Former St. Louis Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols created a big stir last month when he said he might retire from baseball early to follow his daughter's career in gymnastics.
But I wonder if there are other motivating factors that might cause Pujols to want to hang up his spikes early.
I remember hearing New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle say that he was devastated to realize at the end of his career that he'd hung on long enough to tarnish his great career statistics, ending his career with a batting average below the .300 mark at .298. I wonder if Pujols has the same concerns.
When Pujols ended his stay with the Redbirds he was a career .328 hitter. Just three seasons later, he's seen his lifetime batting average drop 11 points to .317. If he hits the .267 he has averaged over the last two seasons, by the end of the 2015 campaign, he'd be batting .311 for his career. Another two years at that level of production would take Pujols past the fabled 3,000 hit mark. But it would drag his career batting average to .306.
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It's easy to imagine, as steeply as Pujols' production has declined over the past five seasons, that those numbers might be overly optimistic.
It would be a tough situation for Pujols if he decides to bail early on his $254-million Anaheim Angels deal. Because the contract is arranged with escalating salaries that kick in as he becomes less productive, he's going to have to swallow his pride as a player to collect the bulk of the money in the deal.
Sure, he has more than enough cash for 20 lifetimes. But if it was so important to him not to be undervalued as a player, wouldn't it have been better to take a contract of nine equal installments from the Cardinals than to potentially quit before he gets his biggest paydays from the Halos?
The Redbirds reportedly offered $210 million for nine seasons, or $23.33 million a year. That would have been $116.67 million after five years if Pujols decided to hang it up. He's averaged $20 million a season over the first five years of his back-loaded Anaheim contract, a total of $100 million.