As you may have heard by now, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols will be a free agent following the 2011 season.
At one time it was nearly universally assumed that the modern-day legend would re-sign with the Cardinals, playing out his career with the only franchise he has ever known.
Who could imagine letting the best player in baseball walk away and sign with another team?
Then came the contentious contract talks, the astronomical demands (though those were more likely media speculation than anything) and the strict Feb. 16 deadline Pujols himself imposed; he refused to discuss the matter anymore until after the season following that deadline.
The requisite media circus ensued, leading fans and journalists alike to envision wild scenarios in which every possibility was explored regarding the future of baseball's greatest star.
Next came "The Hug."
In a seemingly innocuous gesture, Pujols was seen embracing Jim Hendry, general manager of the Cardinals' fierce rivals, the Chicago Cubs.
Not only were they witnessed hugging in full view of the entire baseball world, but they did so on the field at Wrigley prior to a three-game series between the two franchises.
Of course both men explained the encounter as meaningless; they have long been friends, and will continue to do so after each is gone from baseball.
However, I can completely understand how a Cardinals fan may view the embrace differently.
Chicago's North Side had already been a popular choice as the potential future destination for Pujols, considering their rivalry with the Cards, their burning desire to overturn the lack of recent success and even the fact that they only signed their current first baseman, Carlos Pena, to a one-year contract.
Pujols' future may very well lie in St. Louis—he has stated his desire to stay numerous times. But once massive dollars start getting tossed your direction, that can have a serious impact on a man's thought process, maybe even leading him to sign with a fierce division rival.
Is it possible that Pujols defecting from St. Louis to sign with the Cubs could actually be good for baseball?