Pujols Leaves Missouri for L.A; Brings Misery to Seattle & The Bay.

I'm too sad to even photo shop a Mariners jersey on this poor sap.

I feel a lot like Adam Levine in the music video for “Misery“, except instead of getting beat up by a supermodel, I’m taking a kick to the crotch by a guy who looks like this (no offense to you personally Mr. Dipoto).

It was awfully hard being a Mariners fan before Albert Pujols (and C.J. Wilson) joined the Angels. But now? Unbearable…

Seattle wasn’t going to contend for the A.L. West in 2012. They probably weren’t going to be contending for the division in 2013. Now they won’t likely be sniffing the playoffs (I hear they smell like cinnamon rolls) this decade.

Is Phat Albert’s 10 year/$254 million dollar contract a terrible deal? Only for every team in the A.L. West that has to face Pujols on a daily basis. Will he be any good in six or seven years? Who cares! The Angels will win now (plus the Rangers aren’t going anywhere) and they will win after Pujols turns 40 because they are willing to spend money to get better, not hope that Brad Wilkerson finally puts it all together in a new environment.

I’m tired of hearing “next year”. I’m tired of hearing “Jack Z has a plan”.  Any plan that involves Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Jack Cust, and other various piles of excrement is not a plan I want to be a part of. Two wild card spots are not enough to get the Mariners back to the playoffs. Ten wild card spots might not be enough with Miguel Olivo hitting clean up.

I don’t want to hear about regression to the mean (sometimes players that are bad, just stay bad) or BABIP (Michael Saunders didn’t hit .150 because he was unlucky; he hit .150 because he’s not a major league player). I don’t want to hear how Nick Franklin will have a higher WAR than Pujols in five years. I just want to watch a team that can hit a ball out of the infield, and on occasion, win a game.

Is that asking too much?

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Ryan Howard Makes More Money Than You: Is He Worth $125 Million Dollars?

Ryan Howard won't have to settle for $5 dollar footlongs with his massive new contract.

No, he doesn’t work for Goldman-Sachs, but Ryan Howard is still making a killing in the down economy. The Phillies star slugger signed a 5 year/$125 million dollar contract yesterday to stay in Philadelphia through 2016. The contract also includes a $23 million dollar club option for 2017 which would push the total value of the deal to nearly $150 million–making him the second highest paid player in baseball per season behind only Alex Rodriguez.  

Though Howard got a late start to his career (he didn’t reach the majors until age 25 with Jim Thome at first in Philadelphia), the burly lefty has done nothing but hit since, averaging 49.5 home runs and 143 RBI’s over the past four seasons. Howard captured the NL MVP in 2006 on the strength of a .313-58 HR-149 campaign, and while his average has dipped since that year, he has proven to be one of the most consistent power producers in all of baseball.  

The Phillies were eager to keep the face of their franchise in red pinstripes even though he wasn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season, perhaps fueled by an offseason rumor that the team had considered trading Howard to the Cardinals for Albert Pujols. Both Philadelphia and St. Louis denied that any trade talks had occurred, but the Phillies needed to prove they were committed to Howard, and did so by making him a very rich man. Is the big first baseman worth $25 million a year?  

Yes and no.  

There’s no denying that Howard is one of the best run producers in the game, and the signing is a good PR move because he’s a fan favorite, but Howard is certainly not without his flaws in the field and at the plate. The 6-4, 255 lbs. Howard has worked hard to become a passable first baseman, but is still below average at the position and would be better suited as a designated hitter in the American League. There are also concerns that his weight will become an issue in the latter stage of the contract as Howard will be 36 when the deal runs out. He has worked hard to stay in game shape, including losing 25 pounds during the offseason, but historically players of his size and skill set don’t age well. 

What the Phillies are really paying Howard for are his charismatic personality, moonshot home runs and clutch RBI’s—all of which mask some glaring weaknesses at the plate. Howard has averaged 191 strikeouts in his four full seasons and hasn’t posted an OPS over 1.000 since his MVP season of 2006. He is a .225 career hitter against left-handed pitchers and hasn’t shown the ability to improve in that area (only .200 so far in 2010). When the home runs stop flying off the bat, and they will, Howard’s contract will look like an albatross for Philadelphia. 

