I was not born in St. Louis, and I don't plan to live in the Gateway City past high school. But in the relatively short time that I have lived here, it has become clear that there is no city in the entire country that loves one athlete, make that one person, more than St. Louis' love affair with Albert Pujols.
Seeing someone wear an Albert Pujols shirt or jersey in St. Louis is as common as seeing Longhorn apparel in Austin or Patriots sweatshirts in Boston.
Even I, a diehard Giants fan who despises most of Cardinal Nation, own a shirt with the No. 5 on the back.
Albert Pujols is by far the most beloved figure in the St. Louis area, even more so than Stan "The Man" Musial, and the thought of him leaving never struck people here, until very recently.
Now comes the cold hard truth that The Machine may actually take his talents elsewhere, perhaps to New York or Boston and maybe to the hated Chicago Cubs.
It is fair to say that if Pujols leaves, Cardinal Nation will enter a state of emergency, one that Matt Holliday or Yadier Molina could not possibly heal.
The 402nd pick in the 1999 MLB draft has turned out to be one of the top hitters in all of baseball and could potentially go down as the greatest home-run hitter of all time. His talents are invaluable and along with his personality, it's no wonder why Cardinal fans like the guy so much.
Who will Albert Pujols be playing for next year?
He is pretty much the polar opposite of Barry Bonds in that he has a friendly relationship with his fans and the local media. He loves St. Louis almost as much as St. Louis loves him back.
The two make a perfect match, and that is why it has been such a surprise that Pujols has not accepted an offer from the Cardinals but instead has rejected their offer, according to USA Today.
Pujols has said multiple times that he wants to spend the rest of his career as a Cardinal, but we all know that money can sometimes trump hometown loyalty.
A lucrative $300 million, 10-year contract from the Yankees might be enough to separate Pujols from St. Louis, assuming the Cardinals couldn't match a $30 million a year deal.
Who knows, maybe Pujols is one of those few guys who can put his fans first, money second. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen too much these days.
Albert Pujols has brought so much joy to this city, including a World Series title in 2006 but it is time for St. Louis to accept the reality that this season may be the last time we see Pujols in a Cardinals jersey.