When the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim swooped in and signed Albert Pujols out of nowhere, a lot of people thought giving the guy $240 million was a pretty bold move. It turned out, though, that the team just signed a gazillion dollar TV deal, so the Angels had a quarter of a billion dollars burning a hole in their pocket, and a 3-time MVP who has been a consistent .300/30/100 guy is hardly a risk. So why the hell does he suck so far this season?
At least that’s the question that the media types are asking as Pujols is just a few games from breaking his longest streak without a home run (26 games). El Hombre or the Machine, whichever he prefers to be called in his new city, is hitting a pathetic .222 with 0 dingers and just 4 RBI in his first 18 games with the Halos, who are dead last in the AL West at 6-12. But don’t worry, those media folks know exactly what’s wrong.
For starters, his new stadium is way too big:
According to his spray chart, Pujols has hit four long drives at Angels Stadium, with four balls being caught deep and one hitting off the top of the wall. “He’s very frustrated with that ballpark. The ball doesn’t carry there,” another scout said. “He probably underestimated the ballpark, and how tough it is to hit home runs there.” (Via CBS Sports)
Or maybe it’s that whole new team with a lot of hype to live up to thing that’s got him cold:
“He was in the comfort zone in St. Louis,” the second scout said. “Now he’s in a new place and feels he has to prove something all over again. It’s mental.”
One prominent agent (not Pujols’ guy) said nearly every big player had a short adjustment period to his new surroundings. Last year Carl Crawford and Adam Dunn were among the new free agents adjusting to a change of locale.
Yeah, and Adam Dunn’s still hitting .239 and striking out like he’s putting out forest fires, while Carl Crawford is on the DL for the eleventy billionth time.
So is it his confidence that’s shot? He doesn’t think so:
“I know I have power,” Pujols said. “I know I can hit the ball from corner to corner. I know all that, but I’m not going to think about getting caught up and saying, ‘Man, I haven’t hit a home run.’ … I have, what, 445 for a reason.” (Via USA Today)
Did you guys come here to listen to him make excuses or sock some dingers? But it has to be made clear that it’s mostly Pujols’ fault that the Angels have already dug themselves into a hole they may never recover from (they’ve never recovered from a 6.5 game deficit to take the division).
It’s hard to lay the blame on any one player, but Pujols has been a huge disappointment. Perhaps the three-time NL MVP is overdoing it in trying to live up to the lofty $254 million deal he signed this winter, but he is mired in the worst stretch of his career, an 0-for-19 slide that has dipped his average to a mere .222. Not to mention he’s yet to hit a home run and only has four RBIs on the year and even heard boos on the Angels’ last homestand. (Via the Miami Herald)
Perhaps manager Mike Scioscia is to blame for it all.
“Would we rather have a better record at this point? Absolutely,” said manager Mike Scioscia, who has tried 14 different lineups. “There’s a mild frustration with some guys because they know we wanted to get off to a good start, and we’re not there right now. But the talent in this team is real, and it will come to the forefront, and when that starts to happen, I think you’ll see a lot of guys start relaxing and getting into their game.” (Via San Francisco Chronicle)
I know, Pujols’ previous success with the St. Louis Cardinals was a familiarity thing. He played in Busch so much that he just knew how to hit home runs there easier than other parks or maybe he always had a better supporting cast in St. Louis.
Albert will not hit 30 homers. The Anaheim park is more difficult to to hit home runs in than Busch. He doesn’t have a Scott Rolen or a Jim Edmonds or a Matt Holliday or a Lance Berkman hitting behind him. And he doesn’t know the pitchers yet. Much of Pujols’ success has depended on knowledge. This having been said, he still will have a good year, but not what we’ve seen. At least not this year. (Via St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
I’ll take that bet. The thing I love about baseball is the Chicken Little attitude early on. Sure, for Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros fans, the sky falls quickly. But the Angels are stacked, and they have the benefit of MLB having two Wild Cards now. I have a feeling Pujols and Anaheim will be just fine.
In the meantime, please enjoy my two favorite Pujols GIFs.