Were the Phillies smart to sign Howard to a new contract? Yes. Were the Phillies smart to sign Howard to a five-year/$125 million dollar contract? No. 

In other news, the St. Louis Cardinals are holding a combination bake and yard sale this weekend to help raise money for the ever-growing Albert Pujols free agent contract…

Sunday Night Spread: A Look at the Day Around Major League Baseball

PuffDragonAre you too lazy to read an entire game recap? Do you find yourself looking for something more than a boxscore, but less than a novel? Or are you just tired of waiting until the morning’s paper to find out that your favorite team lost yet again? If you said yes to any of the above, then you’ve come to the right place! Viva la Vidro presents its first (and possibly last, depending on the author’s motivation level) edition of the Sunday Night Spread, a look at each game in the majors in 50 words or less. Dig in!

Cleveland 3 Minnesota 1: David Huff the Magic Dragon becomes the major’s least deserving 9-game winner after allowing 1 run in 7 innings against the Twinkies to lower his Carlos Silva-esque ERA to 6.23. Somewhere off in the distance, Matt Cain’s 2007 and 2008 seasons are weeping.

Toronto 14 New York Yankees 8: Canada’s dominance over America continues as the Jays pound out 15 hits and capitalize on four Yankee errors (undoubtedly all by Jeter) to win by a touchdown (extra-point was wide right). The real loser was Randy Ruiz’s face; not a good time to play baseball if you have a head.

New York Mets 4 Chicago Cubs 2: Two teams that were supposed to be good but actually suck squared off in a game that no one cared about. The Mets got four RBIs from Daniel Murphy, currently owned in 1.7% of fantasy baseball leagues, after tonight.

Cincinnati 4 Atlanta 2: The Braves continue to fade faster than Lindsay Lohan’s career as Cincinnati takes the lead on a hit-by-pitch of the opposing pitcher, go figure. Drew Stubbs falls a double short of the cycle, but if no one outside of Ohio notices, did it really happen?

jeremy%20guthrieBaltimore 7 Texas 0: Baseball’s best pitching Mormon, Jeremy Guthrie, six-hits the potent Rangers’ offense over 7 innings as the ghost of Brigham Young cheers him on from behind home plate. Texas falls 3 back in the AL Wild Card chase.

Washington 5 Florida 4: The Nationals would be the best team in baseball if they could reverse their record (47-90), but that’s not allowed till after Labor Day, so Washington had to settle for a walk-off dinger from Ryan Zimmerman.

Pittsburgh 6 St. Louis 5: Pujols homers (again), but Ryan Franklin and his goatee blow the save in the 9th against the suddenly scorching Pirates (currently riding a one-game winning streak). See, GM Neal Huntington knew what he was doing all along (what, why’s everyone laughing?)

Detroit 5 Tampa Bay 3: 40-year-old Russ Springer celebrates receiving his first social security check by coughing up a go-ahead grand slam to Brandon Inge in the 9th. The good news is he still gets 15% off at the Old Country Buffet.

Boston 6 Chicago White Sox 1: In yet another lesson why you don’t mix colors with whites, the Red Sox topped their pseudo-rival White Sox behind 7 shutout innings from Jon Lester in a game that had everyone seeing pink by the end. Use Oxi Clean, or just don’t wash ’em at all.

Milwaukee 2 San Francisco 1: America’s fattest favorite vegan came through with a game-winning homerun in the 12th and then proceeded to eat 27 pounds of Rice-A-Roni in mock tribute to San Fransisco’s favorite treat. This could get ugly the next time these two teams meet, likely in the World Series.

Houston 4 Philadelphia 3: The Phillies lose and Brad Lidge isn’t to blame? Cole Hamels gave up 4 runs in 6 innings, and Miguel Tejada went 4-4 for the Astros after a hearty portion of “b-vitamins” with his breakfast.

