After a season and a half apart, the St. Louis Cardinals will travel to Los Angeles to face former Cardinal legend Albert Pujols and his Los Angeles Angels. The initial departure of Pujols was ugly with tempers flaring on both sides, though the Cardinals' front office remained calm, collected, and most importantly, calculated. This went on as Cardinal fans ripped Pujols, and Pujols ripped the Cardinals' front office. Now, with a year and a half to let tempers settle and players and fans alike to move on, the Cardinals head to Pujols's new baseball home to face him from the opposing dugout for the first time in his 13 MLB seasons.
As recently as last week, Pujols stated that there will always be a place in his heart for the Cardinals and even lobbied the Angels to wear the Stan Musial No. 6 patch during the series against his former team (See Article). However, he proceeded to express continued feelings of agitation with the Cardinals' front office stating that he didn't feel he had been treated fairly. Even though the Cardinals and GM John Mozeliak offered Pujols a contract that would've made him the highest paid player per year in team history for 10 years, they fell short of the Angel's offer by an estimated $3-$5 million per year.
Pujols posted 11 Hall of Fame caliber seasons with the Cardinals that would have alone likely landed him in Cooperstown. However, in addition to the 10 year playing contract he signed, he also agreed to terms that will keep him under the control of the Angels for an additional 10 years after he is done playing. This, in effect, could likely keep him from going into the Hall of Fame as a Cardinal when he is eligible five years after he retires. Ultimately, the extra 10 year deal cements Pujols's place outside of Cardinal Nation and the Cardinal Family with little hope of returning. When he is finally able to leave the Angels, there will be 20 year old adults who will never have been alive to see Albert wear the Birds on the Bat.
This is a bitter pill for Cardinals' fans to follow, and likely even Pujols himself when all is said and done. However, Pujols appears to have done the Cardinals a favor by turning down the contract they offered him. With that money the Cardinals have been able to extend Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright past their mid 30s with reasonable contracts. They were also able to sign Carlos Beltran who has already hit 51 home runs and driven in 147 RBIs in just a season and a half with the Cardinals as he will almost certainly make his second All-Star appearance in a row for the team. Also, the compensation the Cardinals received from the Angels for their signing of Pujols allowed them to draft star prospect Michael Wacha and other top prospects last season which has helped earn them the top ranked farm system in all of MLB by Baseball America. Of course, it has also allowed for them to give more regular playing time to rising stars such as Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, and Matt Adams who have all made huge contributions to the winning ways of the team over the last year and a half.
The Cardinals will take on the Angels on Tuesday night in Los Angeles as Lance Lynn will be the first Cardinal pitcher to face his former World Series teammate Albert Pujols.
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