I see a lot of Cards fans already downplaying Pujols’ contributions to the organization. That’s a natural thing to do as a coping mechanism, but I will have no part of it. Albert Pujols has had (literally) the best start to a career of any player in the history of Major League Baseball. I’m seeing people say that his performances in his 3 World Series with the team have been less than stellar, completely ignoring that his mere presence in those lineups was a game changer. He’s a Gold Glove defender and on the field is everything you could dream of in a player—the best in baseball. I am profoundly disappointed and, unlike some, I will never downplay how important it was to me to see him be a Cardinal for life.
We hear over and over how baseball is a business, but even fans who fully understand that cannot help but get their hopes up that maybe just this one player, this potential historic icon, will look at it differently. After seeing Pujols do so many heroic things (in the small picture terms of baseball), that romantic notion even crept into my mind from time to time. However, unlike a lot of people, I never truly expected that at all. Sure, Pujols has said all of the right things through the years about Cardinals fans being the best in baseball, about not wanting to play anywhere else, etc. Who knows, he probably even believed that at the time. But there was never a time in my mind that when the rubber met the road, he would sign for the top dollar. He has given plenty of indication that pride, for better or worse, is a huge part of who he is. The most surprising thing to me is how many people are surprised by it.
By most accounts, the Cardinals offered him close to 90% of what the Angels (a much larger market team) offered. This was not a failure of Cardinals ownership to open up their wallets. They were willing to go 10 years at $220M, a contract that even we Pujols fans felt was probably irresponsible but still wanted because he means so much to us. This wasn’t due to not being appreciated within the organization. It’s not because the organization isn’t committed to winning. It is not a reflection on the city or fanbase either. He was completely embraced, even with his fairly well established reputation of being frosty to fans (which is why I always rejected him being greater in StL than Stan the Man).
In the end, it was about money. It was a cold, calculated, deliberate move to get the very highest dollar that he could. That’s what drove Albert to this decision. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. He has earned that right. The profound disappointment I feel right now will only turn to anger if he doesn’t show us enough respect to be honest about that.
I don’t want to hear anything about the Angels being in a position to win now. I don’t want to hear anything about Angels players telling him how great it is to play there. I sure don’t want to hear anything about their fans. I don’t want to hear anything about how great St. Louis has been to him and his family, but this was just a better fit for them. I want Albert to look in the cameras and say, “The Angels offered the most money, and that’s what I based my decision on.”
I’ll respect and appreciate his historic 11 year run in St. Louis no matter what. It has been an incredible ride. But whether or not he’s honest will determine if I root for or against him for the rest of his career.
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