No matter what we think, it's always about the M-O-N-E-Y.
December 10, 2011By stephen Glover of Get In The Game Saint Louis Magazine
"The Cardinals made more than a fair offer, and they went about as far as their economics would allow. All of those things might have made sense for Arte Moreno to go to a number that the Cardinals couldn't reach. But the Cardinals certainly put out a fair number, which is why you won't find in St. Louis a lot of anger directed at the Cardinals. They're not saying the Cardinals screwed up. Their reaction is disappointment, sadness. And if there's any resentment at all, at least at this point it's directed at Albert Pujols. They believe their devotion to him, and their appreciation of him, in the end, was not reciprocated." - Bob Costas on the MLB Network
There’s something to be said for wearing “The Birds on the Bat” and it’s unfortunate that Albert Pujols never fully understood the honor it is to wear a Cardinals uniform.
For myself, I’ll always look back at December 8th as being the day that proved that the all-mighty dollar trumps everything. It’s foolish and unrealistic to ever think that any professional athlete will have any loyalty to a town or its team. Even at 40 years old I was caught up in thinking that Pujols was always going to be a Cardinal and that every opening day we would see him riding around in a convertible waving to the Cardinal Nation as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
We were all led to believe that Pujols was going to be different. Over and over again Albert told the fans and the media that he always wanted to be a Cardinal, that he had made his millions and that he wanted to end his career in Saint Louis like Stan “The Man” Musial.
But in the end, the Cardinals organization did everything that they could and it’s absurd for any fan to be upset with John Mozeliak or Bill DeWitt Jr. for not matching the Angels offer of $254 million over 10 years. Saint Louis had a fair offer on the table of $195 million over 9 years since the start of the 2011 season and then sweetened the pot with a 10-year deal for $210 million. Paying Pujols any more than $21 million a year would have put the Cardinals organization in a bad spot as it would have been nearly impossible to go after other big money free agents in the near future.
Luckily, Saint Louis fans have been classy about Albert’s leaving and we haven’t seen any rioting in the streets like we did when LeBron James left Cleveland. An interesting note is that a security guard was posted out in front of the Pujols 5 restaurant, so that fans wouldn’t vandalize the giant bronze statue of Albert. But while most members of the Cardinal Nation are frustrated and heartbroken, they realize that the Cardinals are bigger than Albert Pujols and that when our boys of summer step on the field this April, they’re still going to be contenders without Pujols playing at first base.
Cardinal fans got to see Pujols at the peak of his career and Angels fans will get a couple more years jaw dropping seasons as he wows the Southern California crowds with clutch hits and home runs that end up in the neighboring zip code. But Albert is on the back end of his career and he already is battling with a right elbow that will require Tommy John surgery before his 10 year contract is up. That alone means that Los Angeles will be paying out a year or two of Pujols sitting on the bench as he recovers from the surgery.
Now the Angels have stated that Pujols can take on the designated hitter role in the later stages of his career, but that itself is foolish for Los Angeles to even consider. Since when do you pay a designated hitter $25 million a year? Since when do you allot that kind of money to a player that isn’t active on the field and makes three to four plate appearances a game?
On another note, it’s not outlandish to think that Pujols is much older than the 31 years old that he claims. In fact, many players from the Dominican Republic have been known to falsify their age and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Albert’s true age to be about 34 or even 35 years old. If that’s the case, the Angels are in for a rude awakening as they’re strapped with a contract that ends when their star first basemen is in his mid 40’s.
When Pujols was in high school, he requested an extra year of eligibility after struggling in his English as a Second Language class at Fort Osage High School in Independence, Missouri. Pujols claimed that he wanted to further his education in high school, but many believed that he wanted another year of high school ball eligibility so that he could improve his draft status with Major League Baseball. That request was denied by then Missouri State High School Activities Association executive director Becky Oakes as grumblings began circling throughout the state that Pujols was actually in his late teens as opposed to the 16 years old that his family was claiming. Unlike many Dominican players, Pujols entered into the United States before September 11th, 2001, which means that he didn’t have to provide his birth certificate to stay in the country. These are facts that cannot be denied by anyone.
But when Albert’s body begins to break down, and it will come much sooner than people think, the fans in Southern California won’t look at Pujols the same way that the Cardinal Nation would have, had he stayed in Saint Louis. The injuries will begin to stack up and as Albert sits on the bench, Angels fans will view him as being an injury prone player with a monster sized contract. Then and only then, will Albert and his family realize what they passed up when he turned up his nose to the Cardinals on December 8th, 2011.
Albert will finish his career as one of the best to ever play the game, but he’ll never be adored like Musial, Bob Gibson, Johnny Bench, George Brett, Mike Schmidt and even Derek Jeter. Why is that? It’s because those players finished their careers with the teams that gave them their first shot at stardom. They appreciated the uniform that they wore and they respected the fact that money doesn’t buy you the love of the fans.