Albert Pujols signed a 10-year contract for $240 million in the offseason and currently has an OPS (on base-plus-slugging percentage) lower than Jamey Carroll's.
Pujols, a superstar with the St. Louis Cardinals and an 11-year veteran, hasn't hit a home run since joining the Los Angeles Angels and, going into Monday night's game against the Twins, doesn't have an RBI since April 15. He had two singles in 13 at-bats when the Angels lost two of three games at Target Field a few weeks back.
Based on less than a month of play, people are starting to ask whether the megacontract was a mistake. Sound familiar? It doesn't help the Angels that they have a 7-15 record, a half-game better than the Twins, after being considered an almost-certain playoff team when the season started.
Associated Press columnist Tim Dahlberg wrote over the weekend that Pujols should eventually revert to the form the Angels expected when they signed him, but that his best seasons could already be behind him: "The more Pujols struggles, the more ridiculous his 10-year deal seems. Right now, he's nothing more than a $240 million mistake."
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Pujols has "been so passive at the plate, taking fastball after fastball for first-pitch strikes, that he seems to have an 0-and-1 count when he's standing in the on-deck circle."
After retiring him three times on ground balls Sunday, Cleveland pitcher Derek Lowe told the Times-Herald of Northern Ohio: "Obviously, he's not swinging the bat the same way. He's swinging at pitches that he doesn't normally swing at. I used to throw him breaking balls and he would just let them go by. Now he's swinging at them."
Pujols had faced Lowe frequently in the National League and had a .357 batting average against him before Sunday's game.
Pujols has a .216 batting average and a .295 slugging percentage through 22 games. His career numbers are .312 and .627.
If all of this sounds like the treatment Joe Mauer received last season, the first year of his eight-year, $168 million deal, you're right. Not all of the facts line up. There are no injury issues, for example, and Pujols doesn't carry Mauer's hometown tag.
We'll see what happens when Pujols gets himself straightened out, whether he'll ever do enough to please some fans -- which will be another comparison to Mauer.
In the meantime, it would be unwise for Twins fans to get too confident about Minnesota pitchers versus Albert, a scene that will play out for three games this week in Anaheim and for three more next week at Target Field.
As Cleveland manager Manny Acta said Sunday afternoon when the Indians-Angels series ended: "I feel sorry for the people who are going to see him going forward, because he's going to go off. He's getting close. I'm glad he's out of here."
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