A year ago, some would have argued that Albert Pujols was the best player in Major League Baseball. Today, his on-field performance is merely a shell of what he's been over the past 11 years.
During the off-season Pujols, 32, left St .Louis and headed for Southern California. He became only the second baseball player ever to sign a contract worth more than $200 million, when he signed with the Los Angeles Angels. Surprisingly, New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez has done it twice. First, with the Texas Rangers, and then with the Yankees.
Pujols is the only player in major league baseball history to hit 30 or more home runs in each of his 11 seasons; in this his 12th season, he has one. He's averaged 40.5 homers a season in his career, and at his current pace, he'll hit five. Pujols' career batting average is .326, and this season he's batting .196.
Today, he'd have trouble hitting a slow-pitched softball. In fact, he'd have trouble hitting it if he tossed it up to himself. If he jumped off a park bench, he might have trouble hitting the ground.
Pujols went without a home run in his first 27 games as an Angel, sat out a game, then in game 28 and at-bat 111 he finally hit his first home run with his new team. Did I mention that Pujols has only one home run as an Angel? I don't like being critical, but how difficult can it be to hit a home run? This season, Josh Hamilton has done it 18 times, Curtis Granderson, 13 times, and Carlos Beltran, 13 times.
Publicly, Pujols doesn't appear to be fazed at all by his lack of performance. At a recent press conference Pujols said, "I come out here every day and try to get myself ready for the game and give 110 percent to the team."
When you're in the middle of May, and you've only hit one home run, maybe you should try to give 120 -- or even 130 -- percent to the team. Pujols, who signed a 10-year contract, has four and a half months to get this turned around. If he doesn't come out of this funk, we could be looking at something that goes well beyond a free agent bust. He could become of the biggest flops in modern American culture.