94928-004-72912736L.A. Angels 7 Kansas City 2: Former Mariners Yuniesky Betancourt and Willy Bloomquist each went 1-4, but it just wasn’t enough as the mighty Halos rode 5 innings of 10-hit ball from Joe Saunders to their 81st win.

Colorado 13 Arizona 5: The humidifier seems to be broke again in Colorado, as the Rockies and Diamondbacks combined for 8 HRs, three of which came from .198 hitter Chris Young. We can build on this Diamondback fans!

Oakland 5 Seattle 2: Fister’s got a blister, but besides that fun rhyme the M’s didn’t enjoy themselves much in Oakland, as the A’s used a 7th inning grand slam from Scott Hairston to cruise to a win. Ichiro collects career hit 2,000 in America, next stop: the moon?

San Diego 4 L.A. Dodgers 3: The freeway series? The smog series? The dear God our state is going to get annexed from the union series? The Padres are almost as bad as California’s economy, but they gutted out a win against division foe L.A. as Adrian Gonzalez hits his 35th HR. The Dodger’s lead is down to 3.5 games in the NL West.

Cards are Stacked: Can Albert Pujols Capture the NL Triple Crown?

Man or Machine? Either way, Pujols is the game's best.

Man or Machine? Either way, Pujols is hands down the game's best hitter

Well, the secret is finally out. Albert Pujols is a machine. Although ESPN may have been first to officially break the news, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has followed baseball since 2001. After all, in 8+ seasons Pujols has been the best in the game, averaging a batting line of .334-43 HR-129 RBI-124 R; a feat unmatched in the history of baseball and an accomplishment unthinkable for any mere mortal. Even though Pujols is stuck in a rather pedestrian St. Louis Cardinals’ lineup (though the recent addition of Mark DeRosa should help), last year’s NL MVP continues to prove that he is the best hitter in the game today, and arguably one of the greatest right-handed hitters in the history of baseball (move over Greg Vaughn Jimmie Foxx). After going deep twice against Minnesota on Saturday, Pujols was hitting .328 with a league leading 28 HRs and 78 RBIs, despite already drawing 59 free passes.

As the season moves closer to the midway point, and Pujols continues to mash at the plate, is it time for the Triple Crown talk to begin? It seems every few seasons there’s a player in baseball who jumps out of the gates quickly only to fade in the dog days of summer (i.e. Derek Lee in 2005), but Pujols is clearly in a league of his own and shows no signs of slowing down (12 HRs in 88 ABs in June). It’s been 72 years since the last NL Triple Crown winner, and strangely enough it was another Cardinal. Joe “Ducky” Medwick had a season for the ages in 1937, hitting .374 with 31 HRs and 154 RBIs (numbers which, besides the HRs, would probably still lead the league today). So, is it in the cards for St. Louis to have another Triple Crown hitter in 2009, or will Pujols find leading the lead in the three major batting categories impossible even for a machine?

Pujols will have to stay on fire for the NL's first Triple Crown since '37.

Pujols will have to stay on fire all season long for the NL's first Triple Crown since '37.

Let’s take a look at his current numbers, main competitors in each category, and Pujols’ chances of leading the league in HRs, RBIs, and batting average:

Homeruns (28-1st in NL): Believe it or not, Pujols has never led the league in HRs, although in his defense he did play in the NL during the peak of Barry Bonds’ accidental steroid usage power barrage. The closest Pujols has come is finishing tied for second in 2004, hitting 46 HRs to Adrian Beltre’s 48 (loud groan from Mariners’ fans). Pujols’ current HR rate puts him on pace for 59 longballs which would almost assuredly lead the NL. His closest competition at this point in the season are Padres 1B Adrian Gonzalez (24 HRs), Phillies OF Raul Ibanez (22 HRs), Diamondbacks 3B Mark Reynolds (21 HR) and Phillies 1B Ryan Howard (20 HRs). Ibanez has been on fire all season long but is currently stuck on the DL, and at the age of 37, is not likely to keep up with Pujols as the summer drags on. Reynolds definitely has some pop in his bat when he hits the ball (his 102 Ks lead the league by a wide margin) but is too inconsistent and will have too many slumps to lead the league in longballs. Gonzalez will probably set a career high in HRs this season but has little protection in the San Diego lineup (he leads the league in BBs) and has slowed considerably since hitting 20 HRs in the first two months. The player with the best shot out of this group to keep Pujols from topping the NL in HRs is Ryan Howard. Howard is one of the game’s best sluggers, averaging 51 HRs a season over the past three years, while leading the league in 2006 and 2008. He plays in a homerun friendly ballpark and hitting between Chase Utley and Ibanez sure doesn’t hurt, but like Reyolds he is prone to the punchout and is already 8 HRs behind Pujols.

