ESPN is reporting that St. Louis Cardinals slugger—and arguably the best hitter in baseball— Albert Pujols has agreed to a 10-year deal for at least $250 million with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan points out some harsh facts about the huge contract: "Alex Rodriguez was 32 when he signed his 10-year deal. Four seasons into it, he's a shell of himself. Albert Pujols turns 32 in January." For their sake, hopefully this doesn't mean Angels fans get to look forward to raging insecurities, an endless parade of busty blondes, and popcorn incidents.
Pujols, a three-time MVP and nine-time All Star, has spent his whole 11-year career up till now with St. Louis, winning two World Series in 2006 and 2011. For the past weeks since the Cardinals won the World Series, speculation has run rampant over what it would take for Pujols to leave St. Louis. He rejected an offer from the free-spending Miami Marlins, and balked at a chance to play with the retooling Chicago Cubs. Ultimately, the Cardinals latest offer was for nine years and a little less than $200 million.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz was realistic about the financials: "Great deal for Pujols. Hard to turn that down. I don't blame Cardinals for declining to go that far. I think we agreed all along that it would take one monster offer, unexpected, to get Pujols out of STL and that's exactly what happened." The Angels also finalized a five-year deal with elite pitcher CJ Wilson today—they are now the team to beat in the American League.
And while most would agree that Pujols didn't pull a LeBron and alienate an entire fanbase (and league), that doesn't make it any easier for diehard Cardinals fans for whom Pujols was THE Cardinal, a player on the level of the legendary Stan Musial, devoid of steroid and off-the-field controversies. NYMagazine's Will Leitch, one of those diehard Cardinals fans, summarized the pain of moving on fittingly:
But Albert Pujols doesn't play for the St. Louis Cardinals anymore. That central organizing principle, not just in the lives of Cardinals fans, but in baseball itself, is over. It's surreal to even think about it. I haven't come to terms with it yet, and I'm not sure I will. It's fine. Albert will be fine, and the Cardinals will be fine, and the Angels will be fine, and everyone will move on with their lives. But Albert Pujols and the Cardinals were linked in the way that Derek Jeter and the Yankees are linked, the way that Cal Ripken and the Orioles were linked, the way that Tony Gwynn and the Padres were linked. That is one of baseball's unique pleasures: The way one man can become an institution in a place, someone who five-year-olds can talk about with 85-year-olds. Albert Pujols is not a bad person for leaving the Cardinals, and the Cardinals are not less of a franchise for losing him.