"You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame..."—Thomas Wolfe
"Who says you can't go home? There's only one place that call me one of their own. Just a hometown boy, born a rollin' stone. Who says you can't go home?"—Bon Jovi
Clearly, Albert Pujols decided to heed Thomas Wolfe's advice over a man who flat irons his hair. But baseball is a funny sport built on legacy and tradition. We revere players like Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken who stay with the same downtrodden teams their entire career. Yet, we put a premium on winning.
Would Derek Jeter still be held in such high esteem if he were a Kansas City Royal all these years?
Pujols represents an amalgamation of all of these ideas. He won two titles in St. Louis, built a legacy that rivals Stan Musial in a city rich in baseball history. However, now Pujols will leave for the blonder pastures of Anaheim, Calif.,a city virtually the polar opposite of St. Louis in terms of baseball legacy and tradition.
So, who is right? Wolfe or Jovi? Somewhere, Mo Vaughn is silently nodding, he knows the answer.
Ten years, $254 million and a no-trade clause—roughly $50 million more than St. Louis was offering. If you can't go home, you might as well take all the money you can with you while you run away. The Pujols legacy will now be split into two try different sections: BC and AD.
How long will Pujols be productive?
Before California and After Dollars.
Oh, I am so witty.
No one will disparage him for signing such a large deal. By all means he is worth $254 million, if not more, based on the current free-agent landscape.
Of course, that didn't stop Rodriguez from signing another 10-year, $275 million deal with the Yankees in 2007.
Albert Pujols is about to learn what Alex Rodriguez has been well aware of since his time in Texas. Once you leave home for that big-money contract the expectations are impossibly high. Baseball players are paid based on past achievements. The older a player gets the tougher it becomes to reclaim that past glory. When a player eventually flounders due to age, fans in the new city will not remember the highlights and glory moments from years past. The will simply see the amount of zeros still left on your contract.
Odds are Pujols' next 10 years won't play out as well as his first 10. It's not even a matter of odds, really—age always wins in the end. What the Angels will be left with is a 42-year-old former slugger making upwards of $20 million dollars a year. That slugger will be left with a legacy fractured by dollars and a fanbase divided by memories of the past.
However, on the upside, he'll have more jet skis than he knows what to do with.