Baseball is a business, but it's not only a business—it's a game, a pastime and a way for people to connect with each other. Baseball can thrive beautifully without money at all, as it did before playing baseball became a profession, and as it still does in playgrounds, backyards, fields and streets throughout the world.
Baseball needs human interaction and human emotion in order to survive; it's an essential part of the game. When considering the best course of action then, a player should not only consider business; such a decision would underestimate the other, more important aspects of the sport.
Cardinals fans are among the most dedicated and knowledgeable in American sports. They love their players and revere their heroes' accomplishments. This is a not a franchise with fair weather or bandwagon fans—Albert Pujols was adored in St. Louis and likely would have been treated as baseball royalty well after his retirement.
It's not the fact that Albert Pujols is making a lot of money, very possibly more than he can live up to, that gives St. Louis fans reason to be upset. It's the fact that Albert chose more money over his relationship with Cardinals fans. It's not like the Cardinals only offered him a trifling amount either—they offered him over $200 million for 10 years—good for one of the biggest contracts in major league history.
In addition to money, the Cardinals built a great team around Albert Pujols, including a big contract to Matt Holliday. The Cardinals have already won two championships with Pujols, adding to their already impressive history. But the Cardinals have constructed a deep and talented roster built for sustained success. There's no reason why Pujols could not have won more championships with St. Louis.
With dedicated fans, a storied franchise in the midst of another period of excellence and a chance to be revered as one the franchise's most successful and cherished players, it's hard to imagine why Albert Pujols walked out on St. Louis.
Some fans will be content with their memories. Others are glad that they will not have to personally witness Pujols' eventual decline. But there's an inescapable hollow feeling around St. Louis, despite the triumphs of last October. The face of the franchise has moved on.
My critiques can only go so far. At the end of the day, Albert Pujols is a great athlete, and he has earned the opportunity to go wherever he wants, for whatever reason he chooses.
Are his actions morally reprehensible? No. But should Cardinals fans boo him? Yes.
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