Pujols left us; it doesn’t mean he didn’t love us.Posted: December 17, 2011
For 11 seasons Albert Pujols graced St. Louis with his talent to crush a ball into the upper deck of a stadium (or in the case of Brad Lidge – into orbit) and his ability to handle his glove with finesse. Both a silver slugger and a gold glove recipient, Pujols’ talent pool runneth deep. He is considered one of, if not THE, greatest player of all time, while also receiving much deserved praise off the field for his family values, religious beliefs and charitable works. After about an hour-and-a-half in the minors, he came up and wowed the world of baseball with his raw talent. Pujols is an icon already, and a legend in the making.
But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. In St. Louis the name Albert needs no surname. In fact, you could simply refer to him as #5 and no one would be confused. Everyone here knows who he is, what he does, how much he loves God, that he’s a family man, and that he loves giving back to the community. For 11 years this had been common knowledge, and the city of St. Louis had loved him unconditionally. Until, in a matter of minutes, things changed. “Unconditional” love found its sole condition: Don’t leave.
For the first time in his unbelievable career Albert became a free agent, a day Cardinal Nation had been dreading, and desperately hoping to avoid. For 2 years the team tried to negotiate a deal in hopes of evading free agency, but in the end it didn’t get done. He tested the market and chose to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for 10 years, $254 million. Media has listed the Cardinals’ offers all over the board – ranging in years from 5-10 and in dollars from $195 – 220 million. Unfortunately, the Cardinals lips are sealed, so no one knows for sure what the final offer really was. And it’s almost irrelevant, because he didn’t take it.
The response has been, in my opinion, disgusting. I understand that Cardinal’s fans are hurt, heart-broken and feel betrayed. Once I got over the initial shock I felt that way too. But instead of being hurt, I went into defensive mode – because I was hearing and reading such horrible things I couldn’t help but defend the poor guy. Ok, insanely rich guy, but still. People are burning his jersey for crying out loud! C’mon people that’s absurd! (Besides – the Astros are who got screwed the worst in this deal jajaja) First of all – he’s not a traitor or a back-stabber or a hypocritical, greedy S.O.B. who has no loyalty. Second of all – IDIOTS! Whether he’s a Cardinal or an Angel – he’s one of the greatest of all time and that stuff will increase in value with every bomb he hits! Aghhh, I’ve never been so disappointed in Cardinal Nation. We’re supposed to be the Best Fans in Baseball, but the way people are acting – well I feel like I’m in Philly.
Mostly, it seems that people are upset because he has said for years how much he loves StL, wants to play here forever, wants to retire a Cardinal, can’t imagine playing anywhere else, and so on, and so on. But then he leaves us anyway – so obviously he’s a liar and a hypocrite, right? Well, by definition yeah I guess that would make him a hypocrite. But I don’t see it so cut and dry. My parents lived in a house for close to 30 years. They loved that house. They built a home and raised a family in that house. They spent more than half of their lives, and basically their entire life together in that house. They probably said – on more than one occasion – that they would have loved to stay there forever. But yet – they moved. LIARS!! HYPOCRITES!! Or maybe everything they said was true, but in the end it’s just not how it worked out. They found something else that better fit the needs of their future, even if it meant leaving behind a beloved piece of their past.
I believe both Albert and Deidre Pujols when they say they love St. Louis and everything about it. I believe them when they say they never wanted to leave. And I’d be willing to bet that accepting an offer that wasn’t the Cardinals’ was one of the hardest decisions they’ve ever had to make. Albert was raised in baseball here, it’s close to “home” in Kansas City, they have a restaurant, their foundation and a loyal fan base of THE best fans in baseball. They’re already rich beyond their dreams…..why WOULD they want to leave?
Well – I’ll tell you why I think. If the Cardinals tell me that I’m part of their long term plan, that they want me to be around for years and years to come, and yet they’re not willing to guarantee anything beyond 5 years – I’d be a little skeptical. If they say that what they truly want is to keep me for the long haul – then what’s the hold up in committing to it now? (Obviously I don’t know for sure how many years were part of the final offer – but Deidre said 5, and the Cardinals haven’t denied that. It’s always “sources say…” so I’m assuming that their silence confirms it, because if they HAD made the final offer for 9-10 years, then why won’t they say so?)
The Angels, on the other hand, said they wanted him as part of their long term plans for the organization, and they put their money where their mouth was. They locked El Hombre in for not 10, but 20 years! After the end of his 10 year playing contract, they included a 10 year “personal services” contract which can consist of him organizing events, appearing before key games and/or speaking at team related public events. It also prevents him from being able to work for another professional baseball team during that timeframe. Smart move, LA. According to the Pujolses, the Cardinals didn’t seem to like the idea of a personal services contract, while the other side of their mouth was still saying – “but we want you long term, we want you part of the Cardinal’s family”. Well, which is it?
I’m sad that he’s gone. I feel a little betrayed and a little like I’ve been tossed aside without concern, but I know it wasn’t intentional. If anything, I think the Cards dropped the ball here, not Prince Albert. If they didn’t want to go to 10 years or cross the $200 million mark, that’s their right, because it’s their money. I personally wouldn’t have wanted them to go beyond 7/8 years, being a National League team. What bothers me – is that they were contradicting themselves by talking about long term but not offering it. (Again – this is based on various reports of Cardinals’ offers and what the Pujolses have said. To the best of my knowledge nothing has been confirmed – or denied – by the Cardinals organization.) A 7 year contract with a club option for the 8th year and a personal services agreement to begin at his retirement might have shown Albert that they meant what they said. I actually believe Deidre when she says they were as shocked to be leaving St. Louis as we were.
Another thing I want to talk about is the idea that Pujols leaving the Cardinals makes him disloyal. NEVER MISTAKE A PLAYER FOR A FAN. We are Cardinals fans. Our loyalty is to the Cardinals no matter who owns, manages, coaches or plays for the team. This hasn’t changed for over a hundred years. In my lifetime, players have come and gone but my allegiance is always to the birds on the bat. This is not true of a player. They’re loyalty is to the team as long as they are employed by that team, because it is their JOB to be a good teammate, to earn the love and trust of the fans, and to give nothing less than 100% effort in doing whatever that team needs them to do. When they stop being employed by that team, they’re loyalty goes first to their family and the future of their career. While Albert would have preferred to stay here, in the end, he had to do what’s best for HIM, not what’s best for US. We, as fans, don’t factor into his decision. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Albert gave us 11 amazing years of baseball. He hit countless home runs. He made great defensive plays. He projected an image that parents can be proud to have their kids look up to. He set records (and often went on to break said records). He led us to 2 World Series titles and played a key role in hundreds of baseball memories that we will cherish forever. He worked hard and he played with heart. Everything that he was – won us over, heart and soul. For 11 years we felt like we were part of an incredible love affair that was never supposed to end. But it did. He broke up with St. Louis and moved on so quickly, leaving us angry and hurt, wondering how and why this happened. I feel it, too. But we have no reason to blame him and he has no reason to feel guilty, because when he was ours, he gave us everything he had to give, and so much more.
I’d be a liar if I said I hadn’t gotten misty eyed once or twice over losing such a great player from our team and such a great person from our community. But still, I wish Albert and his family nothing but greatness as they begin a new chapter in their lives, and I have high hopes for my beloved Cardinals as they begin a new era in St. Louis baseball. Because after all, life (and baseball) goes on.