Albert Pujols: An Angel In Cooperstown?

The Angels have a long and storied history, one filled with joy, tears, pain, and blood. Many great players have come and gone under the Big A, Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, and Nolan Ryan to name a few, yet in the history of the Angels franchise not a single player has gone to Cooperstown wearing a Halo on his head. How could a franchise that has been honored by many historical players be shunned in the eternal afterlife of baseball that is the Hall of Fame? This current Angels team has many young stars with endless potential, but is there really a single player you can point to and say “He’s a Hall of Famer, no doubt about it.” The only player on the team that gives me vague hope of seeing him in Cooperstown wearing a Halo is Jered Weaver; well…that was my only hope a few months ago. With the Angels acquisition of Albert Pujols they now have a sure-fire Hall of Famer, a no doubter in anyone’s book. However, the real question about his Hall of Fame eligibility isn’t whether or not he’ll make it, but whose cap will he grace in the Hall of Fame for all eternity.

albert pujols

He may have been a Cardinal for the past 11 years, but will he be remembered as an Angel for the rest of baseball history?

 

Figuring out what cap Albert Pujols wears for his induction is a trickier question to answer then most might believe. For starters, he’s going to put in 10 years’ service time as an Angel. If service time with one team is how you personally like to judge Hall of Famers then that argument becomes null and void since Albert Pujols will only spend 1 less year as an Angel then he did as a Cardinal. Let’s not forget that Albert Pujols was…well, ALBERT FREAKING PUJOLS during his time with the Cardinals, and Albert Pujols is going to have to live up to the “Albert Pujols” expectations he laid down during his tenure in St. Louis. Will he really be able to bring home the same accolades he did during his time with the Cardinals?

If anyone wants to see him in the HoF as an Angel he’s going to have to match what he did in St. Louis, and that is going to be no easy task, even for Albert Pujols. In St Louis he was a 9 time All Star, missing out only in 2002 and 2011, but since his name is Albert Pujols, and we all know the All-Star game is a popularity contest, he won’t be hard pressed to come close to reaching that number as an Angel as long as he puts up solid production. That’s not really important at all; if the number of All-Star appearances was the case then players like Joe Torre and Fred Lynn would be in the Hall of Fame by now. Let’s take a look at what honors Albert Pujols received as a Cardinal.

  • 2 World Series
  • 3 NL MVPS
  • 6 Silver Sluggers
  • 2 Gold Gloves
  • 2001 RotY

It’s conceivable that Pujols could bring 2 World Series victories to Anaheim; it’s even possible he could bring in DOUBLE that! Just take a look at the talent that he’s surrounded with, there’s absolutely no question that his presence will only make those around him better players. Some people question his ability to play at the level of a perennial MVP contender much longer, yet considering the fact that he’s only 31 (I will continue to believe this until I am shown INDISPUTABLE evidence laying doubt to his age) and multiple players older than 31 have won MVP awards I will believe that he can bring many MVPs to Anaheim. Numbers are a big part of the HoF process, but there are more important things then just numbers, it all depends on what he does for the team itself. Sure Pujols could come close to reproducing his productivity from St. Louis, but if he doesn’t bring a single World Series his time in Anaheim will be nothing but an afterthought.

This may be a little early to touch on seeing as how Albert Pujols hasn’t played a single day as an Angel, but just go ahead and take a look at a few of his career numbers so far: 2,073 Hits, 455 Doubles, 445 Home Runs, and 1,329 RBI’s. Pujols still has 10 years left in the league, and in those 10 years he’s going to hit many milestones as an Angel, milestones that everyone expected him to reach as a Cardinal. That’s 3,000 hits, as an Angel. That’s 600 home runs, possibly even 700 home runs, as an Angel. 2,000 RBI’s? Yup, and in an Angels uniform. If Pujols is to reach all those milestones as an Angel, there is no way the HoF committee will be able to ignore the clout behind the argument to put Pujols in wearing a Halo.

There’s an age old legal term, stare decisis, in which a judge much respect the precedents set down previously in regards to the current case. Basically, if a court makes a ruling on a certain case then any cases of the same matter must follow the decision previously made. What does that have to do with this article besides me showing off how smart I am? We’re going to take a look at a couple similar cases just so we can see if there is any steam behind this train.

