What else is there to say? He’s gone. The drama, rumors, headaches and more are over. Albert Pujols is no longer a Cardinal.
I never thought I would type those words.
In the matter of less than two months I have seen my favorite team since I was a young man win the World Series, say goodbye to a manager that had been a part of the team for around half of my life, and lose the greatest player I have ever witnessed to free agency.
Albert Pujols is a player that defines an entire generation. He plays the game head and shoulders above anyone. His 2011 season was a season that most players would accept as a near career defining year and yet to Pujols, it was a “down” year for him. He capped that year off with the third highest contract in Major League history and a departure from the only team he has ever known.
The team that believed enough in him to draft him in the thirteenth round of the 1999 amateur draft, the team that gave him an opportunity in 2001 and the team that surrounded him with enough talent to play in three World Series and win two World Championship rings will take the field searching for the next face of the franchise.
Cardinals Chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt, Jr.
“We are disappointed that we were unable to reach an agreement to keep Albert Pujols in St. Louis. Albert is a great champion and we will always be thankful for his many achievements in a Cardinals uniform, as well as his contributions to the St. Louis community. I have the highest regard for Albert both personally and professionally, and appreciate his direct involvement in this process. I would like our fans to know that we tried our best to make Albert a lifetime Cardinal but unfortunately we were unable to make it happen.”
Parents will struggle to explain to little boys and girls that, when it comes to baseball, your favorite player and your favorite team do not always have to coincide. That it will be okay to cheer for a man in a different shade of red if they want to. That players come and go but the jersey stays the same. That love of this game can, and will, lead to heartbreak.
The Cardinals will be just fine. Some argue that they are still the favorites in their division and many speculate now where the Cardinals will begin shopping. The off season started with one goal, resign Albert Pujols. Now the focus shifts into acquiring a middle infielder or two and possibly an outfielder that can help provide some pop to a fairly potent lineup. The “Birds On The Bat” will prevail and the franchise will continue to be one of the premier franchises in Major League Baseball.
To that end, Albert Pujols will be just fine as well. He will continue to hit and has the added security of a designated hitter role later in his career. He will hit major milestones in the next few years and become a part of a franchise that will look to compete heavily in the near future. He will utilize the monetary gain to fund charitable foundations and continue to perform the work he feels God has called him to do.
Fans emotions will heal over time and kids will find a new favorite player. The Cardinals and Angels will play baseball at a highly competitive level and game will continue to be played the same way it has for well over a century. We will still hear The Star Spangled Banner before games, Take Me Out To The Ballgame during the seventh inning and God Bless America during some games. The 2011 Cardinals will still be defined by “What a team. What a ride.” I will still tell my children about “The time I saw Albert…” Most of us will continue to love the game and our team.
Cardinals Sr. Vice President & General Manager John Mozeliak
“Albert has been a special player in this organization since the moment he was drafted over 12 years ago. His accomplishments on and off the field have been spectacular. I wish him well in the next phase of his career.”
Today feels like a loss. It should feel that way. Many of us truly believed that Albert would spend his entire career in front of us in “our” stadium. We believed, deep down, that he would be our generation’s Stan The Man. We thought that we had discovered a truly great player that felt some level of loyalty to the franchise he matured with.
We were wrong.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
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