Odds Pujols leads league: 75%

Will the world's biggest vegetarian play spoiler this season?

Will the world's biggest vegetarian play spoiler this season?

Runs Batted In (74-1st in NL): RBIs are another statistical category that Pujols has never led the league in due in large part to the Cardinals lineup(s) and the fact that he draws so many walks (24 intentional walks already); he has finished 2nd three times (2002, 05, 06). His 74 RBIs have him on pace for 157 total, yet he leads Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder by just one RBI. Besides Fielder, no one in the league is within 15 RBIs of Pujols, with Ibanez (59) and Howard (59) the closest behind. It will likely be a two-horse race all season long and could come down to which player has more chances with runners in scoring position. As mentioned before, Pujols hits in an average Cardinals’ lineup, typically manning the #3 spot behind leadoff hitter Skip Schumaker (.358 OBP) and Colby Rasmus (.307 OBP). Fielder on the other hand hits in a solid Brewers’ lineup and is entrenched in the cleanup spot behind Craig Counsell (.368 OBP), JJ Hardy (.299 OBP) and Ryan “Brains &” Braun (.416 OBP). Neither hitter has great protection behind them in the order, leading to their inflated walk totals. This might be the most difficult leg of the Triple Crown for Pujols to capture but his chances have been bolstered thanks to the Redbirds addition of Derosa.

Odds Pujols leads league: 60%

Batting Average (.328-8th in NL): Despite the fact that he is currently behind 7 other players, Pujols will probably have the easiest time winning the batting average portion of the Triple Crown. Why? Well, for one thing Pujols’ career .334 average is the highest among all active players and he’s already captured a batting title (2003) and finished 2nd two other times. Additionally, despite the fact that he is hitting a robust .328 on the year, Pujols has suffered from bad luck so far. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is only .277 this season, which is 40 points lower than his career .317 BABIP meaning that Pujols should be due for an upswing in average soon. Most of the players ahead of him in batting average (Pablo Sandoval, Miguel Tejada, Cristian Guzman and Carlos Beltran) are hitting well above their career numbers, and are likely to regress in the coming months. Pujols’ primary challengers for the batting title are Mets 3B David Wright (.342) and Florida SS Hanley Ramirez (.333). While Wright has sacrified his power for contact this season (just 4 HRs), the results have paid off so far. However, a recent 0-11 slide has chopped 14 points off his average and he seems to be coming back down to earth after a torrid May and early June. Ramirez is no slouch either, a .311 career hitter who topped out at .332 in 2007. He has been hitting well since a slow start, but his .360 BABIP will be difficult to maintain throughout the course of the year.

The NL's last Triple Crown winner, Ducky Medwick.

The NL's last Triple Crown winner, Ducky Medwick.

Odds Pujols leads league: 90%

Pujols definitely has the career numbers, positive statistical trends and talent to put him on pace for the NL’s first Triple Crown in 72 years. He’s proved season after season that he is a special talent and is virtually peerless at the plate in baseball. However, there is a reason that no one has captured the NL’s Triple Crown since 1937–it’s not easy. It will be an uphill battle all season long for Pujols, with heated competition in all three categories, but if any player in the game today can do it, it’s Pujols. Because, if a machine can’t do it, who can?

Overall odds Pujols wins Triple Crown: 40.5%