When the Los Angeles Angels signed Albert Pujols to a multi-million dollar deal this winter, they had aspirations of fighting with the Texas Rangers for the division title, not battling the Oakland A’s for second place. But given the contract Albert Pujols signed, a lot of pressure was put on him before the season even started. This isn’t the first time a player has struggled in year-one of a multi-million dollar, free-agent contract. In fact, it’s uncommon that a player doesn’t struggle during the first year of his deal. Let’s take a look at other players who struggled in their first year. Odds are I’m missing someone that could be implemented on this list, further proving my point that this year-one curse is a fickle one.
Carl Crawford – Boston Red Sox
Carl Crawford’s .293/.333/.441/.774 career slash-line coupled with his amazingly consistent defense earned him 37.0 fWAR during his 10-year career. But Crawford had a .694 OPS with Boston in 2011, earning 0.2 fWAR in the process. Crawford has yet to play in 2012.
Adam Dunn - Chicago White Sox
Adam Dunn signed a 4-year, $56 million deal with the White Sox in 2011, which was supposed to put the team over the top in the weak AL Central. But after having an OPS of .569 – .300 points less than his career average – Adam Dunn was the worst player in baseball last season, costing the White Sox nearly three wins. This year, however, Adam Dunn has bounced back in a big way, OPSing .977
Jayson Werth – Washington Nationals
When the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to his monstrous contract, many pundits said it would backfire because Werth hasn’t earned such a deal. But if the Nationals expected to get the 2010 Werth that OPS’d .920, he would be worth the money; however, they got a .719 OPS Werth instead. Werth was having a nice bounceback season before breaking his wrist a few weeks ago.
Jason Bay – New York Mets
Jason Bay broke out in a big way when he was apart of the Boston Red Sox in 2009. J-Bay had a .921 OPS with the Red Sox before signing a lucrative deal with the Mets in 2010. Needless to say, Bay hasn’t worked out in New York from the get-go. In his first season with the Mets, his OPS was nearly .200 points less than what he had in 2009, and he hasn’t been near that number since.
Carlos Beltran – New York Mets
Another long-term deal for the Mets; another dissappointing debut season. Carlos Beltran was the toast of the town after 2004. At the time, he hit a postseason record eight home runs for a team that didn’t even make the World Series, which allowed Beltran to cash in on his amazing performance. Although he had some really good seasons with the Mets, his first one was a complete dud. Beltran’s .741 OPS in his first season was his lowest for the Mets.
I’ll stop with those five players, but there are a handful of other examples you can look to. Whether it’s players who re-up with their current teams like Joe Mauer, Vernon Wells, and Ryan Howard, or it’s players that lost it quickly with their new teams like Mike Hampton, Barry Zito, and Adrian Beltre, year-one is a dreadful year for many.
Albert Pujols is just another victim of the year-one curse. One of the reasons these year-one curses happen is the pressure of living up to that contract, causing players to press. For most of these players, their walk rates disintegrate because they are swinging at everything.
Once Albert Pujols remembers what made him the player he once was, and the year-one bug leaves his mind, he will bounce back. He’s just too good not to.
Bryan is a featured writer for Rant Sports. Although he concentrates mostly on the game of baseball, you can find him covering things all over the Rant Sports Network.