Who is the best overall baseball player in Major League Baseball? Notice something… I do not say the word “fantasy” once in that question. This has nothing to do with fantasy baseball, but everything to do with overall play. Although, honestly, I would take the same player with the #1 pick in my fantasy draft.
Different from past Sunday Debates, this one is a little more close-minded. When debating this topic, there are very few players that fit the description. You may get a career year here and there from decent players, but I am looking for consistency. I want the guy that you KNOW will put in the staggering numbers and lead his team to victory.
Even with Alex Rodriguez’s injury (probably is back early-May), I think he is part of the three-man discussion. After all, he may very well be the man that takes over Bonds’ spot atop the career HR list. Sure, he can’t win in October, and we ALL know that he roided… but can you honestly tell me that he is not one of the top-three players in the Majors?
Realistically, there are only a few players you can even mention in this debate. You have many great players along way that include Ryan Bruan, Jose Reyes, Rollins, Hamilton, etc, etc, etc… but there are three men that stand out. I don’t want give anything away but the initials are Hanley Ramirez, Albert Pujols, and Alex Rodriguez. Let’s do work.
Looking at stats, it may be misleading with Ramirez being substantially younger than the other two, and ARod being substantially older than both Han Ram and AP. The only way to make it close to fair would be to get a 162-game average. You gotta take a peek and here’s what we got:
Rodriguez: .306 AVG, 127 RBIs, 191 hits, 22 SBs, .578 SLG, .967 OPS, 3 MVPs
Pujols: .335 AVG, 128 RBIs, 200 hits, 6 SBs, .624 SLG, 1.050 OPS, 2 MVPs
Ramirez: .309 AVG, 73 RBIs, 199 hits, 47 SBs, .528 SLG, .908 OPS, 0 MVPs
Looking at those, it appears as if Pujols has the best numbers. The only weak part there for El Hombre, is his stolen bases. Ramirez and Rodriguez have him beat pretty well there, but he dominates the rest of the field on the hitting stats. I think when it is all said and done, both Pujols and Ramirez will both accumulate more MVPs than ARod. Speaking of stats, Pujols had better numbers yesterday than the entire KC Royals team has had over the course of the season! LOL
When I break these kinds of comparisons down, I like to look at the “most valuable player” aspect of it. If you take that player out of the team, what will happen? Can the team survive without the player? How valuable is he?
In ARod’s situation, well it is happening as we speak. The Yankees will be without ARoid for at least a month. Can they survive without him? Yes, they most certainly can. How much of a hit is it to lose him? Not nearly as much as Pujols’ and Ramirez’s impact. People will argue that it is because the Yanks are simply better than the Cards and Marlins (I can argue that point BTW). However, you cannot avoid the fact that a Pujols/Ramirez-less Cardinal/Marlin team is nowhere near contention.
Pujols is the most valuable of all three. He IS the St. Louis Cardinals. Things turned around for STL baseball when Albert “rose from beneath”. As a die-hard Cardinal fan, I can tell you that Pujols takes the Cardinals from a dead-last finish, to a playoff-caliber team. I ask you, fellow Cardinal fans. Where would we be without this man? Answer: Nowhere. On Albert’s shoulders, the Cardinals have become the best NL team of this decade. The start of the new millennium coincided with a new era of success for the Cardinals as the team, led primarily by Albert Pujols, won the NL Central in six of eight years. Not only have they consistently made the playoffs, the Cards have been in the Pennant game in 2005-2007, made an appearance in the World Series in 2004 and 2006, and have been crowned Champ in 2006. All because Albert Pujols.
While Hanley Ramirez is more valuable than ARod, he is a notch below Pujols. It is the same kind of deal with him and being the only thing Florida has, but even with him, they have a hard time winning. Again, he is younger than AP, so is it possible that he could take the Pujols role and lead the Marlins through the playoffs in the future? It’s possible, but as of right now, Pujols is the most valuable to his team.
He's a winner. Pujols just keeps winning games - with his bat, his defense, and his base running. We've talked about Pujols' statistics and his awards, but he just has a hard time losing. Since Pujols made his debut in 2001, the Cardinals have a regular-season record of 731-570, or the most victories in the National League. Only the Yankees (777) and Red Sox (741) have won more games than the Cardinals.
