Albert Pujols is a baseball legend. He is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, and will likely be remembered as the best hitter of his generation. And although this type of praise is lofty to be sure, the opportunity to take his legacy to even the next level simply doesn’t exist in Cardinal red. Let me explain.
In St. Louis, Pujols is a great player on a storied franchise. He is one of many greats who have succeeded with the Cardinals. He’s far from the first, and he certainly won’t be the last. St. Louis is one of baseball’s signature franchises. Their history is rich with success stories and heroes of the game. In this regard, Pujols is just another member of the pack.
No matter how great his achievements, no matter how many home runs he sends, disappearing into the blackness of St. Louis nights, Albert Pujols will never eclipse the legacies of Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, Rogers Hornsby and Bob Gibson . It just isn’t possible. These players are Hall of Famers, and even though Pujols may himself be a Hall of Famer, in St. Louis, he is simply one piece in a larger mosaic of baseball history.
With another team (say, for instance, the Chicago Cubs), Pujols can take his legacy to heights that it will never reach with the Cardinals. It is one thing to be a Hall of Famer on a storied franchise. It is another to be a savior to an entire city, to elevate that city to heights that it has never seen before.
There is something special about players who are able to release tortured fanbases from their prisons of failure. I'm a Giants fan. The greatest player I have ever seen is Barry Bonds. Despite his many, many flaws, I am a Bonds fan and will be for life. But he didn't bring my team a championship. And so even though they may be inferior players, Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe and Cody Ross have a place in my heart that even Bonds can't touch.
With his immense talent, Albert Pujols could combine otherworldly skill with rarely-seen accomplishments, and create a truly unique place for himself in the history of the game. A place that is rarified and exclusive and can never be touched by other players—no matter how great their achievements may be.
He's already one of the best hitters of all time. But if he was one of the best hitters of all time who finally won a world series for the Cubs? Forget about it. That's Babe Ruth territory greatness.