571 days ago Albert Pujols rocked Cardinals Nation and the city of St. Louis by signing a free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for 10 years and $254 million dollars.
Tonight, for the first time, Mr. Pujols will face the team that drafted, developed and paid him over $100 million dollars for 11 years of MLB service.
1. The stance on Pujols has softened.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz posted a column today in which he gives us "5 Things To Admire About Albert Pujols". Talk radio has been filled with fond remembrances. Viva El Birdos says Pujols is "the bullet the Cardinals dodged".
St. Louis isn't Philadelphia or Boston. We're a forgiving fan base. And truth be told, Mr. Miklasz makes some good points about Albert's commitment to the city (he still lives here) and his charity (it still operates here). A 2012 season that was (for his standards) poor for Mr. Pujols and good for the Cardinals has only emulsified the fiery bluster of his detractors.
Should we already be having this love-in?
2. Pujols still hasn't come totally clean.
Just to really pick at some scabs, I went back and looked up a few interviews from 2011 to make sure I got the quotes right. Turns out that Pujols did very little talking and let his wife Deidre become his defacto mouthpiece.
Some choice selections:
"When it all came down, I was mad. I was mad at God because I felt like all the signs that had been played out through the baseball field, our foundation, our restaurant, the Down Syndrome Center, my relationships, my home, my family close," Deidre Pujols told the station (Joy FM). "I mean, we had no reason, not one reason, to want to leave. People were deceived by the numbers."
"When you have somebody say 'We want you to be a Cardinal for life' and only offer you a five-year deal, it kind of confused us," Deidre Pujols said. "Well, we got over that insult and felt like Albert had given so much of himself to baseball and into the community ... we didn't want to go through this again."
"The city of St. Louis has absolutely been deceived and I have never seen hatred spread so fast and I understand why," she added. "Let me say that Albert and I never, not one time, ever made plans to leave this city." (Source ESPN)
3. It's OK to be about the money. But it's also OK to say you're about the money.
I'm not going to delve into that first comment. Because I can't tell you one way or the other how much God was involved in this negotiation. But I can tell you that saying you did good stuff so you deserve huge amounts of money is very choppy water to wade into.
But the totality of these thoughts (including the ones about God) leads one to the conclusion that this was about money. LA offered more than the Cardinals. The Pujols' wanted money, so they took the contract that provided more money.
Why hasn't he admitted this yet? Why is it so difficult to say?
4. I'm not mad at Albert Pujols.
I've got a job. And I'd like to get paid as well as I can. You've got a job and you'd like to get paid as well as you can. If we all got job offers that paid us 20%-30% more than our current jobs we'd consider making a move, no matter how much we love our current employers.
And if you or I or anyone took more money, we'd all say congrats and move on. It literally happens every single day in America. It's happening right now as you read this.
5. But if you want me to get warm and fuzzy over Albert's Cardinal career, he's going to have to say it.
He's going to have to sit in front of a camera and admit that he took the job in LA because it paid more money. Anything else he says is false. And while I'm (probably) never going to see a player as good as Albert Pujols on the Cardinals, it doesn't mean he doesn't have to be forthright.
No, I'm not mad about him leaving. I'm mad because the dude didn't have the stones to tell me why. Re- watch his interview after the announcement.
That's what we have to go on at this moment in time. Maybe later on, Mr. Pujols will give us a straight answer. And when he does, maybe we can get warm and fuzzy about his time in St. Louis.
Until then, he's a guy on another team that the Cardinals are trying to beat.