March 05, 2013

#Pujols bashing alive and well with #stlcards fans

The latest St. Louis Cardinals "homer," writing via Yahoo, to bash former Cardinals and current Angels slugger Albert Pujols, is Scott Wuerz, columnist for the Belleville News-Democrat.

He says that he's worried about Pujols' knee surgery, thinks his comment that he doesn't need a lot of prep because of his career at bats is a lie of sorts, and apparently thinks his numbers from last year will be a repeat this year. He also claims, which I've not heard, that Phat Albert has said he's OK playing second banana to Josh Hamilton. Wurtz clearly expects him to be third bananaa to both Hamilton and Mike Trout.

Here's my response, that I left on Yahoo, first:
I'm not so "down" on Pujols as Scott is. First, throw out the first month of last season, which probably, tho denied by Pujols, included some "pressing," and May-Sept. he was behind only Trout (who may not do so well this year) and Cabrera.
Second, a full year before talks broke down, the Cards made clear that not only would they not do a long-term deal in general, but that they wouldn't do a creative one that paid for career performance bonuses like 3K hits or 500 HRs.

I'm a lifelong Cards fan, but not such a "homer" as Scott is to know that it takes two to tangle as well as tango, and Cards management is not blameless.
Now, a bit more depth.

The Angels' lineup is even deeper than last year. Pujols has had that full season to adapt to the American League. And, "second banana" aside, he's got no reason to "press" this year.  (And wanting to "step out of the spotlight" is not the same as "playing second banana." Seems clear that Cards fans who want to hate on Pujols will look for new reasons to justify that.)

That said, in another piece, Wuerz does look more critically at how John Mozeliak handled Pujols negotiations.

Meanwhile, how accurate is Wuerz in expecting Pujols to keep sliding?

He's not, in my opinion.

Will the Angels have the Pujols of 2006 this year? No. But, I expect him to get his BA back above .300, his slugging back above .550, and to start taking more walks again this year, putting his OBP above .400 and his OPS above .950. He'll bust 100 on both runs and RBIs.

(Update, March 5: And, he's actually going to play in spring training, starting today. Take that, Mr. Wuerz.)

Last year? Of course, he had the April from hell. May was still slow, and September slid off. But, his 2012 splits show June, July and August all above .970 OPS. If he does that for three months, and the other three months are all above .800, he'll fulfill my predictions.

In short, the Angels may not have the Pujols of 2006, but they WILL have the Pujols of 2010 this year, in all likelihood. Maybe the Pujols of 2009.

Take that, Pujols haters. See here for my take on his performance last year.

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