Right Field

Fat Albert?

Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Matthew Futterman worries that Albert Pujols’ expanding tummy may have a detrimental impact on his performance in the years to come:

Clayton Skaggs, who has worked with Pujols and several other members of the Cardinals as the team’s injury and performance consultant, said Pujols still has great strength and stability, especially through his core. “You shake his hand and you know immediately this is a person with some strength,” Dr. Skaggs said.

But he also compared Pujols’ strength and stability to that of a sumo wrestler. Certainly the Cardinals don’t want Yokozuna Asashoryu manning first base for them in a few years.

Quick hands through the strike zone remains the key to good hitting, but a healthy back, hips and knees are vital, too. “Any physician will tell you as you get older if you’re carrying too much weight it’s going to put a lot of strain on your back, hips and knees,” Skaggs said

Pujols is battling the same pitfalls every player does, including a profession seemingly designed to make players fat.

“These guys finish games at 10 p.m. and they’re hungry,” Skaggs said. “Their jobs virtually force them to eat late and not get enough rest.”

That’s a dangerous combination. Skaggs said outfielder Matt Holliday, Pujols’ teammate, is fastidious about following a high-protein and low-fat diet, and lifting weights before games five times a week to prevent the weight that players put on during the season from turning to fat. Pujols he said, lifts about twice a week, and is less fastidious about his diet.

The 31-year-old Pujols, who will be a free agent in mere days, reportedly is seeking a contract similar to the albatross of a deal given to the comparatively chiseled Alex Rodriguez after the 2007 season: $275 million plus bonuses over ten years.

Jason Epstein is the president of Southfive Strategies, LLC. He was a public-relations consultant for the Turkish embassy in Washington from 2002 to 2007.