Former Cardinals centerfielder Jim Edmonds announced his retirement today at the age of 40. It was nice that the Cardinals signed him this spring, so he could retire a Cardinal. Is he a Hall-of-Famer? Close. With 393 HRs and 1199 RBIs, together with eight Gold Gloves, he's on the cusp. If he had extended the peak of his career another year or two, and gotten to 450 HRs and 1400 RBIs and 10 Gold Gloves, I'd say he'd have to go in eventually. But I think he's going to be one of those guys who is great, close to a Hall-of-Famer, but not quite.
Which brings me back to Albert Pujols. Edmonds' career is not a perfect parallel to Pujols, but it's instructive. Edmonds last great year was in 2004 at the age of 34, when he hit 42 HRs and had 111 RBIs and an OPS of 1.061 while playing Gold Glove centerfield. The next year he fell off to 29 HRs and 89 RBIs, the year after that to 19 HRs and 70 RBIs, and after that he was basically just hanging on as a fringe part-time player. What if the Cardinals had given him an eight or nine or ten year deal beginning at age 32 like Pujols wants? Well, you would have gotten three great years, a couple good years, and then you would have gotten screwed on the back end for 3 or 4 or 5 years of a bad contract.
The upshot? Aging is real. (Don't I know it!) Father Time waits for no man, not even Albert. Giving anyone a ten-year deal beginning at age 32 is a fool's errand.
But, while Jimmy Ballplayer was great, he was very special to watch, particularly in the field.