Part of Albert Pujols’ massive contract with the Angels is a $7 million bonus for breaking Barry Bonds’ career home run record. Bonds does own the real record with 762 homers even though some people will only recognize Hank Aaron’s 755. I’ve learned to pick my battles on this one over the years so let’s just move on since the bonus will only be paid for home run 763.
Pujols, 32-years-old since January 16, has accumulated 445 home runs during his first 11 seasons with the Cardinals. Only Eddie Mathews (399) and Ken Griffey Jr. (398) are even close to that kind of early success. With a fresh 10 year contract, Pujols is 317 shy of the Bonds total. Chasing monumental records is no easy task. Pujols will have to find inclusion into a very elite club to break the home run high water mark.
From ages 32-42 (or 32-41 if you want to be picky about birth dates), four players have hit 317+ home runs. The following is the list with ages calculated on June 30…
Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro will always be associated with their roles in the “steroid era.” So far, the only suspicion following Pujols is about his age. While elite players generally age well, it’s hard to imagine any super star maintaining that status after his 40th birthday. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for Pujols’ WAR (wins above replacement) for the next 10 years are: 7, 6.2, 5.8, 4.9, 4.2, 3.5, 2.7, 2.0, 1.3 and 0.7.
By those projections, Pujols will be under the 3 win level by age 38. That doesn’t mean Pujols can’t still hit for power while providing near replacement level value. Mark Reynolds has made an entire career out of it. Here are the 38-year-old or over club who managed to hit 25+ home runs while being a under a 3 win player…
That was Rico Carty’s career high in home runs. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it once. If Rico Carty can do it, why can’t Albert Pujols? Pujols needs to average 32 home runs a year to break Bonds’ record. In 2007, he hit 32 home runs to set his career low.
I’ll leave the projections to the people much smarter than me. Bill James is projecting 41 home runs and Cairo has Pujols at 37 (to lead the league). Even if Pujols averages 40 over the next five years, that still leaves him with over 100 to hit as his career winds down. Impossible? No. Likely? No.
But we’ve never really seen a hitter quite like Pujols either. It’s possible he could hit the health lottery and avoid the derailments that struck Griffey and appear to be hitting Alex Rodriguez. It’s possible that in five years science will have us all on miracle drugs and we stop aging. It’s also entirely possible that we’ve already seen the best of Albert Pujols and maybe he’s not a fine wine.
The Angels invested heavily in Pujols. After his 10-year mega deal, he has another 10-year personal services contract. The Halos are almost banking on Pujols breaking that record. And that $7 million bonus will come in handy if Pujols wants to buy a custom hover Lamborghini in 2022.