Albert Pujols: 5 Reasons Cardinals Fans Are Relishing His Struggles in Anaheim
Is Albert Pujols the LeBron James of Major League Baseball? Well, not quite. Pujols has won a championship. Two actually. Couldn't resist a shot at King James.
Like LeBron, Pujols left the only team he's ever played for in St. Louis for a couple extra dollars from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Crazy right? It seems hometown loyalty only goes so far when a few million, sandy beaches and one of the biggest markets in the United States weigh into the equation.
Cardinals fans were outraged when the news of Puljos's departure surfaced.
However, just over 20 games into the 2012 MLB season, it's the Cardinals who are laughing at the 32-year-old's disappointing start in the city of Angels, and reveling in St. Louis' NL Central-leading record. He snapped his hitless streak after 21 at bats in a loss to the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays.
Pujols? Good riddance. Who needs him? Not St. Louis.
They Won Last Year!
Why did LeBron leave Cleveland? He wanted to win an NBA Championship. Working on it. Why did Randy Moss leave Minnesota? He wanted to win a Super Bowl. Hey, 18-1 isn't bad. Why did Ray Bourque leave Boston? He wanted to win a Stanley Cup. Mission accomplished.
Why did Pujols leave St. Louis? He...good question. The St. Louis Cardinals won the 2011 World Series, defeating the Texas Rangers in seven games. The Cards also won in 2006, beating the Detroit Tigers in five games.
Winning wasn't an issue in St. Louis. Pujols' move left fans wondering why he would want to leave a championship-caliber team. Perhaps he thought a move to Los Angeles would give him a better chance at winning a third World Series.
So far, it's the Cardinals looking to repeat, and the Angels looking to catch up with the rest of the league.
St. Louis leads the NL Central Division with a 14-8 record, while the Angels sit in last place in the AL West with a 7-15 record.
Puljos Is Right in His Prime
At 32 years old, Albert Pujols is still very much in his prime. Throughout his illustrious career, he's captured three NL MVP awards, six Silver Slugger awards, two Golden Gloves awards and appeared in the MLB All-Star game nine times, among various other accolades.
There was little doubt Pujols would have continued his dominance with St. Louis in the NL Central this season.
He has a career .327 batting average, .419 on base percentage and .613 slugging percentage. He usually finished around the 40 mark for home runs, and he's hit 100-plus RBI in 10 of his 11 professional seasons (the exception coming last season when he finished with 99).
So far with the Cardinals, Pujols is hitting only .216, has zero home runs and only four RBI in 21 games.
Pujols's statistics so far are well out of the top 10 for the Cardinals this season and nowhere near the tops of the MLB charts.
Oh Look! St. Louis Is Still Good
Turns out, maybe the Cardinals didn't need Pujols that much. St. Louis is first in the NL Central with a 14-8 record.
Outfielders Shane Robinson and Jon Jay are both hitting over the .400 mark, and six other Cardinals are hitting above .300.
David Freese, last year's World Series MVP is hitting .333, and Carlos Beltran, an experienced outfielder signed by the Cardinals to help alleviate the loss of Pujols, is hitting .256, while both players are tied for the team lead with five home runs each.
Matt Carpenter, a 26-year-old who earned his first MLB starting job this season, has been nearly flawless at first base for the Cardinals so far this year.
While many thought the Cardinals would miss Pujols, it looks like it may be Pujols missing the Cardinals.
Wait. It Wasn't About Money?
The city of St. Louis was shocked by the news their franchise player was deserting them for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Adding to the fiery rage was a questionably meaningful letter written to the city and the fans by Pujols himself.
The move simply didn't make sense. STLSportsMinute.com also quotes Puljos as saying it's not about money. If it wasn't about the extra $3 million to $4 million he'd be making per year with the Angels, why wouldn't he stay with the team with which he established himself as an MLB superstar? Why wouldn't he stay with a team that was coming off a World Series winning season last year and poised to contend for a repeat?
News flash: It was for money. The Cardinals couldn't come up with enough green, so the first baseman sold his soul to Hollywood.
His new contract makes him the second highest paid player ($25.4 million per year) in the majors, behind Alex Rodriguez ($27.5 million per year) and one spot ahead of, well, Alex Rodriguez who still gets a yearly check from the Texas Rangers worth $25.2 million. Gotta love MLB salary rules.
They say money can't buy happiness, but it apparently can buy an all-star, power hitting first baseman.
Everyone Likes Some Good Old Fashioned Karma
It's likely only a matter of time before Albert Pujols figures out how to hit baseballs really, really hard again. Until that day comes, Cardinals fans should enjoy every minute of his slump.
There's a lot of baseball left to be played in the 2012 regular season—a lot of time for Pujols and the Angels to heat up, and a lot of time for the St. Louis Cardinals to cool down.
By the end of the season, Pujols could be contending for an MLB batting championship, and the Cardinals could be battling for a wild card spot like last season.
For now, Cardinals fans can quietly snicker at their star who snubbed them for a few extra million, as he struggles to find his game with the Angels.