It's a question with an answer that's simple and complicated at the same time.
Is signing Albert Pujols for A-Rod type money worth the risk?
Is any athlete worth $30 million a year?
While the obvious answer suggests that no athlete is worth that kind of money, the reality of the situation is the market may dictate that he is worth that kind of cash. Even though the Rangers and Yankees signed Alex Rodriguez to contracts that were ridiculous, with both teams paying almost twice the next closest bid, it did set the market for what it costs to sign a player who is considered to be an all-time great.
Comparing the two players is like comparing Shakespeare to Chaucer. They are similar in their magnitude, but unique in their greatness. They bring different gifts to the game.
And while both should surpass Barry Bonds on the All-Time Home Run list, it can't be taken for granted. It was just a few years ago that it was the accepted opinion that Ken Griffey Jr. would be that guy.
Still, some big league team must make the ultimate decision. Do we sign Pujols for A-Rod type money, and will he be worth it? The St. Louis Cardinals weren't able to decide by the beginning of spring training, so it's an issue we'll be dealing with the whole season.
First, let's look at the numbers. In most categories, the 162 game averages of both players are surprisingly similar.
Who will be regarded as the better player?
G PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BA. OBP OBP+ SLUG Ks BB SB
162 718 621 188 33 2 43 129 .303 .387 145 .571 129 79 21
705 596 198 44 2 42 128 .331 .426 172 .624 67 95 8
Both players have put up numbers that can compare with the best the game has ever seen. The difference between the two, though, is the difference between a player who is one of the best of his generation (Rodriguez) and one who is among the best ever (Pujols).
If he continues his present pace and plays five more seasons, Rodriguez will end his career as the all-time home run and RBI leader. Pujols, at 30, could conceivably play 10 more years. At his present pace, he'd eclipse both marks.
The only other category that Rodriguez leads Pujols appreciably is stolen bases.
What makes Pujols the more dangerous hitter and what puts him in the company of the best hitters of all time is his on-base percentage plus slugging. This is a sabermetric stat that measures how well a player gets on base and hits with power. As you can see, Pujols' OBP+ is almost 30 points higher than Rodriguez. There have only been two seasons that Rodriguez approached the number that Pujols averages.
King Albert walks more, hits for a higher average, gets on base more and strikes out less than A-Rod. This makes him more valuable in the lineup.
It's a given that Rodriguez has put up his numbers for a longer period of time. If Pujols were to succumb to injuries, as Griffey did, he would obviously fall in the comparison. Playing first base, though, is a lower stress position than short and third, which A-Rod has played. He's less likely to get injured in the field.
At the plate, his swing is slightly shorter and he has fewer moving parts. He is very quiet with his bottom half and just takes his hands to the ball. This should enable him to stay consistent as he gets older and allow him to stay closer to his career averages.
Pujols will ultimately surpass the career numbers of Rodriguez and will be known as possibly the greatest right-handed hitter the game has seen.