Since 2002, Albert Pujols has been in the top 10 of the NL MVP vote every single year. And if you dismiss 2007, where he finished ninth in the balloting as an anomaly, he’s ended up in the top 3.
Friends, that’s scary good. We aren’t talking about a media darling here that is getting undue breaks from buddies in the press box doing the voting either. He’s earned serious consideration for the league’s highest individual honor every year, without fail, for a decade.
A decade ago I couldn’t legally drink. Today, I don’t get carded.
So as we reach the precipice of June and step back to asses The Pujols, it’s not only jarring to think of the talent that this particular player might be leaving St. Louis with, but also, perhaps more succinctly, wonder: what the hell Albert?
We knew that that specter of having perhaps the biggest contract in the history of professional sports looming over an entire season was going to be daunting for Pujols. Try as he might to completely compartmentalize ‘the season’ from ‘the contract’, I think it’s fairly obvious now that he can’t.
It’s either that, or he went from being the premiere hitter in baseball to a plodding double play producing machine (leading MLB).
Let’s give the MVP the benefit of the doubt and say his talent hasn’t fallen off a cliff and that career lows in batting average (.262) on base percentage (.329) and slugging (.411) are more of a symptom of too much applied pressure rather than a superstar cresting and free falling to retirement.
As the June deadline for All-Star balloting approaches, It’s become the elephant in the room — Albert Pujols will be an All-Star. And Albert Pujols does not, in any way, deserve this honor.
He’s one of the biggest stars in baseball. In the Midwest voting bloc, I don’t think that fans could even begin to be objective about the first sub-par season in Albert’s illustrious career. He’s going to be on the NL team, regardless of the numbers he puts up over the next 30 days.
Albert VORP (value over replacement player) in 2011? 4.8 His career average? 81.2.
But that’s one metric, pick yours and you’ll be more than stunned at the averageness of Pujols in 2011. But the one I rely on most? The eyeball test.
And what I see in 2011 are teams are not scared like they used to be. Pujols was always great, but when the spotlight was white hot, Pujols was the BEST. It was surprising to see him NOT come through when it mattered the most. Now people that are regular followers of the team are hoping for anything but a double play. Sometimes a weak pop up to center is acceptable since it gives Holliday a chance to bat.
At this point, let’s just hope that Pujols gets to some levels that won’t be awkward for Joe Buck to talk about when he calls #5 out of the Chase Field dugout.
Because Albert deserves to be considered an All-Star… just not in 2011.