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What Hurts The Most: History Will Remember Pujols As An Angel

Courtesy of 7th Inning Sketch

It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon when I snapped out of a complete state of denial. Thursday morning, Albert Pujols became a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I had accepted that. But what I also accepted was that this was OK because the player Cardinal Nation so affectionately referred to as “The Mang” was already regressing from the player he once was. Albert isn’t in full-blown decline, but his numbers have been trending down over the past 3 or 4 seasons. In 2008, he hit .357… and each year since his average has declined. In 2011, he hit .299. The same goes for his power numbers: In 2009, he had 47 HRs and 135 RBIs. Those categories each decline over the past 2 seasons, down to 37 HRs and 99 RBIs in 2011. I just knew that paying Pujols more than $200 million dollars would cripple the Cardinals’ payroll and the team’s chances of contending over the course of his contract.

I told myself I didn’t want to see Pujols hit his 500th, 600th, and 700th home runs in Cardinal red if it meant that team wouldn’t be contending. I told myself the McGwire years were overrated, and that winning was much more fun than watching a sub-.500 team with a heavy hitter’s home run quest as the main attraction. My mind says all of these things are still true.

But my heart says I’m wrong.

Something changed as I watched Albert Pujols’ be officially introduced as a member of the Angels organization Saturday. As he gleefully and somewhat nervously buttoned the buttons on his fresh, new home white Angels Jersey and heard him speak about being a member of a new team, I realized something: This was not a temporary breakup from St. Louis… this was a divorce.

It kills me to say this, but barring a career ending injury or early retirement, history will remember Albert Pujols as an Angel. He will spend the next 10 seasons in Anaheim finishing out his Hall of Fame career. During that time, he will more than like hit his 500th, 600th, and 700th home runs. There is a chance he will even break Barry Bonds’ career home run record of 762. To do that, he’d need to average just over 31 home runs per season over the course of his contract. Albert has never hit fewer than 32 in a season thus far. Considering he is one of the fiercest competitors ever, there is a pretty good chance the Angels will win multiple World Series championships with Pujols in the heart of their lineup. I mean think about it. St. Louis is the 6th smallest market in all of major league baseball, and never eclipsed the top 10 in team payroll during his 11 season in Cardinal red. But despite that, Pujols led the Cardinals to 7 playoff appearances, 5 trips to the NLCS, 3 trips to the World Series, and 2 World Championships… so I’m thinkin’ with a team in baseball’s 2nd largest market that’s always in the top 10 in team payroll, Pujols and the Angels are going to have no problem winning at least a couple of championships over the next decade. In other words, he’ll be able to match or exceed many of his accomplishments in St. Louis, and will be hitting historic milestones in Los Angeles along the way.

Now let me ask you this: Do you think of Barry Bonds as a Pirate or a Giant? Do you think of Babe Ruth as a Red Sock or a Yankee? To a lesser degree, is Jim Edmonds going to be remembered as an Angel or a Cardinal? It’s really hard to swallow, but I think Albert is going to be remembered as an Angel.

Greg also writes for KSPR out of Springfield, Missouri. He recently took a look at where the Cardinals and Pujols need to go from here. You can read that article by clicking here.

Los Angeles owner, Arte Moreno offered Albert what’s being referred to as a “personal services” contract for when he retires. It assures him some sort of a job with the Angels organization for the decade following his historic $254 million contract. So for a minimum of 20 years, Pujols will be an ambassador for the Los Angeles Angels. That means in 2026, when he enters the baseball Hall of Fame, he’ll still be an employee of the Angels organization. Would he really enter the hall with the STL emblem on his cap? After 15 years, the Angels will be his new and final baseball family. Like I said, this is a divorce.

On Opening Day in St. Louis, there will always be Budweiser Clydesdales. Until the day they die, there will always be Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, and Stan “the man” Musial. There will be fathers and grandfathers telling the youngest members of their families about all those great players. There will be stories of clutch-hits, unbelievable comebacks, and World Championships.

But will Albert Pujols be there? Will he take those well-deserved annual victory laps around Busch Stadium? Will he be there to spark our memories… so that the next generation of Cardinals’ fans can hear about the time he saved a season and silenced a city by taking Brad Lidge deep? About the time hit three home runs in a single World Series game? I’m afraid the answer is “no”… and that, more than anything else, is what hurts the most.

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6 Responses to “What Hurts The Most: History Will Remember Pujols As An Angel”

  1. Ray DeRousse says:

    There isn’t any question about it at all – he will be an Angel going into the Hall. And no, he will not be honored here either. At least, not if DeWitt still runs the team.

