The worst season of Albert Pujols’ career is officially in the books.
According to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, the Angels have ruled Pujols out for the rest of the season. The 33-year-old went on the disabled list with a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot in late July and was holding out hope for a return after shedding his walking boot on Friday, but that scenario never made much sense with the Angels so far out of the race. At this point, it’s best for all involved to turn the focus to 2014.
Hobbled by the foot injury, Pujols batted just .258/.330/.437 with 17 home runs and 64 RBI in 99 games this season while seeing the majority of his at-bats out of the DH spot. His OPS has dropped from 1.001 to .906 to .859 to .767 over the past four seasons. The Angels will have to hope that improved health reverses that trend. Pujols still has another eight years remaining on his monster $240 million contract.
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. 😉