they can think again. Thanks for not comparing Pujols to Babe Ruth. CardsTalk if full of goobers that want to do that, and it’s getting a little stupid. Looking forward to Albert vs. the aging stars!!!!

  2. jstone says:

    JD,

    There are many areas of this piece in which we are in total agreement. Albert is NOT as important to us and Manning is to Indy. Agreed. Signing Albert to a huge contract does to some degree limit payroll flexibility. Agreed. What we all want is for the Cardinals to have a chance to be competitive year in and year out. Agreed. Lets look at another perspective though…

    Concern #1: Pujols is sure to produce less the next eight years than he has the last eight years. This is absolutely true. In the post-steroid era there is substantial evidence that hitters as they progress into their 30′s decline substantially in production. Will Pujols? Maybe. What sets Pujols apart from many of his peers is the way he approaches off seasons. He works HARD, year round — and I would venture a guess that he works harder than 95% of other players. This gives him a chance to be productive much longer than most. There are no guarantees obviouisly, but if we are going to play the odds here, my guess is that the odds are Albert still has at least 4-5 if not 6-7 years of real productivity left in him.

    Concern #2: Lack of payroll flexibility. Obviously signing a player to a $20-$25 million/season contract when we already have Matt Holiday on the books is risky — especially when (as you correctly point out) Adam Wainright is up for free agency in a couple of years. You are right to express the concern, but I think this is calculated for the birds. I think the Cardinals believe 100% that they are going to be able to lose Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, Chris Carpenter and maybe even Adam Wainright over the next two seasons, and be able to replace them with youngsters coming up through the system. This may not work out, but I think the smart money says that when the 2014 season opens, Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainright have a solid chance to be in the rotation, with the $30 million in savings from parting ways with Carp, Lohse and Westbrook funding a big raise for Wainright and leaving enough extra money to pay the kids who are still not arbitration eligible. At the end of the day, you are absolutely correct to point out that signing Pujols and having $45 million invested into two players threatens the ability to compete year in and year out, and threatens to create a scenario where the team cannot afford to keep Adam Wainright after 2013. That being said, if player development does its job as well as it has the last few seasons, it’s a scenario that might still be very workable.

    At the end of the day, we all know the Cardinals are capable of fielding a solid, complete team whether Albert stays or goes. At the same time, Albert is the sort of player that we’ll likely only see once in our life in a redbird uniform. Thousands of people come to the park every day to see him (note: we’ll draw at least a couple hundred thousand fewer fans to the ballpark if he’s not there, and that’s lost revenue), and whether some people like it or not, he is the face of the franchise. He’s a staple of the community, a highly respected player, and is the sort of player we’ll be able to tell our grandchildren about watching. They’ll say “Grandpa, did you ever get to see Albert Pujols play?” in the same way we might ask an old timer about what it was like to watch Stan or Dimaggio or Ruth. You don’t let the greatest player of a generation walk out the door unless there is absolutely no other option…

    Jordan

  3. TheMachine says:

    Why is it WandM and the blogger have this opinion that “The Machine” is going to suddenly drop off the face of the earth? You do realize your watching the best Right-Handed Hitter OF ALL TIME, right. With players taking better care of themselfs, wouldn’t it be a smart thing to do and accept that “The Machine” is going break every record in the book, and continue to play at this level for another 8 or 7 years at least. 2011 was a fluke season, just like other great players that have had one here and there. Any manager that comes in is going to insist that the Cards keep Pujols. They really don’t want the job without him, because without him, the Cards are a .500 team at best. GET A LIFE retards.

  4. StantheMan says:

    Machine, you’re way off once again. Will you ever stop with your drivel? No player in baseball should be ahead of the team goal. It’s about the name on the front, not the back. We may have watched the best RHH in the game, but there’s no way he can keep up the pace. I did some digging of my own, you should try, and try to find any star in their career put up great numbers after age 32 for 10 more years. If Albert wanted a 5 year deal, that would work, but not 10. If the Cards do resign him, it will be for past performance, and that’s a mistake. No milestone is worth watching the team sink.

    As for the comment about the fans coming out, fans will come out to see a winner, and BIII will draw 3M+ without Pujols if a winner is on the field. Why do I get the feeling that most fans who claim to be Cards fans are nothing more than Pujols fans. Have you ever watched baseball before Albert? I didn’t think so.

    The Cards took a chance on Pujols in 2004 and gave him a contract that they took a risk on. The guy has made 120M+ in his time with the Cards, no reason to be Hands Across America for him. IMHO, Albert will lose money if he walks away from the Cards in the end. If he stays for less, he will make money on his name forever, if he leaves, he will hear it loud from the crowds as his decline starts. I think Frank Thomas is the closest we’ve seen in comparisons from Albert. If you want to believe neither took performance enhancers, and given they are about the same size, look at what happened. You really want to pay for that kind of performance?

  5. TLRHOF says:

    It’s only small-minded fans like you and a few others that actually think the Cardinals will be better off without TLR and Pujols.

    How much more does Pujols need to do to prove he is a Christian, a man of God who preaches his faith and does good things with his money. Do you really think that Pujols is all about the money for himself or for those who need help. And Pujols is the BABE RUTH of our day, why is that so hard for you to understand?

    Did you even play competitive sports, I seriously doubt it. Like I said before, if you were the GM, you would have David Eckstein at short, Bo Hart at second, Stubby Clapp in CF and Joe Mcewing at third. I guess you’d have one of the four hitting in the cleanup spot as well. Good grief.

  6. CardsfaninTX says:

    First timer here. It’s nice to come across a Cards blog that doesn’t bow down to Albert Pujols. He will get worse with age unless he’s using something, but for some reason, people don’t want to believe that. I can see that you’ve been a fan of the Cards a long time, as you can see the light without Pujols. Allen Craig will put up 2011 Pujols numbers for the next 5-6 years I think. Why pay someone 25 million or 30 million when it can be done for 400K? Shift Berkman to first, concentrate on defense and pitching, and the Cards are back in the thick of it in 2012. Good stuff, I will return.

  7. 12in12 says:

    Machine and TLRHOF,

    Speaking of getting a life, you both should try it. If you don’t like the bloggers thoughts, don’t come here. I’m tired of hearing about Pujols and his holiness. He’s a professional athlete out for the most money, and that’s it. He will now get less than what the Cards originally offered him, unless a team like the Nats or Fish throw big money at him to draw fans.

    I enjoy reading the thoughts here. I’m tired of everyone talking about the same old thing with Pujols. His decline is imminent, ‘nough said. The Cards have a good shot of 12in12, without your hero. If you would look to the future instead of looking back, you might realize the Cards have a strong core and a lot of help coming. I expect both of you to transfer to whatever team Pujols signs with, which won’t be the Cards. Good luck cheering on the Fish or the Nats.

  8. TheMachine says:

    I really can’t get why most of you think the Cards will be better without “The Machine”. Also, if anyone knows the blogger, please give his relevance to his vast baseball knowledge. I got a feeling he was a loser that never played any type of sport at all. Retards, all you that agree with him, retards!

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