A year after dealing with the worst start to a season in his career, Albert Pujols now must face for the first time the painful scenario of ending his season in August because of injuries. That's not exactly what the Los Angeles Angels had in mind when they signed the three-time MVP to the third-largest contract in Major League Baseball history.
The Angels announced on Monday that Pujols was done for the remainder of the season. He had been rehabilitating the injury on his left plantar fascia, and had not played since July 26, leaving with his worst stats totals since his 2001 arrival into the league. However, Pujols, who still has eight years and $212 million remaining from a 10-year, $240 million contract signed before 2012 -- with an additional $10 million for 10 years for personal services after he retires -- has a message to all his fans.
"If I stay healthy, I will keep on hitting," Pujols said Wednesday in a radio interview with the "Grandes en los Deportes" show on ESPN 104.5 FM in the Dominican Republic. "God has blessed me with strength and hitting talent.
"There is no pressure at all. When you have the kind of stats in MLB like I do, plus God's blessing, there is no pressure. That's what I do, what I've done since I got here from the Dominican Republic. I know how to bat," said Pujols, who hit .258 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs in 99 games this season, when he played mostly as a designated hitter because of the injury.
Pujols, 33, batted .328 with 445 homers and 1,329 RBIs in his first 11 seasons in the majors, all with the St. Louis Cardinals. He averaged 40 homers and 121 RBIs per season. He was also a nine-time All-Star and placed in the top five of the MVP voting in every season except 2007. During his first two seasons with the Angels, the Dominican has batted .275 with 47 homers and 169 RBIs.
Pujols' offensive production has decreased in the past six years -- including his MVP seasons in 2008 and '09 -- but he has no excuses. He makes a point that leads people to think about things possibly going back to normal in 2014.
"As you grow older, you start worrying about bat speed," he said. "My speed has been the same since 2001 up until now. This year, my bat speed was around 88 mph.
"I knew that I wouldn't hit exactly the same like I did during the first 11 seasons in St. Louis. If I could bat .340 for 20 years, I would be something from another planet. But I train really hard, and I'm sure that I'll keep on hitting.
"I take things one day at a time. I'm not thinking about 2014 because I can't predict even if I will be alive by then. You've got to enjoy each day, and forget about making plans. I hate talking. I just let my work do all the talking. This game is already too tough while being healthy. Imagine if I do it while being injured.
"Baseball ain't easy. Even if, sometimes, we make it look easy, just like Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis are doing right now. But even they can tell you that there are some times during the regular season when you struggle and must make adjustments."
Pujols, who is eight home runs short of becoming the 26th player to join the 500-homer club, said the decision to end his season early and start working toward spring training 2014 was a consensus among the Angels' front office personnel and the medical staff.
"It was a joint decision, by the GM [Jerry Dipoto], the owner [Arte Moreno] and both the team doctors and trainers," Pujols said. "I was supposed to miss six to eight weeks and then come back, but they told me they would rather have me rest and return fully recharged next season.
"We didn't only consider this year, but also the remaining eight years on my contract."
Finally, Pujols refrained from commenting if he already had started legal action against former big-leaguer Jack Clark, who in a radio show accused the Angels' first baseman of taking performance-enhancing drugs.
"No comments on that. I will let my lawyers do it. I don't want to say something that might backfire against me in court," Pujols said.