Monday, December 12, 2011

Albert Pujols deal: What it means to baseball and how Cleveland should view it.

Ok, so I am a lifelong Indians' fan.  But, for the last 27 years of my life I have lived in St. Louis.  So I have grown to like the Cardinals.  Two things about Cardinals' fans: they love their baseball team and they love the statues of their baseball heroes.  We have Bob Feller.  They have Buck, Brock, Musial, The Wizard, the Dizz, Sisler, Red, Papa Bell, Hornsby, etc.  We have one, they have a whole plaza of them outside their stadium.  Believe me, it adds to the history and history brings fans, even in the lean years. 

So, why am I mentioning this on a blog that is supposed to be all Indians all the time?   Because, the Albert Pujols deal has just maybe set a standard for deals for megastars who are destined for the Hall of Fame.  As I understand it, in his deal with the Angels, Pujols has a 10 year contract to be a consultant for the Angels after his playing days are over.  If we assume his playing days will be over right after or soon after his current contract ends, then he will be an Angels' consultant for some, most or all of his 5 post-retirement years before he is eligible to be elected into the Hall of Fame. 

Now, remember, after the Wade Boggs fiasco, where Tampa Bay bought their first and only Hall of Famer with a lame contract clause at the end of Boggs' career, the HOF took over selecting whose hat an inductee will wear.  That is, which team he will represent in the Hall of Fame.  Now, if it is not possible for the HOF to decide because a player has played for multiple teams (see Robbie Alomar), the HOF will take into consideration what the player wants.  So, Pujols will play 10 years for the Angels (he has a no-trade clause), 11 years for the Cardinals and maybe a year or two for someone else.  Thus the decision will probably be Pujols'.  To the dismay of the fans in St. Louis my guess is that he will pick the Angels who, at that time, he will STILL be working for.

Plus, Moreno bought ALL the Albert Pujols records with this contract.  Albert currently has the following rankings in all-time categories:

HR: 445 (record: 762)
Hits: 2073 (4256)
RBIs: 1329 (2297)
Doubles: 455 (792)
Walks: 975  (2558)
Runs: 1329 (2295)

Now, he probably won't break all of these records but, in the AL,  with the DH, he could come closer than he would in the NL, especially in HRs and RBIs.  But records or not, you will have the 500, 600 and maybe 700 HR chase, the race to 3000 hits, the all-time RBI and runs scored chase,  Yes, in the latter years of the contract the LA media will be saying what the NY media is now saying about ARod's contract: that it is an albatross around the Angels' collective necks.

But Arte Moreno bought four, possibly five good years of Albert Pujols production, all of his record chasing and a HOF plaque.  That's a pretty good deal, at least to me.

Meanwhile, for the Cardinals, they have few, if any, guys on their roster who have anything more than an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.  Yeah, Molina, maybe.  Berkman, Holliday, Carpenter, Wainwright...not so much and, even if they do get it, it may not be as Cardinals.  And the Indians, looking at their recent history, have even less of a chance of anyone and especially anyone on their current roster being HOF material.

It could be a while before the Cardinals put up another statue on the plaza outside their ballpark.  For the Indians, it may be even longer, maybe never!  If the Indians want to avoid this drought they need to do what I have said for years and now it may be too late.  They need to make amends with Thome and Vizquel.   I doubt Manny ever gets in but Thome and Vizquel should be HOFers and, if they do, looking at the teams they played for and the numbers that put up, the two of them should go in as Indians.   Statues are important.  The Indians may have lost one when they traded Robbie Alomar, they may have lost two more when they lost Thome and Vizquel and didn't bring them back to finish their careers and, as silly as it sounds, they may have lost one by not keeping Julio Franco to be their 1B/DH instead of letting him go to Asia and other ML teams to play in his later years.   Had they found a way to keep him, he would have most likely gotten 3000 hits which, for a guy who played SS half of his career, would have probably been enough.

As far as the future, if the Indians develop a guy who is HOF caliber (see Sabathia) the odds are great that they won't keep him long enough to have the HOF or the player think he should go in as an Indian and that he will get a contract that will cement him going in wearing another hat.  So, Rapid Robert may be lonely for a long time on that plaza.

The Indians have an opportunity with Thome and Vizquel to get more statues to keep Feller company.  Why does that opportunity exist?  It's here because we kept those players long enough for them to be considered Indians.  We were winning AND we spent to keep them here and they wanted to stay because we spent and we were winning.  We created a case that won't be there with CC.  We created a perfect storm that may not happen again in Cleveland.  We had HOF caliber guys for most of the prime of their careers AND those players ended up playing for multiple teams each for only a few years after leaving Cleveland.  They were and will be remembered predominantly as Cleveland Indians.  . 

Let's hope the Indians didn't blow it with Thome and Vizquel because Pujols contract may have changed EVERYTHING in regards to who keeps the history with respect to a HOFer.  Now, Wade Boggs situation notwithstanding, owners may see that, by sucking up the bad years at the end of a contract, they can buy a HOF plaque and some needed history and tradition at the same time they are getting a player. Now THAT is an investment in the future.  The Indians may never, or at least not for a long time, have another HOF player as a result.  Not unless the HOF and Thome and/or Vizquel see fit to go in as Indians if they are voted in by the HOF voters.   Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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