Albert Pujols won’t “A-Rod” the Angels

There are certainly a lot of parallels between Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. They both signed deals for more than $200 million (the only three of their kind, two of them for Rodriguez), and in both cases their contracts seemed like massive overpayments.  The most obvious parallel though, is that at the time they signed their contracts they were both considered to be the best players in baseball, and when they left their first teams they ripped the hearts out of the fans in those respective cities.

Albert Pujols shares a lot of similarities with Alex Rodriguez, but the the 2012 Angels will be much different than the 2001 Rangers

But when people talk about Pujols doing to Anaheim what Rodriguez did to Texas, they are talking about how Texas was bogged down by A-Rod’s contract, not his personality, not his production, and not the pain he had caused his previous team.

You see, I think we get confused sometimes, and start to mix up circumstance and causation. Alex Rodriguez didn’t A-Rod the Rangers, Tom Hicks did.

Alex Rodriguez ripped the Mariners hearts out, and he never ate popcorn with anyone famous in Seattle either.

When the Hicks owned Rangers signed A-Rod in 2001 they had just lost another former MVP slugger with a nickname that was an abbreviated version of his real name, “Juan Gone” Juan Gonzalez. The team had an $88.6 million payroll, and A-Rod’s $22 million salary that year was nearly 25 percent of the team’s payroll. The team had a nearly non-existent starting rotation, headed by Doug Davis and Rick Helling. Hell, Darren Oliver started 28 games, and the team had several pitchers who made starts, and ended the season with ERAs over six.

Not to mention, relative to inflation, A-Rod’s contract was equivalent to Albert Pujols receiving upwards of $416 million. The league’s average salary in 2000 was 60 percent of what it was in 2011, even the Yankees payroll was only $113 million in 2001.

The contract came a year after Ken Griffey Jr. had signed for $116 million, and the same offseason that Manny Ramirez and Derek Jeter signed extensions that were $160 million and $189 million respectively, which would have been the two largest contracts in baseball history to that point were it not for A-Rod’s albatross contract.

Pujols contract hasn’t completely altered the economics of baseball like A-Rod’s did. Rather, he benefitted from the market value created by Rodriguez, but ultimately signed a contract that will be worth less functionally than A-Rod’s.

The Angels payroll presently sits at $141.8 million for 2012, and that is before arbitration raises. They have perhaps the best rotation in baseball, but almost certainly in the AL West, and they have cost certainty at many key positions. They also have some trade chips at the MLB level, and may be able to trade a guy like Mark Trumbo for an upgrade at shortstop, third base, or in their bullpen.

The fourth starter on A-Rod’s Rangers wasn’t as good as Ervin Santana. The ace of the staff probably wasn’t as good as Ervin Santana.

The Rangers signed A-Rod because they were desperately trying to hang on to competitiveness in a division that was up for grabs. They’d lost a star, and were trying to replace him with someone as good. Not only that, but they saw the unique opportunity to sign the best player in baseball off the free agent market.

The problem was, they couldn’t afford it, and had a window that was closing as their key players (Pudge Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro) aged, and their pitching staff needed total reconstruction.

The Angels were also able to cash in almost immediately on their newfound relevance, signing a 20-year, $3 billion television deal. I’m sure there are some particulars that alter the value of the contract, but in simple math, that’s $150 million per year. Not too shabby.

The Rangers wouldn’t sign their new TV deal for nearly a decade, and by that time A-Rod was in New York on a new contract.

And there are at least eight years left on the Mariners TV deal.

The Angels are built much differently, and built much better. And even if Albert Pujols isn’t worth the money two or three years down the road, he’s an affordable luxury for this team, in this MLB.