Moving on without Albert …
A partial tear in the left plantar fascia is likely to end Albert Pujols‘ season, as you might’ve heard.
It isn’t an all-out guarantee. The Angels could go on a miracle run and Pujols could technically join them in mid- to late-September if they find themselves within striking distance. That, however, is unlikely. The Angels fell to 13 games out of first place after losing three of four to the A’s. And the most prudent would be to let Pujols rehab and go into a normal offseason because that’s their best chance of getting him back in prime form.
Long-term, maybe this winds up being a blessing.
Short-term, though, yeah, it hurts.
In light of the news, here’s a look at how Pujols’ loss affects everything …
The Man himself: It means 500 career homers (he’s eight away) and 1,500 RBIs (two more) will probably have to wait until 2014. It also means that for the first time in his career, he will likely finish a season with less than 100 games. Pujols has played in 99 of them in 2013. In his previous 12 years, he played in no less than 143, hitting the disabled list only three other times.
But as I mentioned earlier, this may be a blessing in disguise for Pujols. He knew that eventually he was going to have to treat the plantar fasciitis, either with surgery or with a tear or with lots and lots of rest. His hope was that it would come in the offseason, after doing what he can for all of the 2013 season. The fact that it happened now, with two months left in the regular season, means he may have a normal offseason. And that may be the best thing for the Angels to get Pujols back in prime form. They need that Pujols, since, you know, he’s signed all the way until 2021.
The No. 3 spot: That will continue to be handled by Mike Trout, who was seen as a future No. 3 hitter anyway. Trout is one of the best players in baseball, so that’s a non-issue. The issue is the top of the lineup. One of the reasons Mike Scioscia was hesitant to bat Trout third, even when Pujols was struggling, was because the Angels don’t have many options to “feed him” from the top of the order. For now, until Peter Bourjos returns, it looks like it’ll be J.B. Shuck and Erick Aybar occupying the top two spots.
The defense: Mark Trumbo will continue to play first base, as he’s played on pretty much an everyday basis anyway. Scioscia said Sunday that Josh Hamilton is comfortable moving around in the outfield, so it looks like for the time being, he’ll play left field, with Kole Calhoun and Collin Cowgill platooning in right and Shuck serving as the DH (until Bourjos returns).
The roster construction: As far as long-term planning is concerned, I don’t expect Pujols’ absence to have an impact. The Angels are considered “sellers” leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline only because they’re obviously not “buyers,” not because they expect to make wholesale changes. And this season already looked like a wash before Pujols went down. He’ll have plenty of time to be ready for the start of Spring Training 2014.
I asked Angels fans on Twitter who needs to step up most for the Angels with Pujols out and here’s how they voted …
Jered Weaver: 4.3%
Howie Kendrick: 2.9%
C.J. Wilson: 2.9%
One vote each for Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson, Dane De La Rosa, Calhoun, Shuck, Barry Enright, Jean Segura, Mitch Stetter and some guy named Steve Nebraska.