Yesterday the Los Angeles Angels designated Albert Pujols for assignment. Essentially releasing, the 21-year veteran. Ten years ago, the Angels snagged Pujols away from the St. Louis Cardinals. Signing him to the second biggest contract in MLB history, at the time, 10 years/$254 million. Today, it stands a bit lower, as the ninth biggest contract of all-time.
Before going from one red/white uniform to another, the Dominican-born First Baseman racked up the accolades. Through 11 seasons playing under the Gateway Arch, he won 3 MVPs, made 9 All-Star games, and won 6 silver sluggers just to name a few. Once he made the move to playing under the California sun, the accolades didn’t come his way. Making only one All-Star game in 10 years, with nothing else to show.
The 41-year old is no doubt a first ballot Hall of Famer, no matter what happens with his release. But with such a big discrepancy between the two playing destinations, it begs a certain question. I think it’s one many of us have thought of over the past 10 seasons. Should “The Machine” have stayed in St. Louis?
What brought Pujols to LA
Back in December of 2011, Pujols had recently come off of a close to stellar season. He hit .299, with a .366 OBP and 37 HRs. Which led him to finish 5th in NL MVP voting. Not to mention the St. Louis Cardinals had just won their second World Series in six years. What more could a player want? A very successful team along with being right in the middle of the peak of his career. Yet, he still decided to head west.
According to Pujols’ wife Deidre, in an interview that December, they never had the intention of leaving St. Louis. According to her, the Cardinals front office were essentially sending mixed signals. One of their contract offers to Albert didn’t match up with the way they were talking about the whole situation. Pujols’ himself even said something along the same lines in an interview back in 2019, reflecting on the decision made. He also stated that he “”made the right decision.”
Although he thinks that he made the right choice, his career could have gone totally different had he stayed in the “Show Me State”.
What could have been if Pujols Stayed In St. Louis
While Pujols was the franchise star at the time for the Cardinals, he wasn’t the only thing keeping them afloat. The next three seasons after he departed, the team still found success. Making the NLCS all three seasons, making it to the World Series in 2013, but lost to the Boston Red Sox in six games. There were some pretty prominent names on those teams too.
The 2013 World Series runner-up team especially. Just in the lineup they had C Yadier Molina (9x All-Star), OF Matt Holliday (7x All-Star), and a 36 year-old Carlos Beltran (9x All-Star) who was still able to hit .296. In the rotation, they had a in-his-prime Adam Wainwright, and a young Lance Lynn. Along with very young Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal in the bullpen.
Since the 2014 season, the Cardinals have made it past the NLDS only once (2019). Missing the playoffs entirely 3 times. I don’t think that would have been the case had they still had Pujols bat in their lineup. Now I’m not saying they would have won 3 straight World Series, or anything like that. Although he only made one All-Star game in his time in LA, his stats didn’t start really going on a downward trend until 2017. All at the same time at least. He was still hitting a pretty solid average, along with around at least 20 HRs.
There’s no saying that if they had Pujols’ presence during the 2013 World Series that they still would have lost. I’d give it a 75% chance that they would have won their second world series in 3 seasons. That’s even coming from a fan of the team that beat them.
The one thing I hope for the all-time leader in GIDP, is that fans don’t try and tarnish his legacy. With the past 11 seasons of not-so-much success, it might seem easy to do. But he is still 5th on the all-time HR list and has two WS rings. It just wouldn’t be right for them to talk down on a role model legend like Pujols.
Anyway, even though Pujols thinks he made the right decision, I don’t really think he did. Maybe if the Angels had made it to at least a couple ALCS’ in the past 10 seasons, then I would change my mind. There were so many players in their prime on the Cardinals at the time, they could have been what the San Francisco Giants were the last decade.
-Zach Derosia (@Derosia_14)
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