I’ve stayed away from writing about the whole Albert Pujols situation, partly because it makes me so angry, and partly because I didn’t think it deserved any more attention.
But, I’ve gotten angrier, and writing is cathartic, so…
It would be really nice if Albert, and his wife Deidre, would stop insulting the Cardinals fans’ intelligence. If I hear “It wasn’t about the money,” one more time, I may scream. Of course it was about the money…it’s always about the money. At least Lance Berkman was honest enough to own up to that fact earlier this year. But Albert, the man who two years ago claimed that he wanted to stay in St. Louis forever, and didn’t need an extra three or four million a year somewhere else because he’d already made his money? He wants us to keep believing that the reason he left St. Louis for Los Angeles was for some nobler purpose, some idealistic reason having to do with commitment, and not money at all?
Yes, the Cardinals most recent offer was for “only” five years. Perfectly reasonable, if you ask me, given Pujols’s (reported) age. But lets not forget that prior to that, there had been a 10-year deal, with the added incentive of having some sort of stake in the team, some kind of front-office job, and a lasting legacy here in St. Louis. He was set to become the next “Stan the Man” here in town; he almost certainly would have had a statue outside the first base gate someday, as a testament to his time and success here. The fans loved him, even when his performance slumped, and would have continued to love him, even as age started to take its toll, as it certainly would have. That’s the kind of town St. Louis is; that’s the kind of fans the Cardinals have. That’s why they call this “baseball heaven.”
But we weren’t committed to him. Right.
I’m with columnist Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He tried to be sensible about this unpleasant situation, and not cast blame. But, like many Cardinals fans, myself included, all he had to hear was Albert’s very insulting press conference with the Angels to get his ire up. When your town’s (former) hero turns on you, and openly states that the team, the organization, and by extension, the city, weren’t committed to him, you can’t help but get mad, and call a spade a spade. In the end, Bernie was spot on with his first reaction to this whole mess:
I’ve mentioned this before, and will talk about it again: the sentimental side of me wanted Pujols to remain with the Cardinals for his entire career. I know better, but I still suffer from the disease of naiveté. Baseball does this to a lot of people, me included. Makes us all sappy and romantic. You want the hero to stay and complete the storybook. But it doesn’t work that way in modern sports. Not very often, anyway.
That about sums it up–we baseball fans are a bunch of romantics at heart, and even though common sense says otherwise, we want to believe that we’ll get our happy ending–all of us, players and fans alike. After all, “faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to,”* right? So, our initial reaction of shock and dismay, was honest and real, even though we may have tried to justify it after the fact. And our anger and disgust are equally justified, especially after hearing our support criticized.
It’s all about the money, Albert. It always has been, and always will be. Stop deluding yourself, and stop insulting the people of St. Louis. We know where your loyalties lie, now more than ever.
*With thanks to George Seaton, and by extension, Fred Gailey in Miracle on 34th Street, for summarizing faith so well.