I died for a second on Tuesday night. I think my heart literally stopped beating.
When Adam Kennedy’s throw drew Albert Pujols off of first base, El Hombre was STILL able to catch the ball and apply a tag to the baserunner. The double play was successful, but it was what happened afterwards that scared me. Albert whipped off his glove and knelt on the ground, holding his hand. Although the injury is apparently just a mild sprain, all of Cardinal nation collectively held their breath. In St. Louis, every heart skipped a beat.
The best player in baseball cannot be replaced.
I understand that Alex Rodriguez now makes more money then about 90% of all COUNTRIES in the world. I know that Big Papi has a stupid Dick’s Sporting Goods commercial in which he crushes a fastball through the store window. Ryan Howard is in a similar commercial taking BP with some teens. That’s lovely.
Regardless of whether or not he gets his recognition, Albert Pujols is the greatest player in the game today. And yes, I will tell you why. Let’s list the five best hitters in the game right now. We’ll say Pujols, A-Rod, Ortiz, Howard and we’ll throw in Miguel Cabrera for fun. We’ll ignore Matt Holiday for now despite his disgusting season last year, because longevity will factor in to this.
Closer analysis shows that the last three aren’t even close. Pujols destroys them statistically. Over his career he has a higher batting average, on-base-percentage (OBP), slugging percentage, more runs, and a better walk:strikeout ratio then all three, and more homers and RBIs then all but Howard.
However, A-Rod is much more close. Pujols has a better average, OBP, SLG%, and much better SO:BB ratio. A-Rod averages 2 more HRs, 1 more RBI and 1 more run per season. Although both are phenomenal hitters who seem almost identical, the difference lies in their respective lineups.
The Yankees’ top 4 spots in the lineup other than A-Rod on that same Tuesday night had a combined 14 All-Star Appearances, and 1,438 more hits, 159 more HRs and 797 more RBIs than the Cardinals top 4 other than Pujols. Rodriguez, like it or not, plays on a much more talented, experienced team and has a lot more protection surrounding him in the lineup.
Reports of Albert’s demise were greatly exaggerated this season when doctors suggested elbow problems were reportedly going to end his season sooner rather than later. But he has come out playing even more strong than he played last year. While Cabrera, Ortiz and Howard have struggled early on, and A-Rod has been solid, Pujols is hitting well and leading the majors in OPS. Elbow pains or not, he is still the feared slugger that he’s always been.
Don’t get me wrong, A-Rod is an amazing hitter, and gets an unfair rep of being an anti-clutch type of player. Alex Rodriguez and every other hitter I named are incredible talents, and should be respected for their accomplishments on the field. Also, Cabrera is still younger than Pujols, leaving room for improvement, and Howard has more impressive power numbers.
However, after this analysis it’s clear that even surrounded by the best hitters in the world, El Hombre stands alone as a lone ranger. He is the best overall hitter in the game.