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Commentary: Angels gamble on an uncertain future

Allison Lavelle, LV Life Editor

Allison Lavelle, LV Life Editor

Albert Pujols will play his first regular season game as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tonight and fans have been eagerly anticipating this moment since his signing in December.

Adorned with the No. 5 jersey and singing his praises, it seems as if the pro-Pujols movement is too distracted by the shiny Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards to fully realize how potentially harmful the deal to get Pujols on the Angels.

After an 11-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols has a .328 batting average, 445 home runs and is arguably the best active player in Major League Baseball. Pujols’ many accomplishments will no doubt earn him a place in the Hall of Fame after he retires.

After a successful Spring Training it is apparent that the change in uniform has made no difference in Pujols’ ability to produce runs and intimidate opponents with his power.

Any team would love to have Pujols as a part of their club. However, is it a good idea to sign a 32-year-old to a back loaded 10-year contract worth about $254 million?

For the 2012 season, Pujols will be paid $12 million with his salary increasing to $16 million for 2013 and $23 million in 2014. Every year after that, his pay increases $1 million per year until reaching $30 million in 2021, the final year of the contract.

The whole deal is based around Pujols being an extremely high caliber player until he is 41-years-old, which is a landmark most active players do not reach.

Any number of things could happen in the next 10 years that could prevent Pujols from playing and which could potentially cost the Angels hundreds of millions of dollars.

He could lose his steam at 38 and no longer be the phenomenally productive player that he is currently. He could get a career ending injury at 39 with $87 million left on his contract.

The concern is that the Angels could end up paying a baffling amount of money to a player who is no longer producing for the team. It could also prevent the Angels from obtaining or keeping other players in the future because of the huge dollar amount tied up in Pujols’ contract.

Pujols’ complicated and pricey contract is not the only concern about his migration to Anaheim.

Pitcher C.J. Wilson, a free agent the Angels acquired from the Texas Rangers, reached a deal and signed a contract on the same day as Pujols. Although Wilson is one of the best starters in the American League and the move would have normally been headline news, it was overshadowed by the grandeur of the Pujols signing.

Even at the press conference in front of Angel Stadium that included both Pujols and Wilson it seemed like reporters were only asking Wilson questions so he would not be completely left out.

The Angels have a team that would contend for the American League West title even without Pujols’ heavy hitting. First baseman Kendrys Morales is making a successful return from a broken ankle and surgery, Mark Trumbo is poised to build off his hot rookie season and the starting pitchers, Jared Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, are some of the toughest in baseball.

Angels fans need to look at the whole scope of Pujols being on the team: while he is an amazing addition that will no doubt bring success to the club, Pujols is not the only stellar player in Anaheim and the deal that brought him there could do more harm than good in the future.

Allison Lavelle, a senior communications major, is LV Life editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at allison.lavelle@laverne.edu.

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