    The only contrary example I can think of is Bruce Sutter. He left for big money in Atlanta like Pujols (less animosity, though), but still got his number retired on the wall.

    I think the only thing that significantly affects Pujols’ eventual destiny as an Angel is if he suffers a catastrophic, career-ending injury.

  2. Oliver Kloesoff says:

    I’m ecstatic to see Cards fans so melancholy, but seriously you don’t think after Albert goes down in history as one of the (among the top 10) greatest of all time, Cardinal nation won’t point out the fact that that is where the Pujols legacy began and reigned for over a decade? Get real dude. Cardinal fans will always remember Pujols. His number will be retired in St. Lou down the road. Hopefully they’ll recall 2011 as the last time St. Louis was good and it was all thanks to Albert Pujols.

    • J says:

      “Hopefully they’ll recall 2011 as the last time St. Louis was good and it was all thanks to Albert Pujols.”

      Seriously? I guess it was the future spirit of Albert that helped them win the other nine?!? The Cardinals will obviously miss Pujols next season (any team would) but at the same time, they have lost many shining stars, some to free agency, and some to retirement, yet they have continued to be a winning organization. They will recover.

  3. Red Burd says:

    Who cares if Pujols is remembered as an Angle? Remember, the Cardinals got Pujols’ best seasons. He’ll never be as good with the Angels as he was in St. Louis, so it’s likely Pujols will be remembered as the Angel who was paid to much.

    BTW: Albert will never reach Barry Bonds’ home run total or even hit 700 home runs – Unless they’re named Ruth or Aaron, players just don’t average 31 home runs a year in their 30′s and 40′s.

    Truth be told, considering the way Pujols’ numbers have declined over the last few years, the Angels will probably regret this signing within 4 or 5 seasons. So cheer up and try to think like a GM: Never pay for a players’ reputation; young players, not old ones, win world championships; and the best additions are often the result of subtractions.

    One last thought: I’d bet good money that in 5 years, Pujols will regret his leaving St. Louis a lot more than you will.

  4. Red Bird says:

    It’s Red Bird . . . Stupid typist.

  5. Carl Hancock says:

    I know this article was written as a knee jerk reaction two ears ago. Two years later I think it’s pretty clear that your fears, and some of the comments made by others, will never come to pass.

    Given the way Albert’s first 2 seasons in Anaheim have gone, it is highly unlikely that he will be remembered as an Angel and he certainly will not be going i to the Hall of Fame wearing an Angels cap. He will go I to the Hall of Fame as a St. Louis Cardinal and history will remember him for two things… being one of the best Cardinal players ever AND leaving via free agency instead of staying with the Cardinals.

    In order for a Pujols to stand a chance of going i to the Hall of Fame as an Angel he will have to surpass what he did in St. Louis over the next 8 years in Anaheim and then some. That means more MVP’s, more Gold Gloves, more All Star appearances, and more importantly more championship rings.

    Pujols stands no chance of surpassing his first 11 years over the next 8. Age has caught to him and now the Angels are going to pay a very expensive price for an aging player who could have been an icon but chose the money instead.

    Money can’t buy you what Mariano Rivera has. It can’t buy you what Derek Jeter will have. Pujols will never experience that.

    What he will experience is an awkward Hall of Fame speech where he is inducted as a St. Louis Cardinal despite playing the final years of his career with the Angels. His HOF credentials will come from his time in St. Louis. Not in Anaheim.

    As for his 10 year personal services deal when his playing days are over? You can forget about that. When Albert’s contract is over he’s not going to have any value to the Angels in a PR capacity. None. He’ll be that Hall of Fame Cardinal they spent way too much money on.

    All this is based in Albert even finishing his career in Anaheim. Sadly if his decline continues, and he’s only going to get older, you could see him waiving his no trade clause to go elsewhere.

    There are 2
    3 things you can be sure of.

    1. Albert will be wearing a Cardinals cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.

    2. History will remember him as a Cardinal.

    3. After he’s done playing and either before or the ear he’s elected to the Hall of Fame he’s going to have to reconcile with St. Louis Cardinals organization and it’s fans.

    While I have 2 years to base my opinion in, had I wrote this the day Albert signed with the Angels I wouldn’t have written anything differently.

    As to the questions surrounding him possibly regretting signing with the Angels early on in his first season? Let’s just say there is a good reason Yadi didn’t test the free agent waters. He got some good advice from one of his best friends to not throw away what he has and follow in his footsteps. We have Albert to thank for Yadier staying in St. Louis. Not just for the money being available, but for Yadi signing a team friendly deal to stay.

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