Editor's note: This story was originally published Dec. 9, 2011
I think we all knew that they don't make 'em like Stan the Man anymore.
But to have it so unarguably proven right in our faces is still a little bit tough to take.
Any allusion that there was an ounce of good, decency or loyalty left in America's pastime was flushed down the toilet when Albert Pujols turned his back on three million adoring fans and a chance to earn more than $315 million over the course of a 20-year career by hitting a little white ball over a big green fence.
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Instead, Pujols bolted for a chance to earn a little bit more than 10 percent more with a new team, trading his legacy for a suitcase full of hundred dollar bills.
Several times last season, I watched Pujols play while trying to drink in every moment because I knew it might be my last time seeing him in a Cardinals uniform. But deep down, I couldn't imagine how he could leave such a good situation.
Pujols was supposed to be the one good guy left. Winning and his teammates meant more to him than a few million bucks. But it's obvious that he was always for sale to the highest bidder. We should have known. But somehow we held out hope that we meant one tiny fraction to him of what Pujols meant to us.
I wonder how Chris Carpenter and Lance Berkman feel about Pujols when they took less money so the team could afford to pay Albert.
Pujols didn't just stick it to his pals - in exactly the same way he criticized Edgar Renteria in 2004 for leaving his team for a little bit more money with the Red Sox - he left the Cardinals a week before season ticket deposits are due. The timing will certainly hurt the Cards in the wallet.
I don't want to hear his explanations or excuses. I don't want the "I have to buy my kids shoes" argument that Vince Coleman made when he split for the arch rival New York Mets. I don't want to hear that he really wanted to stay but the Redbirds just wouldn't show him enough "respect."
I sincerely hope, that the team does not follow through with forgone conclusions that it would retire No. 5 or erect a statue in Pujols' honor. Not after the way he hocked a loogie in the face of Redbird rooters.
Yeah, the gaudy offensive statistics were really something. Two World Series titles and three pennants were amazing. But there are a lot of great players who have worn World Series rings with the Cardinals logo on them who don't have either of those honors.
He is not worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with the bronze effigy of a man so honorable that after a poor season in 1959 he went to the Cardinals front office and demanded a 20-percent pay cut.
I would like to see the Cardinals give No. 5 to someone else in 2012 so we can put this all behind us as quickly and quietly as possible.
Say what you want, Mr. Pujols. But baseball isn't business. It's a game and a passion. It's people like you with their greedy agents who take something that is beautiful and perfect and turn it into "business."
You hurt all of us in Cardinal Nation who ultimately put Bentleys in your garage. And while I doubt any of us will ever forget you, we sure look at you in a very different way than we did for the last 11 years. Scott Wuerz writes a Cardinals' fan blog "View from the Cheap Seats," which can be found at bnd.com.