On March 6, the St Louis Cardinals announced that All-Star first baseman Albert Pujols will forego having a ligament on his right elbow replaced, or what is commonly referred to as “Tommy John” surgery.
Instead, he will play through the pain and swelling that has plagued him since last year and re-evaluate the injury at the end of this season.
If he were to elect to have the procedure now, his entire 2008 season would be lost to recovery and rehabilitation.
The question though is should he wait?
I certainly appreciate his commitment to the team and fans, as do all the fantasy owners who drafted him. But what are the benefits of playing this season as opposed to coming back next year?
From a team perspective, Pujols would be better off electing to have the surgery now.
The Cardinals are clearly not the same that took the field in 2006 when they won the World Series. Today, there are many questions with the rotation, the outfield will be young and unproven, and the infield (sans Pujols) would have fresh faces at three of four positions.
The reality is they will not be competing for the division title anytime in the near future against the likes of an improved Cubs organization and the more mature Brewers. What we are seeing is a changing of the guard in St Louis.
Stalwarts Rolen, Edmonds, and Eckstein are now in different uniforms. Ace and former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter is still rehabbing from his own surgery and likely will be nowhere near his old form anytime soon this season.
Well-respected former General Manager Walt Jocketty was told his services were no longer appreciated and one would suspect LaRussa, who has grown more than weary of the local media, more than likely will retire soon.
That leaves the hopes and future of this organization squarely on the shoulders of their most recognized player. It only makes sense for Pujols to undergo the knife now so hope can spring eternal, only it will have to wait until this time next year.
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