While Stl. Cardinals Fans Mourn, Did Albert Pujols Do Right Thing?

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‘Whenever older sports fans are goaded into talking about the good old days, certain things will inevitably come up in the conversation. Whether it be something along the lines of “players used to play for the competition and the love of the game, not the money,” or “Dick Butkus killed a guy, and that’s real football”, these old school fans of the games we love have a certain moral ethic that they adhere to when it comes to their teams, and they expect their favorite players to follow suit.

Perhaps in no other fanbase in sports are there more of these traditionalists than there are in the ranks of St. Louis Cardinals Nation. This group, often praised as the “smartest fans in baseball” by hardball pundits, believes strongly in the value of loyalty, so what slugger Albert Pujols did on Thursday borders on treason. The coveted free agent has agreed to a 10-year, $254 million contract with the LA Angels, and with that decision he ended a decade of dominance in the Gateway to the West.

While Cardinals fans come to grips with this new reality that their beloved Prince Albert is no longer around, one question has to be going through the minds of other baseball fans across the league: did Pujols do the right thing by leaving the club that has been such a big part of his identity, or is this act just one more example of the corrupting nature of money in the national pastime?

For starters, there are plenty of arguments that Albert made a logical choice by leaving St. Louis. For starters, the Cardinals would have had very little money to spend on anyone else had they signed Pujols. With Matt Holliday already under a long-term contract, the Cards would be a top loaded squad with little hope for adding any significant depth should the need arise, and those kind of budget constraints can be an obstacle toward fielding a championship-caliber team. Pujols and his agent Dan Lozano certainly weighed this possibility, and even though the Cardinals will always be a team to keep an eye on in the standings, being financially limited wouldn’t have helped matters.

Another thing that should be taken into consideration is the circumstances in which Pujols left the Cardinals. While LeBron James, another big time free agent who declined extensions and wanted to test the market, left Cleveland high and dry without a championship or any real hopes of winning one any time soon, Pujols has won two World Series rings in his time with the Cardinals, meaning that the fanbase is fairly satisfied with his performance. This satisfaction on their part will eventually come out after the initial period of mourning is over, and it leaves them with a less sour taste in their mouths.

From Pujols’ perspective, the move represents a change of scenery that some players just need in order to keep their careers from becoming stale. In all likelihood, Pujols feels he has accomplished everything there is to accomplish in St. Louis, and the notion of not only switching teams, but switching leagues and cultures, has to be invigorating. After all, the bright lights of Los Angeles are a far cry from the Midwestern values that St. Louis espouses, and bringing a championship to that city would be a pretty cool experience for a veteran like Pujols.

Finally, there is the notion that such a move could potentially prolong his career. In the National League, Pujols would be forced to play a defensive position if he wanted to be included in the lineup, but in the AL, he could obviously take advantage of the Designated Hitter role, and that extra rest could help him out in a big way.

When you factor in the positive impact a change of scenery could have, the extra rest Pujols will get by virtue of playing in a different league, and the good circumstances under which he left, the Pujols decision should not be viewed as some sort of dirty cash grab. It should be viewed as a guy satisfied with his legacy in one city, and eager to start anew in another. Free agency was introduced as a way for players to have an opportunity to decide their own fate, and while some players have chased down the money, it seems equally as likely that Pujols has more benevolent motives in leaving St. Louis.

Cardinals fans should be glad for the World Championships and the memories that Prince Albert has given them over the years, and fans around the game of baseball should welcome this new chapter in the career of one of the most intriguing sluggers we have seen in our lifetimes.

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  1. Casey Hansum says

    While I like the “idea” that Albert Pujols, AP, didn’t do this for the money and that he knew with a big contract that the Cards would be strapped for cash and no longer competitive. The fact that “he did this for the team”, I am not buying it. He screwed us, by taking as long as he did other free agent that STL could have used and are now needed have become locked up.
    May his charity and anything else he was involved with in St. Louis go bankrupt. It’s all about the money and he can support them all himself.
    May STL show him the same loyalty as he has shown them. Do unto others as they have done unto you.

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