I really, really thought that Albert Pujols would remain a St. Louis Cardinal. It's been a little over a week since Albert signed with the Los Angeles Angels and I think I've read everything possible about this deal and how it unfolded. Financially, I knew it would be hard for the Cardinals to keep Albert but I thought they would find a way to make it work. The team, the city, they all wanted Albert to be a Cardinal forever. As for the Angels, I didn't see that one coming but in hindsight it all makes sense.
It happens like this so often. We keep hearing about one team (in this case the Marlins) and all reports make it seem like a done deal. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, another team swoops in and grabs the prize. It took less than 48 hours for new Angel GM Jerry Dipoto to quietly make it work. $254 million over ten years. It was agreed to in the wee hours of the morning. Just to make his all-nighter worthwhile, Dipoto also inked pitcher C.J. Wilson to a five year $77.5 million deal. That total, $331.5 million, is more than owner Arte Morena paid for the team. I guess the Angels were tired of being second to the Rangers in the AL West.
Albert got what he wanted in both money and years. It's the second richest baseball contract in the history of the game. Cardinals GM Bill DeWitt was very honest when he told fans that the organization had a 50-50 chance of re-signing the face of their franchise. With the Angels recent influx of cash, the Cards didn't stand a chance. They offered a good contract, $210 million over 10 years, but not great. They offered what they could afford to pay. They weren't willing to sacrifice so much of the teams future on one player. A player who has, ever so slightly, begun his decline.
What Albert gained financially in Los Angeles, he gave up historically in St. Louis. He will not go into the baseball history books as the greatest Cardinal of all time. I'm certain there are those in St. Louis who feel betrayed. Those who are angry and bitter will, in time, remember that baseball is a business. I know it was a tough decision emotionally for Albert to leave St. Louis. I wonder if it was somehow made easier by the departure of Tony LaRussa? Walking away in the glow of their second World Series title together.
I'm glad that I always made it to the Ted when the Cards were in town. Over the past 11 seasons I've been fortunate to see Albert quite a few times. One of my favorite at-bats came during the 2010 season. In Albert's last plate appearance in Atlanta for the year he faced Billy Wagner. Great versus Great. Wags got Albert out with two pitches and the entire ball park went nuts! I'll miss seeing Albert but it's better for Braves fans to see Albert wearing an Angels uni than that of the Marlins!
One thing is for certain. St. Louis fans can still rest assured that Albert Pujols will go into the Hall of Fame as a St. Louis Cardinal. And years from now, Cardinals fans will see Albert in his red sports coat at Busch Stadium on Opening Day. That they can count on.