Draft retrospective of Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols’s recent appearance on 60 Minutes did a fine job of illuminating, among other things, just how frequently every team in Major League Baseball passed up on the best player of the last 10 years – 12 times or more, generally speaking. For those of you who haven’t been reveling in the St. Louis Cardinals’ good fortune ever since, it’s worthwhile to show just how much teams missed by not choosing him in the first 12 rounds of the 1999 MLB Draft.
Let’s start backwards and work our way up – with the 401st pick of the 1999 draft, just one ahead of Albert Pujols, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim selected Alfredo Amezaga, strictly for assonance purposes. Amezaga was actually a fine pick for a 13th-rounder—he was a decent utility-man prospect for a while and hung around as a super-sub for several years with the Florida Marlins. He’s one of five players to spend any time in the Major Leagues from that round.
The first-rounders that year, meanwhile… well, Josh Hamilton, who went Number 1 overall to the Tampa Bay [Devil] Rays, was one of the best prospects of the last 20 years, but we all know his circuitous route to last year’s MVP Award. Josh Beckett (Number 2) was another superprospect who took a while to come into his own. This was actually a fine first round—it also produced Barry Zito (9), Ben Sheets (10), Brett Myers (12), Jason Jennings (16), and Alex Rios (19).
Of course, it also produced 16 players who never caught a whiff of the Major Leagues, including the Cardinals’ first-rounder, pitching prospect Chance Caple. The Cardinals managed to take 15 players before they reached Pujols, and only Chris Duncan (46th overall) and Coco Crisp (222) spent significant time in the Major Leagues. After Pujols the draft was even more barren, producing only memory-holed reliever Mike Crudale and folk hero Bo Hart.

Draft retrospective of Albert Pujols
Albert Pujols.

Three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols is off to a brutal start to the season.
A trip to Arizona might not be the best place for him to break out of his slump.
Pujol (who has historically struggled at Chase Field) again tries to get his season on track Monday night when the St. Louis Cardinals open a three-game series against the Diamondbacks.
The Cardinals (3-6) are off to their worst start since opening the 1997 season 3-8, and some of it can be attributed to Pujols’ early struggles.
Pujols is batting .143 with a homer (his lone extra-base hit) and four RBIs. His batting average is the lowest of his career through the first nine games of a season, and his five hits are his fewest through nine.
The nine-time All-Star was 0 for 5 in Sunday’s 6-1 win over San Francisco and hit into his sixth double play (he had 23 all of last season) as St. Louis snapped a three-game losing streak.
“You can’t get too worried about the way things are going this early” – said Kyle Lohse, Sunday’s winning pitcher. “Obviously you don’t want it to turn into a trend. Most of us have been around long enough to know it’s not going to last forever. We just have to weather the storm and get through it.”
It might not be that easy for Pujols to get things turned around in Arizona.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t a perfect connection—grounding into a lot of double plays, I’m told, isn’t quite as bad as ruining your marriage and a reputation forged over 10 years of robotically perfect golf and public behavior—but Tiger Woods’s return to prominence in the Masters this weekend, looking and behaving exactly as he did in his glory days, is making me a little jealous when it comes time to watch Albert Pujols hit into yet another double play. But maybe there’s some good news to take away from this.
Something like, maybe the best (sport) player in the world can look bad for a while without being totally done. Pujols looks awful now, but he’s been subpar in April before. And he has an advantage over the best golfer of the aughts in terms of moments in the tabloid spotlight; that whole 300 million dollars contract thing isn’t nearly as bad as a 300 million dollars prenup thing.
And when it comes time for Pujols to begin hitting again—well, judging from the Twitter reaction to Tiger, all will be forgiven. We like watching stars fall apart, but we also like watching them put things back together.

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