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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Albert Pujols to the Angels: A Bad Day for Baseball

Albert Pujols could have been our generation's Stan Musial. In fact, offensively, he will be better than Stan Musial by the time his career ends. If there's one thing I appreciate, it's star players that play their entire career in one city, through ups and downs, through championships and rebuilding seasons, through different stes of management and ownership, and spanning generations of players that come and go. Fixtures: Kirby, Cal, Stan, Derek, even Kent, come to mind. Note that most of these guys are identifiable by just one name. There's a sentamentality -- a special connection with the city, state and fan base -- that accompanies these unique players long after their days grinding it out between the foul lines have long since passed.

It is being reported that Pujols has signed with the Angels for 10 years, and a total contract value of between $250 and $260 million. The full details aren't in yet. Furthermore, we don't know what the Cardinals' offer topped out at. But, for the sake of argument, if the Cardinals matched the years, and were within $2-3 million per year of the Angels, then I say shame on Albert. For some reason, I foolishly believed -- or wanted to believe -- that Pujols truly valued the St. Louis fans, the community, and his legacy in that city more than it turns out he actually did.

He played in 3 World Series in his 11 years in St. Louis, winning 2. That's pretty remarkable. Though the Cardinals are rarely a pick to go to the World Series going into each season, Pujols, and his amazing offensive skills, catapulted them to success twice. Most players consider themselves very lucky to go to 1 World Series, and even luckier to win it. Clearly, Pujols values the money more than he does playing for a competitive team. This is not to state that the Angels won't be great in years to come -- in fact, they very well might become favorites to win the AL West in 2012 now -- but only to state that Pujols left a pretty great team in St. Louis -- the defending World Series champions -- for a team that, last year, didn't even make the playoffs, and that competes in a division with the new-perennial favorite Texas Rangers. Maybe he wants a new challenge and a change of scenery?

I'd like to say that I wish Pujols the best, but I guess I don't. Not right now, anyway. I'm sure he will continue to do great charity work in California, and will probably continue to support whatever initiatives he started in St. Louis. I just can't help but feel that, in exchange for about 10 percent of his total career income, Pujols missed out on an opportunity to truly immortalize himself in the St. Louis community. I wonder if he had a conversation with his "idol," Stan Musial at any point in this process? Probably not.

I'll probably have some more thoughts once the contract details are posted, but for now, this is how I feel. I'd be happy to hear what others think.


  1. I've had very mixed feelings about this. My initial reaction (before he signed) was much the same as yours.

    I do wonder if LaRussa's retirement had any impact. I also have to think that there is an acknowledgement here that he may not be able to play in the field for 10 years so the A.L. would be a better fit for him.

    As someone who has admired Pujols and the Cardinals, I am sad -- I would have loved to see him be a "Cardinal for Life" but I'm not sure that 10 years/$220 million (or whatever the number is) would have been in the team's best interests. This may have actually worked out best for everyone.

  2. JB, I think you're right about the long-term fit from the Cardinals' standpoint, with no DH and some payroll constraints with the Holliday contract.

    As a friend of mine pointed out today, the Cards got Pujols' best years, and for the most part underpaid based on his production, so St. Louis certainly isn't the loser in this deal. It's just disappointing from an institutional viewpoint more than anything else.

  3. There are a lot of things in play here:

    - we don't know how happy Pujols was in St Louis. He is from the Dominican and I would think that Anaheim & the LA metro might have been a tad more desirable place to live for the next 10 years than St. Louis. In addition to the obvious weather advantages (which makes it closer to his home weather), St. Louis (according to the last 2010 census has a grand total of 3.5% Hispanic population. Compare that with 58.5% of Anaheim. For all purposes, Anaheim is closer to home for Pujols. Maybe we should think about the human factor a bit, before we throw mud :)

  4. Thrylos, thanks for the comment. I didn't intend to, and don't think that I did, throw mud at Pujols. I didn't attack him personally. I'm not hoping that he breaks a leg in the offseason or anything. I still think he's a decent guy, does good things with his money, and isn't a jerk. I am just critical of his decision, regardless why he made it.

    You're right - - there could have been any number of factors that came into play for Pujols and his family. For Cardinals fans, though, that might be tough to reconcile with Pujols' past, and even more recent statements, indicating in no uncertain terms that he wanted to stay a Cardinal "for life," and that he understood what such a legacy would mean for the St. Louis community and the game itself. Statements like that don't just vanish.

    As for the Hispanic population in Anaheim, I think it is fair to note that. Will the gated community into which Pujols will move his family be representative of that 58.5%, do you think?

  5. He'd probably live on the beach in Santa Monica or some place but not Anaheim, but he will be able to read Latino papers, listen to Latino radio stations, shop to Latino grocery stores and eat Latino food.

    He is not going to live in the hood for sure. That is not the point (and with the cost of living and taxes, he probably took less money in his pocket to play in LA)