For Pujols, the Cardinals' weekend sweep of the Cubs seems to augur a turning point in what has been a disappointing season.
For the Cubs, it marks a low-water mark in team morale and in the standings.
For Carlos Zambrano, who watched a second consecutive sparkling outing lose its luster after his departure, it marks the boiling point.
Speaking to reporters after the game Sunday, Zambrano bashed closer Carlos Marmol, who blew a ninth-inning lead on a hanging slider to weak-hitting Ryan Theriot. He went on to compare the Cubs to a Triple-A team—not so outlandish, really, since 11 members of the active 25-man roster have spent time in the Minors this season.
Still, the comments are sure to draw the usual scrutiny and Zambrano-bashing on sports talk radio and in Chicago newspapers.
The erstwhile ace has earned a reputation as a hothead, onto which an ill-deserved rep as a selfish whiner has been summarily affixed.
Deep down, Cubs fans and members of the media horde must know Zambrano is right. In the parlance of baseball politics, though, he will be pilloried for "going about it the wrong way."
Sooner or later, though, the Cubs have some harsh realities with which they must reconcile themselves.
In a division suddenly populated by young teams with heavy burdens of risk but sky-high reward potential, Chicago has one of the least promising packages of young talent. Some veterans will be goners after 2011, but the money attached thereto may not go back onto the Cubs' payroll in 2012.
The team is currently in violation of MLB rules about debt ratio, according to a published report, and anyway, Tom Ricketts insists he prefers to build the team through other means than big free-agent outlays.
The Cubs are a year away, if they're lucky.
It may well be three or four years before the team is well-positioned to make a run at anything more than a Wild Card or divisional entry into the playoffs.
Here are 10 moves that balance present and future well enough to merit some consideration as the team heads deeper into the thicket of a rebuilding endeavor.