As Hyman Roth would say, “This is the business that we have chosen”. After weighing far more factors than you could imagine, Albert Pujols turned down A) a lesser contract offer from the Cardinals and B) a HIGHER contract offer from the Miami Marlins to C) sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Yes, I know his jerseys are either being burned or given away in St. Louis right now, and I understand that. You feel betrayed, since he is arguably the greatest all-time Cardinal not named Musial.
Look, this should NOT be a surprise to you, Cardinal fans, if you have any sense of history. The Cardinal organization has had a reputation SINCE THE 1920s as being cheapskates when paying their players. Branch Rickey underpaid ALL of his stars, including Musial, because he COULD, since the Reserve Clause had yet to be declared null and void by the courts.
Hell, Bill Veeck has noted that when Rickey returned to the St. Louis front office in the early 1960s, he tried to trade Musial until Gussie Busch stopped it to prevent riots in the streets. This, of course, was the same beer baron who let Hall of Famer Steve Carlton be traded to Philadelphia when he asked for a raise. None of this should be a surprise to any of you.
I suspect that Pujols knew in the spring, when he cut off negotiations, that he was done in St. Louis after 2011. I presume he thought that, since he had given Cardinal fans 10 years of Hall of Fame level numbers, and had led them to two pennants and one World Series title (not counting the one they were about to win), he expected a higher contract offer than he got.
It was about respect, with money being a major part of that. I suspect he never intended to go to Miami, as he looked at their organization and saw that it was unstable and unsustainable. The Angels, on the other hand, snuck up on everyone, including me.
Arte Moreno, the first Latino owner in MLB, knew that with the Dodgers facing bankruptcy and a new owner, he could take over the LA market with these signings. Plus, Orange County (where Anaheim is located) has a growing Latino population and trends conservative (I have been told Albert is a fundamentalist Christian).
While everyone looked at the Cubs and Marlins, Arte Moreno stunned everyone, and then signed Rangers lefty ace CJ Wilson on top of that. The Cardinals found out, to their horror, that comfort only goes so far.
Now then, Cardinals fans, I am sure you are worried with Albert gone, the Cubs hiring Theo Epstein, and your punching bags, AKA the Houston Astros, being sent to the AL West, you have visions of finishing 4th or 5th in the NL Central.
Not so fast, my friends. One, you have a good guy in Mike Matheny to replace Tony LaRussa, and Dave Duncan and Mark McGwire are staying. Next, the Cardinals are NOT tied down with a godawful contract that would stop them from making needed moves 5-6 down the road. John Mozeliak knows what he is doing, people, and as much as I would love to dance on the Cardinals’ grave, it ain’t happening.
All they need to do is take the money they WOULD have given Pujols and re-invest in their farm system, which has grown lackluster over the last few years. Once it was the envy of MLB; now, not so much.
St. Louis is a place where ballplayers want to play because they are treated like gods and left alone, for the most part. You won’t lack for talent if the organization does what I think they will do. Also, you won’t see Pujols for years, even with the switch to full-time interleague coming up; it is the luck of the draw.
Hopefully, you will have forgiven him for what he did, because it was his RIGHT to do what he did. He gave you and the Cardinals ELEVEN YEARS at a Hall of Fame Level, with three pennants and two World Series titles to show for it, along with three MVPs, and all of it at bargain-basement prices, given the current market.
You need to work through your grief, and it will take time. Of course, since the Cubs will finally win a World Series during that time, it could get rough (I keed!). But remember the times you had with Albert, and know that you can win without him.
It just may take a year or two.