The new 10-year, $250 million–$260 million contract that Albert Pujols will reportedly sign with the Los Angeles Angels settles something, once and for all. In St. Louis, Stan will always be the Man.
Pujols should have eclipsed Hall of Famer Stan “the Man” Musial as the greatest player in the distinguished history of the St. Louis Cardinals (11 World Series championships, including the 2011 title, second to only the New York Yankees). Through his 11 seasons with the team, Pujols hit .328 and averaged 42 home runs and 126 RBI per season. He’s a walking Triple Crown.
Pujols has three MVP awards on his shelf and two World Series rings on his fingers. He went to high school in Missouri. His charity is in St. Louis. A 10-ft. Pujols statue was just unveiled outside of Pujols’ St. Louis restaurant. More than any modern-day baseball star, Pujols connected with his town — just as guys like Musial (who spent his entire 22-year career with the Cards), Carl Yastrzemski in Boston and Johnny Bench in Cincinnati used to do.
But it turns out Pujols is your typical 21st century athlete. He turned his back on his beloved Cardinals fans for a cash grab. But can you blame him? If Angels owner Arte Moreno is going to offer a soon-to-be 32-year-old first baseman obscene amounts of money into his 40s, why shouldn’t he sign up? (Moreno has also signed the Texas Rangers’ lefty starting pitcher C.J. Wilson for five years and $77.5 million.)
And you certainly can’t blame the Cardinals for not matching Los Angeles’ offer. History says that sluggers start to decline in their late 30s: one notable exception, Barry Bonds, likely had chemical help. Pujols could soon become one of the most overpaid and overvalued players in baseball history. Was Moreno not watching this year’s playoffs? Did he not see an aging, oft injured Alex Rodriguez, 36, whiff to end the Yankees’ playoff run this October? If the Yankees had the option to rip up A-Rod’s contract, which has another six years and $143 million dollars on it, they would probably do it this second.
If any city will forgive Pujols for accepting profligate riches, it’s St. Louis, home to the most polite fans in the game. The Cardinals have a smart management team, and their fans aren’t going anywhere. The franchise will be fine. It’s the Angels, fresh off signing one of the best baseball players in history, who should be worried. That’s what $250 million will do to you.