Albert Pujols lead some good times for the St. Louis Cardinals. As recently as last season, St. Louis was on top of the baseball world, as their star had led the Cardinals to their second World Series championship in five years.
Suddenly, the champagne has gotten stale.
Pujols signed a 10-year, $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Thursday morning, ending the run of one of the greatest Cardinals ever. Fans in St. Louis are crushed that their hero took a cue from the Steve Miller Band and left town for the bright lights of Hollywood.
Wait, haven't we seen this movie before? Superstar athlete that isn't just the face of a franchise, but the face of a city, leaves for greener pastures? That's right! The Albert Pujols story reminds me of LeBron James.
LeBron James was a free agent two seasons ago when the Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the hottest acts in the NBA. Cleveland, who had seen no sports success whatsoever in the past 60 years, worshiped LeBron like a God. There was a giant mural of him in downtown Cleveland. His No. 23 jersey was everywhere. LeBron was Cleveland.
Then came the courtship.
It was a drawn-out process in which suitors presented their best offers for "The King." Some offers were taken seriously. Others, like the Clippers, were given just 30 minutes to show why they wanted James' services. The King's time was important after all.
Finally, James decided it would be a good idea to stab his loyal fanbase in the back on national television. In a 60-minute ESPN special called "The Decision," James revealed that he would sign with the Miami Heat. The backlash was severe, and LeBron James became the biggest heel of the NBA.
Going back to Pujols, his free agency courtship wasn't as flashy as James'. Pujols actually accepted the Angels' offer by sending them a text message. Yet, Pujols' decision to leave the team he had been an icon for over the past 11 seasons has the same effect.
Pujols was St. Louis. There wasn't a giant mural of himself in downtown, but they did just build a statue of him at the "Pujols 5" restaurant in St. Louis. Pujols also claimed that he had ties to the Missouri area, as his wife was from Kansas City.
All of this compares to what Pujols had did on the field for the Cardinals.
All and all, Pujols will still be one of the greatest Cardinals of all-time. His number will be retired by the franchise some day. He'll also go into the Hall of Fame as a St. Louis Cardinal. However, the impact that Pujols has made by leaving the team he helped resurrect is far greater than the one on the field.