Cheap Seats

St. Louis Cardinals fans will cheer loud and long when Albert Pujols returns to Busch

To boo or not to boo Albert Pujols? St. Louis Cardinals fans, is it even a question?

There has been a lot of speculation for the past eight years about how Albert Pujols will be greeted when he returns to Busch Stadium to face the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time as an opposing player.

C’mon. Does anyone really have any doubt about what’s going to happen?

Unless Pujols, who arguably had the best consecutive 11 years a player ever had while in a St. Louis uniform, does something akin to Garry Templeton’s Cardinals goodbye while wearing a T-shirt that says “I wish the St. Louis Blues would have lost,” there is going to be a loud and lengthy standing ovation.

Think about when he was honored but the Busch Stadium faithful during introductions at the 2009 all-star game. That’s what you’re going to get. I’m sure there will be a smattering of malcontents who try to boo. And no one will even hear them.

Publicly, the Cardinals have mused a lot how unfortunate it was that Pujols hasn’t come back earlier. He left after the 2011 postseason, seven seasons ago. If the wounds caused by his break up with the home team haven’t healed by now, they’re never going to heal.

I think the decision to keep Pujols out of town wasn’t an accident. It’s a lot surer bet Albert will be greeted warmly now that he’s older and a shadow of the player he once was. Imagine if the former St. Louis superstar came to Busch Stadium in 2012 in the midst of a triple crown season and hit three or four homers, dealing his former club a blow in their own pennant hopes.

Instead of cheers, bitterness might rule the day. Fans with already itchy keyboard fingers would barbecue club chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. for letting their favorite player go. Let’s be honest, with the clout DeWitt carries among his fellow owners, he probably could have strongly suggested the schedule makers get Pujols to town sooner if he wanted to. It was safer this way. It makes more sense.

I was pretty chapped about Pujols splitting because he found an alleged $210-million offer to be insulting. Even thought he’s brought it up a couple of times over the past couple of years, it barely registers more than an eye roll now.

Pujols is a sympathetic figure at this point, leaving St. Louis a career .328 hitter, he’s likely to finish this season below .300 if he makes it through the whole year healthy. Booing the proud, aging superstar would just seem cruel at this point.

Besides, this is really a moment for the fans. If I was Pujols I don’t know if I would be looking forward to this game or dreading it. Not because of anxiety over the response. It’s just hard to open up those old wounds, to reopen a door it was difficult to close. If the fans chose to spoil the party, they’re only ruining it for themselves.