Cardinals fans are predictably very upset with Albert Pujols for choosing to leave St. Louis and sign with the Angels for considerably more money, but it’s worth remembering that because of MLB’s service time and financial structure he’s spent most of his career being significantly underpaid.
Pujols was paid around $104 million for his 11 seasons with the Cardinals, during which time Fan Graphs calculates his overall value as being approximately $330 million.
And that’s regular season only, so the $330 million in value doesn’t even include Pujols hitting .330 with 18 homers and a 1.046 OPS in 74 postseason games while winning two World Series titles.
Those figures are based on Wins Above Replacement and the typical cost of acquiring players on the open market, so there’s certainly some room to quibble one way or another, but the main point is clear: Pujols was an MVP-caliber player for 11 consecutive seasons and the Cardinals, while paying him handsomely, also paid dramatically below market rates for more than a decade of Hall of Fame production.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