Pujols, of course, has suffered all season from a plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which is his all-important timing and planting foot in the batter's box, along with, naturally, one of the two crucial feet that's involved in running. We salute Pujols for sucking it up and playing through the discomfort, even though it too often made him a sitting duck on the basepaths, basically took his Gold Glove away from first base and, yes, made him a less effective hitter.
Pujols has 17 homers in 99 games. His .258 batting average and .767 OPS both are career lows, by a long way. He hasn't been the same guy he was in 2012, when he wasn't the same guy he was in 2011, when he wasn't the same guy he was the whole rest of his career. He has become a completely different player, and even more so with his foot problems.
Now, Pujols is 17 homers and a .767 OPS in 99 games. That's not even Brandon Moss, who is playing first base for the Oakland Athletics and producing 17 homers with a .771 OPS. And Moss has done it in 303 at-bats, compared to 391 for Pujols. And Moss is making $1.6 million, 10 percent of Pujols' 2013 salary.
Thus, Pujols isn't the same player -- not the same player as himself, and not even the same player as Brandon Moss. But he gets paid to play, so he played.
Even if Pujols had never encountered the partially torn ligament in the foot that finally placed him on the disabled list last weekend, the Angels had to be considering whether running him out there to string out a lost season would be prudent. In a way, then, the torn ligament is a blessing for the Angels, who were forced to shut Pujols down when they otherwise might not have.
The reports tell us that Pujols' contract calls for him to earn $16 million in 2013, with his salary jumping to $23 million in 2014. The common speculation has it that if Pujols needs surgery on his foot, there's a recovery time of six months.
Once the Angels lost two of three at home to the Minnesota Twins in their second series after the All-Star break, they were finished as even an aspiring playoff contender. At that point, the Angels needed to give Pujols the next six months off to do what needs to be done with his foot.
By next year, when he receives a $7 million raise, you want Pujols healed, healthy and going full speed. It would not have been worth it for the Angels to keep running Pujols out there to earn the $5.33 million due for the last two months of a pointless 2013 and then have him still limping for $23 million in 2014.
We have no insight on what the Angels actually were planning to do with Pujols. But we've been watching their suits make decisions for a while now, and they usually don't do very well. We shouldn't be too surprised if someone with a lot of influence around there would have insisted that Pujols keep playing. Nothing this club does is likely to surprise us for a while.
Then, Pujols tore the ligament.
Pujols is sitting.
The only question now is whether the Angels will attempt to bring Pujols back sometime this season. It would be foolish. There is absolutely nothing to be gained. And, yet, the Angels haven't said, definitively, that they're shutting down Pujols for the rest of the year. He's only on the 15-day disabled list. They need to put him on the 60-day disabled list, which might even help them make an insurance claim for what remains of his 2013 salary.
It certainly is telling about the Angels that an injury to a player on a 10-year contract for $254 million is good news, but their decision making is such bad news that one has to be grateful that the decision about whether or not to play Pujols is largely out of their hands.
At least, it is for now. Breathe a sigh of relief. Unless, or until, the Angels decide to run him out there, to no good end, sometime in September.
Bill Peterson has covered and written about Major League Baseball for more than 30 years in Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Texas and Los Angeles, where he now lives and writes a baseball blog, Big Leagues in Los Angeles. He is a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
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