Why MLB Desperately Needed Albert Pujols to Change Teams

Seth JohanssonCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2011

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 10:  Albert Pujols signs autographs for fans after a public press conference introducing newly signed Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  players Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson at Angel Stadium on December 10, 2011 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The move was huge. It was the MLB equivalent of LeBron James announcing he was "taking his talents to South Beach" or as significant as if Tom Brady were to be traded from the New England Patriots.

When Albert Pujols, MLB's best player and most recognizable icon left the St. Louis Cardinals, it literally rocked the baseball world.

But, really, let's face it: The move was good for baseball (sorry, Cards fans).

Most of all, what the Albert Pujols (and C.J. Wilson) signing signify is a brand new rivalry on the West Coast, which has all the makings of a long-time classic. More importantly, it's a rivalry that has grown organically on the West Coast.

That's important because although there has always been the Dodgers-Giants rivalry, it has cooled somewhat in recent years, and most of its original roots stem from an East Coast beginning.

With the Los Angeles Angels adding two superstars to their lineup and the Texas Rangers representing the AL in the past two World Series, what they have essentially assembled together are two "superteams" in the same division. While some may argue the pros and cons for superteams in professional sports, there's no denying that when they face off on a national stage, people are going to watch.

And what this signifies for Major League Baseball is an additional rivalry to market where both teams are competitive and look to be competitive for the next decade.

Also, it's no secret that World Series television ratings are better when major media markets are involved. New York, Boston, Philadelphia—it's the teams from these cities that fans want to see. So, when the game's most important player moves to a major media market, like Los Angeles, that's also a win for baseball.

Of course, that's not to say there is no national interest in the St. Louis Cardinals (if it were the Kansas City Royals, it would be a different story). But Albert Pujols, "The Machine," now has a home in L.A., and that's big news.

For Southern California baseball fans, the Pujols signing is even bigger news—possibly the biggest news in Southern California baseball since the Angels won the World Series in 2002.

Over the past 10 years or so, West Coast teams, in general, have excelled in starting pitching with aces like Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver and Felix Hernandez topping the list of some of the best starters in the league.

But where the West Coast has thrived in dominant starting pitching, it has failed in reining in some of the biggest bats in the league. The West Coast—and Los Angeles, in particular—adore their star athletes.

Just look how Dodger fans reacted when a post-prime, 36-year-old Manny Ramirez showed up in L.A. The city went absolutely bonkers! Dodger fans were ready to give the guy a key to the city, nicknaming his left field home "Mannywood" after a half season with the team.

Even a little further back, in 1991 when Darryl Strawberry came over from the New York Mets to play for the Dodgers, he was the hottest name in town. Every kid in Southern California declared "I'm Darryl Strawberry!" when they picked up a baseball bat out on the playground.

Sure, you can make the argument that aces win championships, but sluggers bring home the proverbial bacon. After all, chicks dig the long ball, right? And L.A. is excited to have Pujols, the best slugger in baseball right now.

Regardless of what L.A. wants, the fact of the matter is baseball has been—and probably always will be—an East Coast-dominated sport. The modicum of die-hard fans on the West Coast does not even compare to the widespread mania surrounding baseball in Boston, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.

But with the Angels' signing of Pujols, MLB must be hoping that moving its brightest star to L.A. will galvanize the West Coast's dispassionate following of America's pastime. And if not, at least Orange County's fair-weathered excitement for the Angels will be re-ignited by Albert Pujols coming to town.