By GREG BEACHEM
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Albert Pujols finally agreed he should wait till next year.
Pujols will miss the rest of the season to rest his injured left foot, the Los Angeles Angels announced Monday.
The $240 million slugger gave up his hope to play again next month when the team’s medical staff and front office advised him to avoid rushing back to the lineup late in the Angels’ dismal season. Pujols partially tore his left plantar fascia last month, and only recently got his foot out of a walking boot.
While sitting out the past three weeks, Pujols repeatedly said he hoped to return at some point in September, even if the Angels remained hopelessly out of contention. He eventually acknowledged the plan made sense only as a salve to his pride.
“It’s not an easy decision, as competitive as I am,” Pujols said at his locker before the Angels opened a series against Cleveland. “But I also understand that we (need) to look beyond the season.”
The three-time NL MVP hasn’t played since July 26, when he partially tore his troublesome plantar fascia while running in Oakland. Pujols had been rehabilitating the injury with hopes of playing in September, but the struggling Angels’ inability to get into playoff contention made that plan increasingly pointless.
Pujols, who has 492 career homers and 1,498 RBIs, consulted with owner Arte Moreno and general manager Jerry Dipoto before agreeing to shut himself down for the season. Moreno still owes Pujols $212 million over the next eight years in the third-biggest contract in major league history.
“It was a decision of the organization, Arte and Jerry, because I don’t make a decision here,” said Pujols, who had career lows of 17 homers and 64 RBIs this year. “I put my uniform on and get ready to play. They said, ‘This is what’s best for the organization in the long run,’ and they came and brought it to me. And I just told them, ‘Whatever you guys want to do, I’m all for it.’ It’s definitely hard, as I want to be out there, but I also understand that I can’t be selfish and put myself out there.”
The injury has hindered Pujols all season, forcing the first baseman to be a designated hitter for 65 of his career-low 99 games. Pujols will finish with fewer than 30 homers for the first time in his remarkable 13-season career, along with career lows in batting average (.258), on-base percentage (.330) and slugging percentage (.437).
Pujols also had more than 150 hits in each of his first 12 seasons, ending the third-longest streak in modern history.
Those numbers aren’t exactly encouraging for a player who will be 34 years old in January — in fact, they’re a bit frightening. The Angels are determined to give Pujols every chance to get into ideal health for the spring.
“The doctors think it’s the best course of action,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “For Albert, everything would have to have been perfectly aligned for him to come back and play. I think by trying to get to that level, maybe there were some things that would have been at risk in setting the healing process back. I think that it’s a decision that everyone can be at peace with and get everyone ready for next year.”
Pujols has been diligent in his rehabilitation while still hoping to play this season. He even did 45 minutes of cardiovascular work Monday before announcing he was done for the year, and Scioscia is confident Pujols will be in top form by February when he reports to spring training in Tempe, Ariz.
It’s certain to be a long offseason for the Angels, all but certain to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season despite their lavish payroll and sky-high expectations. Los Angeles has lost 23 of 34 heading into its series with the Indians, and most of Pujols’ teammates have been similarly disappointing.
Josh Hamilton, who got a five-year deal worth $125 million from Moreno, began the week batting a career-worst .230 with 19 homers, 60 RBIs and career lows in slugging percentage (.425) and on-base percentage (.285). The Angels’ starting rotation has one of the majors’ highest ERAs, while their bullpen is one of the majors’ worst — as is their team defense.
With everything going wrong for the Angels this summer, Pujols decided to try to make things right in 2014.
“Just look at it,” Pujols said. “Unless in two weeks something happens and we’re only two or three games out … is it worth it to come back and put yourself in a situation where you take that risk? Or just wait six or seven months and get yourself ready for spring training? That’s the decision we all came to.”