Albert Pujols turned 39 in January (the 16th to be exact) and apparently Pujols thinks he can play 162 games in 2019. “I’m expecting to play 162 games,” the Los Angeles Angels first baseman said Sunday. “One hundred ninety games I’m going to play this year, including spring training.”
That bold prediction seems ambitious at best. In fact it sounds ridiculous when you look at Pujols’s health issues since he’s been with the Angels. Let’s debunk that theory with Albert’s health report card after seven seasons with the Halos:
- Pujols tweaked his right knee and injured his right calf while sliding awkwardly into second base against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park on Aug. 22, 2012. Former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said at the time, “We’ll never know how much pain he was in because this guy is incredibly tough, mentally and physically, and he doesn’t say much,” Dipoto said. “But it was pretty evident over the last six weeks that he was hobbled to a degree. Still, he did an incredible job of producing. I’d like to see him play without the pain.”
- Pujols had minor arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after the 2012 season.
- On August 19, 2013, after suffering through plantar fasciitis on his left foot during the season, he ended the season by going on the disabled list to recover. While Pujols could have played through the pain and undergone surgery in the offseason, he elected to get the procedure done early, a move that cost him the last two months of the season.
- On August 28, 2015, Pujols injured his right foot. He said this at the time. “I have a lot of fuel in my tank to play this game,” he said. “I showed that in the first half of the season. The second half of the season, I started good. And the last month or so, I’m dealing with this injury, which has been frustrating. But I know that I still can play this game, and I know that I’m going to still be able to play this game for a while.”
- On December 3, 2016, Pujols underwent surgery on his right plantar fascia. He would be out four months causing him to miss the beginning of the 2017 season.
- In July 2018, he received a platelet-rich plasma injection after landing on the disabled list in July with left knee inflammation. He dealt with knee issues all season long.
- On August 29, 2018, Pujols missed the remainder of the season after undergoing arthroscopic debridement of his left knee. During that time he also had surgery on his right elbow to remove a bone spur.
So what did Manager Brad Ausmus have to say about Albert’s bold prediction? “He will not be playing 190, I promise you that. If he’s playing well, he’s going to play, it’s as simple as that,” Ausmus said. “The important thing about spring training is making sure he’s healthy going into the season. We certainly don’t want to overload him here and have an issue in April and May. It’s going to evolve as we go. We’ll certainly be cautious out of the gate.”
Ausmus seems to have two factors in mind when it comes to Pujols: his performance and his health. The Angels can’t have rallies killed by double plays and popups if there are runners on base. Justin Bour will definitely put some heat on Pujols to perform as they alternate at first base when Ohtani comes back from the disabled list in May. In the meantime, Pujols is a lock to be the Opening Day designated hitter. The Angels know that they can’t have a $29 million bench player.
On January 6, 2012, Albert Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million contract, which surpassed St. Louis’s offer by more than $40 million. Halos fans expected rings when Albert arrived, but it hasn’t translated that way. The Angels have had one playoff appearance since he arrived and were swept three games to none by a Kansas City (Royals) buzzsaw in the 2014 ALDS. The Angels haven’t been back to the playoffs since then.
Pujols also hasn’t been the same player that he was when he played for the St. Louis Cardinals. After batting .328 and hitting 445 home runs over 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols has a .260 average and 188 homers in seven years with the Angels.
That’s not for a lack of trying and Pujols is definitely a competitor:
“My job is to be healthy and help this ballclub to win a championship,” Pujols said. “I don’t think I need to show anybody. I know what I can do when I’m healthy and that’s what I try to do. My main focus is to help this ballclub win a championship. This is not about me.”
During the last three years of Pujol’s contract, he will receive $29 million, $30 million, and $31 million respectively. Will he walk away with dignity if he’s not healthy and/or producing?
All eyes will be on Pujols this season since his output has declined the last two seasons. 2019 is a moment of truth and even though Pujols thinks he can play 190 games including spring training games this season, everyone but him seems to know that it’s pretty darn near impossible.
Featured Image: Albert Pujols/MLB Photos