By now, you’ve heard that St. Louis Cardinals first baseman/superstar Albert Pujols left yesterday’s game against the Royals after a collision at first base. His wrist bent awkwardly, and I’m sure your first thought was the same as mine: Derrek Lee.
In early 2006, Derrek Lee was on the brink of stardom. He was fresh off of an all universe season in 2005, and he was raking in the early season – something Lee had never really done in his career. That, of course, was before the man who should have been a Cub, Rafael Furcal, slammed into Lee, wrecking his wrist, his season, and maybe his career. Lee was never the same after that injury.
And now, word is breaking that Pujols has a small fracture in his wrist/forearm. He’s expected to be out 4-6 weeks, but that’s the least of his – and Cardinal fans’ – worries. The comparison to Lee may prove unfair. After all, Lee broke his right wrist, and Pujols broke his left. And, while Lee was Pujols-like in 2005, Pujols has been Pujols-like for a decade.
But, with a decision about how much money to commit to a 31-year-old Pujols looming at the end of the year, Pujols’ break might prove more costly than Lee’s.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the break takes the Cubs out of the Pujols sweepstakes completely. Sure, he’ll almost certainly come back this year, and he’ll probably resume his march toward immortality. Pujols, in his career, has been two things: dominant and dependable. But the Cubs can’t afford to commit $250 million to a presumption that this wrist injury will not irrevocably alter Pujols’ career trajectory. It sounds reactionary, but alloting that much cash to an aging star – even one who burns as brightly as Pujols – is probably a risk the Cubs can no longer afford to take.
A lot can change in a couple months, so I reserve the right to change my mind as more information comes out. But, for now, let’s just say that, somewhere, Prince Fielder is grinning. Widely. And it isn’t because of the double-fudge brownie platter sitting in front of him.
Well, not just because of the double-fudge brownie platter.