Nolan Ryan had the most illustrious years of his career in 1972-1979, in which he became one of the top pitchers in baseball, throwing 4 no hitters and setting the record for single season strikeouts with 383, a record that stands unbroken to this day. Out of those eight seasons he led the league in strikeouts for seven, which included a record 17 K’s in a no hitter, and let’s not forget a record setting 5.26 H/9 in one season. You probably already know what team he did this all for, the California Angels, yet the Angels were shunned by the HoF so Ryan could go in wearing a Rangers cap. Surely if this is the case Ryan must have posted some historical seasons with the Rangers, right?

Well, he only played with the Rangers for 5 seasons, and in those 5 seasons he did manage to crack 5,000 career strikeouts, something no other player has managed to do since then. He reached his 300th win with the Rangers, and managed to throw 2 more no hitters, but other than that he did nothing close to what he accomplished with the Angels. So why did Ryan end up in the HoF as a Ranger? Well, this was back in the day when players opinions on who they wanted to wear in the HoF was taken into account, and Ryan wanted to go in as a Rangers purely to honor his Texas heritage. If Nolan Ryan played in the league today, and put up the same career, there is no doubt that he would have been inducted into the HoF as an Angel.

So it seems that some pesky “semantics” got in the way of the Angels landing one legendary player in the HoF wearing their cap, but surely there must a case that tips the balance in their favor, right? Well Nolan Ryan bounced around from 4 different teams, The Mets, the Angels, The Astros, and The Rangers, which makes him the first player to play for all 4 original MLB expansion teams. There has to be a player that split his career with two different teams, one of those teams being the Angels. That would make said players case much more similar to Albert Pujols than Nolan Ryan’s, and that would also make said player Rod Carew.

Carew spent 11 years with the Twins, winning RotY in his first year with the team, then going on to make the All-Star team every year as a Twin and winning the MVP in 1977. In his 11 seasons with the Twins Carew averaged a .368 batting average, including a .388 batting average in 1977, which is the highest since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. To add to Carew’s prowess with the bat, he became the only player to win a batting title without hitting a single home run during the 1972 season, yet his prowess did not end with the bat. The anomalies didn’t end there for Carew, because in 1969 Carew stole home a total of SEVEN times, coming just one shy of tying Ty Cobb’s record of eight. It is likely that Carew would have lived out his career in Minnesota, were it not for a front office incapable to holding on to young talent and bad blood with the team owner, which led to him demanding a trade out of Minnesota out of frustration. At the age of 33 Rod Carew was traded to the California Angels, where he would continue to put Rod Carew like numbers for the duration of his career. It is highly conceivable that, if a 33 year old player could continue to put up league leading numbers, then why shouldn’t a 31 year old hitter who just so happens to be one of the greatest hitters of not just this generation, but all of baseball history? 

While Rod Carew did spend nearly double the amount of time in Minnesota (1967-1978) than he did in Anaheim (1979-1985) it should be noted that there is a very good chance he would he elongated his career was it not for the owners of baseball conspiring to keep him from signing with any teams during his free agency, thus forcing him into an early retirement. Carew actually suspected this was the case, and his suspicions were confirmed as a decade later arbitrator Thomas Roberts found that the owners had broken baseball’s “second collusion agreement”, wrongfully forcing Rod Carew into an early retirement. Had this not occurred, there is a chance he could have resigned with the Angels and continue to put up HoF numbers in Angels red, leading to his possible induction to the HoF as an Angel.

While it may seem like the Angels are continually jipped out of HoF’ers, it is worth noting that Albert Pujols is possibly the best chance they’ll have in a long while. HoF type players just don’t come to play in Anaheim; while it is a big market city it does not carry the same gusto as other HoF havens such as New York or Boston. With the signing of Albert Pujols the Angels have set themselves up as a team that can attract big time players, whereas the Angels used to have to develop those big time players, and even then they were under-appreciated outside of Anaheim (i.e. Tim Salmon, Troy Glaus, Darin Erstad etc.). All that is beginning to change though, as the Angels have Jered Weaver, who is beginning to grow into his own and receive the attention he deserves, as well as the highly touted Mike Trout, who has pretty much been ticketed a HoF career by many Angel fans. While those players still have a long road to pave, Albert Pujols had already left that road paved, and all he has to do is continue to travel down that same road until his eventual final day as a ballplayer is at hand. That final day of baseball for Pujols will be a historic day, and luckily he’ll be living out that day as an Angel.

Hopefully he’ll still be wearing a Halo over his head on his first day as a Hall of Famer.

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