As Bernie Miklasz brilliantly points out in his recent article (http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/yb/128641979), Pujols has been surrounded by some fine players, but don’t be fooled. I don't include Pujols in these listings, but since he became a Cardinal, the team has started 13 catchers, 18 first basemen, 19 second basemen, 14 shortstops, 22 third basemen and 42 outfielders. They've started 47 pitchers, and used 100 pitchers overall.
The cast keeps changing but the Cardinals keep winning. Wanna know why? It’s Albert Pujols. The St. Louis Cardinal Organization rides on his shoulders, and I think they should feel pretty safe with that analogy. Tony LaRussa is as good as it gets, and Dave Duncan is one of the best pitching coaches to live. But Albert is just phenomenal, and what he has done for St. Louis - and baseball in general – is beyond words.
The only on-field constant to the Cardinals’ game has been Pujols. St. Louis wins over 69% of their games when “The Machine” drives in a run; he has in 554 games. The Cards are 209-86 when Pujols hits a home run. Here’s another way to put it in perspective: Pujols has more game-winning RBIs (150) and go-ahead RBIs (246) than any major-league player. St. Louis has won over 150 games due to Albert. Nobody else can say they’ve done stuff like this.
Like I stated before this season, Pujols will have the best year of his nine-year career this season. Pujols has always had a nagging injury here or there to start the season. Whether it be elbow, obilque, or whatever it may be, the only season he has started 100% was his rookie campaign. Heading into the 2009 season, he is 110% and ready to kill the ball. He has not disappointed anybody so far. As of Sunday morning, he is batting over .425, with three homers, and nine runs batted in. The only players that have had a comparable start would be Miguel Cabrera, Adam Lind, and speedster Emilio Bonifacio.
Hitting is Pujols’ expertise, no doubt, but what sets him apart (way apart) from Ramirez and Rodriguez, is his intangibles. His defense, base running, and just pure knowledge of the game can only be mentioned with one other name. Willie Mays.
When Albert was drafted and brought up through the minors, the only flaw in his game was his fielding. Well, after winning a Gold Glove Award in 2006, I think it is safe to say that he is one of the best fielding first basemen in the game today.
If you have not had the privledge of sitting down and watching Pujols, you gotta give it a try. If you do, watch him on the bases. There is nobody in the league that runs the base paths like he does. So far in this young season, there have been two perfect examples of this:
During Friday’s game, Pujols was on third when Ankiel(?) hit a ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher did what he was supposed to and looked Pujols back. After looking him back, he took one extra, unnecessary step (first thing AP saw) and then proceeded by almost lobbing the ball to the first baseman (second thing AP saw). After noticing that, Pujols – who was about ¼ of the way down the line – took off and beat the throw to the plate to score.
Another example of Pujols being Pujols came just today when Ludwick was up to bat. Pujols had just been walked and was standing at first base. Ludwick hit a bloop shot into left field, that the LFer caught on one bounce. Whether you believe it or not, Albert acutally went from first to third on the play. Don’t ask me how it was done (he isn’t even that fast). All I know is that this guy is sooo baseball-smart on the base paths, to where he can make up speed with knowledge like nobody I have ever seen.
Against Roy Oswalt Sunday, Pujols calmly launched two home runs; including a Grand Slam MOON SHOT and a casual three-runner. After yesterday’s game, Tony LaRussa, Chris Duncan, Skip Schumaker, and Adam Wainwright all said that Albert Pujols was THE best hitter/player the game has ever seen. You can hardly argue them considering they would be the people that know.
Pujols is running under the radar because he is in a relatively small market, but one of these days he will make a nice speech as a first-ballot HOF’er. Just thinking of that hurts. As a Cardinal fan, and sports fan in general, I cannot begin to imagine a Pujols-less St. Louis team. He has changed the way all Cardinal fans view the game, and unfortunately I think we take him for granted.
As every game passes… I won’t lie… I am getting closer and closer to agreeing with TLR, Duncan, Schumaker, and Waino. He is only 29 years old, and is already being talked about as the greatest hitter ever. If he isn’t now, he will be at some point. I firmly believe, baring something awful, that he will go down as the best player to live.
This debate isn’t even close, and really shouldn’t be discussed. The better debate may be this: Is Albert Pujols the Greatest Player Ever?
For now, he’s just doing what he does best – obliterating the opposition's pitching. Caps off to #5.
*tell us your thoughts in our "post a review" section at the very bottom of the home page*