Just when things were starting to look up for the St. Louis Cardinals, just about the worst imaginable thing happens. The team announced on Monday that slugger Albert Pujols will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a fracture in his left forearm. The injury happened on Sunday when Pujols was chasing an errant throw and collided with Wilson Betemit of the Kansas City Royals.
It comes just as the redbirds had pulled into a tie for first-place in the NL Central with the Milwaukee Brewers. Now it leaves a big hole on the right side of the infield as well as in the middle of the Cardinals’ lineup. Of less importance, it means that Pujols – who is currently the leading vote-getter among National League first basemen – will also miss this year’s All-Star Game.
As down as Cardinal fans probably are right now, there are a couple of silver linings. First is that when it comes to MacGyver-ing a lineup, few are as experienced as Tony LaRussa. Without Pujols, he’s now free to try as many mix-and-match starting lineups as he can think of.
Even more than that, it could help the Cards keep Pujols in St. Louis once the season is over. The front office was reportedly fretting over how they would be able to meet Albert’s salary demands to stay with the team long term. His body of work still certainly justifies his next contract being the standard bearer for MLB stars, but with this season’s numbers almost sure to be less than what everyone has become accustomed to, it could bring the price down slightly.
Pujols’ injury isn’t necessarily good news for everyone in the NL Central, though. If he really does have to take slightly less money for his next deal, it could likely impact how much Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers – this winter’s other marquee free agent first baseman – can expect on his next contract.