Sunday Morning Coffee with Ray Mileur

It's just a couple of hours before I head off for church and Sunday morning worship, and at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I going to suggest Albert Pujols was not the most valuable player for the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2008 season.

At the risk of being stoned, (I don't drink, so I'm not referring to that kind of stoned and I'm completed sober at the time of this writing), tarred and feather and run out of town, hear me out.

Saturday, Pujols was announced as the winner of the 2008 Roberto Clemente Award, before the start of Game 3 of the World Series. It was his fourth major award of the week. Earlier in the week, Pujols had earned accolades as the Sporting News Player of the Year, the MLP Player's Association, Player's Choice National League Player of the Year and the Player's Choice Major League Player of the Year.

Our own Brian Walton reported this week, here at, that outfielder Ryan Ludwick and first baseman Albert Pujols were both named to the Sporting News' 2008 National League All-Star team. The team, selected by a panel of 41 general managers and assistant general managers from both leagues, gives at least some credence to the credibility of considering Ludwick as the team's MVP.

First, Albert Pujols will go down in history as one of the greatest players in the history of the game, let alone one of the Cardinals greatest players of all-time. He won't need me to write articles about the injustice of him being left off the Hall of Fame ballot, to help pave the way to his enshrinement into Cooperstown and I won't have to write another unused acceptance speech.

The amazing Pujols finished the 2008 season earning the Cardinals club's "triple crown" for the fourth straight year and the seventh time in eight years by leading the Cardinals with a .357 batting average, 37 home runs (tied with Ryan Ludwick) and 116 RBI. The seven-time National League All-Star posted a career-best .462 on-base percentage, a career-high 104 walks and a .653 slugging percentage. In addition, he led the National League first baseman in fielding percentage (.996) for the season, meaning, he should add a second Glove Glove award to his already impressive Hall of Fame resume.

The consistency in which Pujols has produced throughout his career is incredibly staggering and has come to be expected. Herein lies my premise. The Cardinals paid Albert *$16 million dollars last season for his services, because, they knew what they were going to get from one of the greatest players in the history of the game and they were rewarded for their faith and confidence. In afterthought, they signed Ryan Ludwick to a one-year deal for $411,000 dollars to serve as a role player off the bench.

Throughout the season, it was Ryan Ludwick that I argued, was the MVP for the 2008 Cardinals. Pujols was just being Pujols, we knew what we were going to get out of him, but Ludwick had a breakout season at the age of 30, coming at a time when the St. Louis Cardinals needed it most, to keep them in contention through September, giving the club a chance for a playoff berth.

Ludwick played in 152 games, setting career highs across the board including; ABs (538), Hits (161), Doubles (40), Triples (3), HRs (37), RBIs (113) and a career high batting average of .299. His .591 slugging percentage was second best in the National League and his 80 extra base hits ranked third in the NL. I would add, with Ryan giving Pujols protection, while batting in the four hole, behind Albert in 69 games this season, and in front of him 30 times, that, that contributed significantly to Pujols setting career highs in walks, on-base-percentage and slugging. This all coming from a player, not expected to play everyday at the beginning of the season, just barely making above the $390,000, major league minimum salary.

Ludwick will never be considered in the same player's class with the future Hall of Famer, Albert Pujols, I'm not even suggesting that, but from where I sit in the cheap seats, there wasn't anyone more valuable to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008 and offered a greater return on the club's investment, than Ryan Ludwick.

Now if my wife and I could only get the Ludwick kind of return on our investments.

*$3,000,000.00 of his compensation for the 2008 season is deferred and bonuses for MVP, All-Star and a potential Gold Glove award is not included.


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