Albert Pujols is learning that hitting a baseball is tougher when the number attached to your name has a dollar sign.
After a weak opening week with the Los Angeles Angels, he has a contract ($240 million) more imposing than his batting average (.222). He has two RBI.
Deuces wild, and not in a good way.
“I’m a human,” he said. “Sometimes you want to press a little bit and try to do too much.”
Pujols went 1 for 4 Friday with a strikeout and a double-play grounder as the Angels lost to the Yankees 5-0 in New York’s home opener. He’s 6 for 27 and his only RBI have come on a groundout in a 7-3 loss to Kansas City and a single in a 6-5 defeat at Minnesota. For the first time since 2008, the three-time NL MVP is homerless in his first seven games.
After splurging to sign Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson for $317.5 million, the Angels are 2-5 and have dropped into last in the AL West with a three-game losing streak.
“If this was the 17th day or the 20th day, then I’d say, all right, maybe there’s something going on,” Torii Hunter said. “But with Pujols, I’m not worried. The dude works hard, tries to figure out things, and he will.”
More than anyone else, Alex Rodriguez knows the weight of playing with a hefty paycheck. After agreeing to a record $252 million, 10-year contract with Texas, he began his Rangers career by hitting .242 with no homers and two RBI in his first nine games in 2001. His first home run didn’t come until his 11th game and 39th at-bat.
“You’re coming into a new city, big market, big expectations, with a big contract, I think overall it’s natural for you to try to do a little bit too much at first,” Rodriguez said.
Being the biggest star isn’t enough for some. A paycheck in the 1 percent brings along expectations of a performance in the top percentile.
An imposing 6-foot-3 with a shaved head and broad shoulders, he subjected himself to the heightened scrutiny when he spurned the Cardinals in December for the riches and sunny lifestyle of Southern California. He grew up in St. Louis and became a latter-day Stan Musial, a nine-time All-Star and two-time champion.
St. Louis wanted him back, just not for a guaranteed 10-year deal.
Now Pujols is trying to put that old life behind him.
“I’m way past that, man. Right now, I’m in a new uniform,” he said.
Still, it has to weigh on his mind at least a bit.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” he went on. “Yes, you miss that, because you never thought you were going to be in that situation. But you know what? I have a new family right now, new teammates, and that’s where my focus is, in trying to do the best that I can to help this organization.”