Saturday, February 19, 2011

Albert Pujols: The LeBron James of Baseball?

I have seen a lot of comparisons on the internet, and heard some of them in person, of LeBron James and Albert Pujols. Of course, these comparisons hinge on the fact that Pujols and the Cardinals did not come to an agreement before the end of Pujols' self-imposed deadline. I am here to refute the fact that Pujols is anything like LeBron James, even if Pujols does end up leaving the Cardinals for the Cubs or some other team.

1. Pujols hasn't even left yet, and he may not.

He imposed his deadline because now he just wants to focus on playing, something that is certainly respectable. There is still some chance that Pujols gets signed during the exclusive free agency period where the Cardinals can be the only team to talk to him. It's also possbile the Cardinals could retain him after he can talk to anyone. So, obviously, the fact that Pujols hasn't even left and spurned the team he spent years with, is a pretty big difference. Granted, it could be a temporary difference.

2. The Cardinals did not offer him anything close to market value.

Now, I'm not anywhere close to being an expert on basketball, but as I recall the Cavaliers actually offered James MORE money than the Heat did, making this comparison less valid. If you believe the reports, the Cardinals offered Pujols something like 8 years at $21m a year. Now, this sounds like a lot of money to you and me, but it's important to note what lesser (but still clearly very good) First Basemen are being paid right now:
Mark Teixeira - 22.5m/year
Ryan Howard - $25m/year

Who in their right mind, would give Pujols a serious offer that makes him only the third highest player at his position? I have a serious feeling that if Pujols were just offered market value ($26m/year, which would still be a home town discount) as the best first basemen in the game, he would probably take the deal. The reason this varies so much from LeBron James, is that it is not as if Pujols was offered an extremely fair deal for his "talents" like LeBron was, the Cardinals were trying to severely underpay him.

3. Pujols helped the Cardinals win a championship.

Clearly something LeBron James never did for the Cavaliers. Unlike with James, it is not as if Pujols did not bring his city greatest reward in all of his respective sport. It stands to reason, similarly, that Cardinals fans will not be nearly as vociferous towards Pujols as Cavaliers fans are towards LeBron, given this fact. I am not saying they won't be hostile -- they probably will be if he leaves, just not AS hostile.

4. The Cardinals before Pujols were not perennial losers.

The Cavaliers, throughout NBA history before LeBron James, were a horrible team. The St. Louis Cardinals are far from it. If you didn't know, the Cardinals have the second most championships of any MLB team with 10 World Series Championships. They won 9 of those without Pujols. The fact that the Cardinals are known for winning also makes the comparison difficult. Pujols is not the one bright light in the history of the franchise that everyone hopes will win them a championship some day. As I stated earlier, Pujols already helped them win one championship, and they won many more without him.

5. Pujols is not the only superstar on the team

In case you forgot, the Cardinals also have Matt Holliday and an extremely good starting rotation. Not to mention a steadily rising star in Colby Rasmus. The Cardinals would certainly be able to reload if they lost Pujols -- they do not have all of their eggs in one basket like the Cavaliers did.

Anyway, that's it for now. It will be interesting to see where Pujols lands next witner.


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