We'll always have the first half of the season...specifically June. Oh, and the first half of July, when Albert Pujols was smashing baseballs on a daily basis, nudging his way up the all time home run list while also sneaking on to an All Star Game roster. It was a beautiful time to be an Angels fan, as well as a person writing about the Angels; I got to use "vintage Pujols" regularly, as he gave us a taste of what made him a legend in St. Louis, and what got him that insane payday from Arte Moreno.
I hope you enjoyed it, because it is gone, and it's probably never coming back.
The Angels probably think they're a playoff contender, however it's tough to think of them in such light when they trot out an injured, struggling and slumping Pujols every night. Do you know many teams bound for playoff success that also have a guy in the lineup that might as well be one of those funny, inflatable waving things you see outside of car dealerships? In the 60 games since the All Star break, Pujols has a disgusting .209 avg, .264 OBP and an OPS of .621; the hits aren't there, the homers have dried up and the trending arrow is not only pointing down, but it's pointing straight into the bowels of baseball hell.
The "Vintage Machine" we saw is now simply a junkyard relic. The plate prowess and discipline that we saw isn't there, and he can't be counted on for much more than a ground out here and there. The crazy amount of homers hit before the All Star Game were smoke and mirrors; Pujols was selling out for the home run, a boom or bust methodology at the plate that works okay, so long as you can at least generate power for a dinger here and there. Unfortunately, his feet problems reared their ugly head once again this month, and he can't even rely on the long ball any more.
Yet Mike Scioscia keeps plugging him into the lineup, perhaps simply because he's the veteran presence Scioscia loves and adores, or perhaps it's just because the alternatives aren't a whole heck of a lot better. Either way, they have shown that they can't quit the guy, and will probably ride him till his contract's wheels fall off in 2021.
That wasn't a typo...Pujols' contract is over in 2021 and we're going to be stuck with him and that salary crater for not only the next presidential election, but the one AFTER that. There's only one man that can stop this insanity, and that's Albert Pujols. He's alluded to some possible reasons he may bow out before his contract is up, and now it's just a matter of him sticking to his word.
Albert Pujols quitting on this team is our only hope at this point, and here are a couple ways he's said he can see it playing out:
- His daughter competes in the Special Olympics: earlier this year, Pujols mentioned that in 2020, his daughter will be eligible for the Special Olympics, and seeing as how she's an extremely talented gymnast, they may make a run for her to be in that year's games(even though she'll only be 14). Pujols has stated that if this were to happen, he'd go so far as abandoning the Angels and his contract, if it meant not missing any of her road to a gold medal.
- He feels he can no longer compete, and retires early: In 2013, speaking about the Angels big, long term contracts(Pujols and Hamilton, primarily) and their drag upon the Angels' chances at fielding a good team, Pujols stated "God has given me ability and talent, but the day I feel like I can't compete any more on this level, I'm not going to embarrass myself," Pujols said. "I'm going to walk off. Whether that's next year, two years from now, only God knows." So there it is. Pujols himself said that he'll walk away from the game when he can no longer play at a decent level and help his team. The only questions that remain are "Will he be able to recognize when that time comes?" and "Will he keep his word?".
From what we've seen with the Angels in the past, it seems like they aren't going to touch Albert Pujols, even to just gently and appropriately nudge him towards retirement. They'll let him flounder and fail, and they'll keep him in the lineup while paying him ungodly amounts of money, and he'll continue to be the albatross tied around the necks of the forsaken Halos.
That means that we'll have more Pujols injuries, more black-hole-in-middle-of-lineup Pujols, and the only person that can put us out of our(and his) misery is Albert Pujols himself.
Do the right thing, Albert. You're our only hope.