On December 8 2011, Albert Pujols signed with the Anaheim Angels, ending his eleven year career with the St. Louis Cardinals. It was bombshell news at the time, and like everyone else, I was very disappointed at the time. But in the full year since then, my view has changed, and I outlined it back in October.
Today I saw literally half a dozen articles reminding all of us how forgotten Albert Pujols is and complained on Twitter as I am apt to do about everything. So, some people asked me why I still like Albert even after he left for the Angels.
Why? I never got a good reason to stop liking him.
My reaction was no different than yours when I heard he had signed with Anaheim. He went from being the next Stan Musial to just another mercenary. But unlike every single Cards fan I have ever heard since then, this is not where I stopped following the story.
His wife Deidre went on St. Louis radio days later saying that the report of $200 million was completely false and that her husband never received such an offer. I believe her, and here’s why.
First, she was closer to the negotiations than anyone who reported a $200 mill offer. Pujols is a strong family man, and had to have gone over the logistics of the biggest decision of his career with his wife. Second, she had no motive to lie about it, as some have bizarrely suggested. Third, why would Pujols go to Tax Hell (California) where no one cares who he is if he’d end up making the same amount back home anyway? It doesn’t add up. He did say he wanted to be a Cardinal for life, but that promise, to any reasonable person, came under the assumption that the Cardinals would give him something even close to market value. It’s clear that they were not willing to do so. (How soon we forget that they had years to begin negotiating a contract and didn’t.)
I’m not sure this piece will end up ever being productive since there are a lot of people who simply want to believe Albert is a villain, and no amount of logic will ever sway them. But it’s more than obvious to me that Albert Pujols did not leave out of greed; which is why I’m still a fan. To you he’s a cash-chasing SOB. To me, he’s the most talented Cardinal ever and had to leave because the team didn’t want to set their organization back in order to pay him.
A lot of people misjudge this take as a criticism of the team and/or GM John Mozeliak. It is not. I think both sides did the right thing. We saw all too clearly this postseason how much an A-Rod-sized deal can do to even a wealthy franchise, and giving Albert a large deal to keep him in St. Louis just wasn’t feasible.
In response, Albert went to a place that could afford to sign him. It’s perfectly logical on both sides, which is why it’s stupid to hate Pujols for leaving while not even considering the fact that the team never even seriously considered retaining him in the first place.