It's interesting how former Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols has suddenly become so visible again in St. Louis.
Pujols appeared on local sports radio yesterday to talk about the election of former Redbirds manager Tony La Russa to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and during the conversation the subject changed to newly acquired St. Louis outfielder Peter Bourjos.
His former teammate in Anaheim, Pujols predicted great things for Bourjos as a starting player. And then he said that while he hates to see the young centerfielder go, he told Bourjos that he was fortunate that he was going to get to go play in front of the best fans and for the best organization in baseball.
In a vacuum it might seem like Albert was just trying to be nice. But let's remember that not only was his exit from the Cardinals highly contentious, so much so that he was insulted by the Redbirds' initial contract offer and that he made a snap decision to sign with the Angels without even giving St. Louis a last chance to match the offer. Couple that with the fact that Albert wasn't really very accessible to the media for long interviews even when he played here and it was a unique, almost surreal situation. Sure he would gush about the Cardinals fans whenever he was interviewed about some award he'd won. But he rarely would sit and talk baseball for an extended period of time in a radio interview. The situation was also odd because of the fact that Pujols signed that personal services contract as part of his Anaheim deal to promote the Angels. And now he's talking up the Cardinals in public?
Wow! Albert seems these days to be very interested in the building burned bridges business.
While I think a lot of the bad feelings about Pujols have subsided, I believe that's largely because Albert has struggled so mightily since he signed his massive contract with Anaheim. Cardinals fans who once viewed his defection as heart breaking now see it as a dodged bullet.
Still, I wonder how things might have been different if he had stayed with the Cardinals.
Would he have pressed as much as he did in 2012 in the comfortable surroundings of Busch Stadium? Maybe Pujols' best days are behind him. But it still stings me that he could have been a Cardinal for life. One of the brightest stars in the history of a storied organization. But he passed for a frustratingly small percentage of money.
In a way it made me feel good to hear what Pujols had to say. But in another way it twisted the knife one more time. The only thing I really wanted to hear him say -- which he never will -- is that he made a mistake leaving the Cardinals and he wished that he hadn't done it.