Anaheim is the only major league city Albert Pujols has never played a full game in. Ironic, isn’t it, that he how calls that city home.
As fans we hoped Pujols would play his entire career in St Louis. As fans we ignored the signs he probably would not. When the Cardinals and Pujols’ agents could not find common ground prior to the 2011 season it was a sign they likely would never come together. Given Albert’s insistence on not discussing a contract extension during the season, there was no way the two sides could use the time during the season to meet and try and close the gap. Essentially the negotiations picked up exactly where they left off last February, with the major difference being Pujols was now a free agent and could entertain offers from anyone.
We ought to give the Cardinals credit for facing reality and not building their 2012 roster on the assumption Pujols would return. Re-signing Lance Berkman for another year was a prudent move. Signing Chris Carpenter to a new contract solidified their rotation for 2012. The team still has some holes – shortstop needs a permanent answer, and there’s a need for another outfielder, to name a few – but the team has a chunk of capital available now to fill those holes and they can move quickly since the Pujols question has been answered.
We can be bitter with Pujols for saying he wanted to remain in St Louis ‘for life’, then signing somewhere else, but what good would it do? Baseball is a business. Fans are significantly more loyal to teams than players are. Attend a major league game in San Diego or Phoenix and see how many locals root for the visiting team. Many of those people inherited their attachment to that team from their parents and refuse to give it up. Many of them will pass that loyalty on to their children. Would we have liked Albert to have stayed in St Louis until he retired? Absolutely. Will his departure dampen our allegiance to the team? Maybe the enthusiasm will be muted for a while, but in the long run we will still be vocal members of Cardinal Nation.
And now we won’t have to watch Albert Pujols’ inevitable decline as he ages.
Instead of assigning blame for why he left, let’s remember what we was while he was here. Rookie of the Year. Three-time MVP of the National League. A decade of amazing offense and superlative defense. The best 10 year start to a career in the history of the game, and arguably the best right-handed hitter since the Second World War. And, three National League Pennants, and two World Championships, with him on the roster.
Thanks for the memories Albert. It was fun.