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Prior to free agency, baseball players and their employers often had the same relationship as a strong marriage. While players and owners would fight and bicker about contracts and the personnel around them, if the player was treated well by the franchise, he would always be known as a member of that team.
With the evolution of free agency, the loyal player-owner relationship has gone into the same ditch as the long-lasting marriage these days.
When Albert Pujols retires, odds are that baseball fans will remember him as a St. Louis Cardinal. Over 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Pujols led the Redbirds to two World Series Championships (2006, 2011) and won three National League Most Valuable Player awards (2005, 2008, 2009).
As Pujols entered the final year of his contract, talks would break down in spring training. However, nobody expected that Pujols would actually leave.
As both sides remained quiet through the season at Pujols' request, everybody still expected that something would get done for the star slugger to remain in St. Louis.
As time ran short on negotiations, Pujols still wanted to be compensated like his fellow superstars had been in the past decade, but the Cardinals were unwilling to give him a long-term contract at age 32.
With that, the Los Angeles Angels swooped in and signed Pujols to a 10-year, $240 million contract to the shock of millions. Despite a likely regression in Pujols' production, the Angels knew that if they gave him what he wanted, "The Machine" would likely be theirs.
One year into the contract, the Angels might feel like they haven't gotten what they paid for with Pujols having an "off year" of .285 with 30 home runs and 105 runs batted in.
In a worst-case scenario, Pujols' supposed regression could continue as he gets older, making this contract another colossal bust for owner Arte Moreno.