After the final out of the 2011 World Series, the baseball world quickly began to analyze Albert Pujols and whether or not he would re-sign with the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite much debate, the majority of the fans and experts seemed to agree that there was no way that Pujols would leave St. Louis. It seemed to most that he and the Cardinals needed each other. In fact, some people would argue that the baseball world needed the two to remain together.
Now the debate is over, and Pujols is no longer a Cardinal. After spending 11 years with the Cardinals organization, Pujols opted to sign a 10-year $254 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This monster deal officially marks the end of romanticism in baseball.
When Pujols was a Cardinal, he alone provided baseball with a few feel good stories. Now that he is an Angel, however, these storylines have all but vanished.
So far in his career, Pujols has put up the type of numbers that will likely get him into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Prior to signing with the Angels, he was also on track to become one of the few Hall of Fame-quality players to play their entire careers with one team. Had he continued to play with the Cardinals for the rest of his career, Pujols would have likely joined one-team Hall of Famers like Stan Musial, Joe DiMaggio, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson.
Today, there are very few player who seem destined to become one-team Hall of Famers. It is even more rare to see these sorts of players outside of the big markets like New York where they can both maintain a legacy and get paid the type of money that they may seek.
One of the biggest losses that baseball will have with Pujols on the move is the idea that the best players in the game can play for middle- and small-market teams for an extended period of time. Any outsider would expect the best player in baseball to play for the Yankees or any other big-market team. Pujols had the opportunity to change that trend and become a baseball hero for doing so.
Although he did not sign with the Yankees, he ultimately did end up taking the most money believed to be on the table. With the departure of Pujols and the likely departure of Prince Fielder from lower-revenue teams, it is becoming even more relevant to note that many of the games best players now play for high-revenue teams.
No matter who the player is, money and winning are almost always a factor. Pujols did nothing to change that opinion, and that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Any common person would likely do the same. Even though Pujols is known as "The Machine," he too proved human and took the money that was being offered. Can we blame him for doing so?
The romanticism of baseball is officially over for now, but baseball will go on and another hero will emerge. None, though, may be as iconic as Albert Pujols was in a St. Louis Cardinals jersey.