I wonder if St. Louis Cardinals fans are ready to forgive Albert Pujols for walking out on his former club.
And, if so, how does their former icon mend fences with his former supporters while he has a contract that ties him exclusively to the Anaheim Angels for the next 18 seasons?
Pujols a few weeks ago did an interview on St. Louis radio in which he lauded the Cardinals organization and said that he told Peter Bourjos, acquired by the Redbirds in trade from Albert's new team, that the young outfielder was going to love to call Busch Stadium home.
Over the weekend, Bourjos seemed to back up Pujols' claims. Bourjos said, he believes from their discussions that Albert seems to miss playing for the Cardinals. And Bourjos added that during those talks that he was afraid to ask Pujols why he decided to leave St. Louis.
2014 is going to be a pivotal year for Pujols both for his playing career AND to determine what life will be like for him after he hangs up his spikes. He's supposedly healthy for the first time as an Angel with plantar faciitis surgery expected to restore his base by allowing his feet to be pain free. But Albert, who a few days ago turned 34 years old, is going to have to turn back the hands of time to even begin to justify his $250-million California deal.
Pujols has seen his key productions statistics decline every year since 2008. Without at least a few elite years as a Halo, his reputation is going to be forever cemented as a bust. That might be good for Cardinals fans because, if Albert never produces at his prime level for Anaheim, it's more likely that he'll retire before the 10-year contract is up -- or at least not accept a role as the Angels' ambassador for 10 seasons after his playing days are over. I don't think if he hits .300 with 25 homers and 90 RBIs that it will be enough to win over Anaheim fans. They don't want to see good. They want to see the stuff of legends.
Would it be worth it to Albert to sacrifice a year or two at the end of his contract in order to tie himself to the Redbirds in retirement?
It would be devastating, financially, to do so. His contract pays $30 million in its last season, 2021. He'd look pretty dopey to have turned down $210 million from the Cardinals for nine years to accept $240 million from Anaheim plus $10 million for the personal services deal to give Anaheim $40 million back in the end.
He could restore his legacy by doing so. I have no idea what that's worth to him. But it's definitely not as good of a deal as it would have been to have re-signed with St. Louis in the first place. At least not for him.
The ultimate last laugh for the Cardinals would be if the club not only avoided Albert's financially-crippling contract but if they also got him to give up his California money to put on a red blazer and throw out the first pitch at Busch Stadium in 2021 or 2022.