<span style="color: #6e8dcf;">Primetime Thoughts
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I don’t expect an hour-long telecast on ESPN to announce the free-agency decision, but where Albert Pujols ends up this offseason will have a LeBron-esque audience. Fresh off arguably the most improbable World Series run in history, Pujols has avoided the topic all season, having not addressed the matter since Spring Training when a contract extension couldn’t be reached.
Let’s be clear here, Albert Pujols is not LeBron James. Pujols has delivered St. Louis with two World Series titles while James has provided Cleveland what seems to be eternal doom. We were all given a reality check when it became apparent that James was all about his “brand” and loyalty was not as important as he claimed throughout his time in Cleveland.
The circumstances are different for sure, Pujols has given Cardinal fans two championships. He could never reach base again and would be forever loved. James had failed to deliver Cleveland a title after eight years and the pressure was mounting to win a ring. While James in my opinion and many others took the easy way route, his decision was motivitated by the desire to win a title, albeit as one of the background dancers as opposed to the lead singer.
Undoubtedly a Hall of Famer, Pujols has the numbers, the money, and the success. So what could possibly drive Pujols to a different uniform for the first time in his career?
Ahh yes, money, it talks to us all. professional athletes tend to make a lot of it, and often free agency sees players gravitate towards the biggest deal. Pujols has made well over $100 million dollars in his career; it’s safe to say he could retire now and be set for life as would his children and their children. Pujols isn’t a player who’s coming off a career year and wants to break the bank on one big contract.
Pujols has a bank-breaking year every season.
The Cardinals will pay the man, he is the heart and soul of their team and the driving force behind two World Series championships. But it is possible and likely that they will not be the highest bidder. Now would Pujols leave his home for over a decade to go elsewhere because the Cardinals offered, let’s say, a $200 million deal while a big market club offered $225 or $250?
It may seem unfair on my part to expect Pujols to pass on the money, but why walk away from a city where you are a living legend and blemish that? Of course Pujols would always be embraced by St. Louis if he were to leave, the guy did deliver in his time there.
However, we can all agree that a guy like Derek Jeter, who has been a Yankee his entire career with five World Series wins, is viewed differently than a guy like Shaq. Sure he won three titles with the Lakers, but the fact is he drifted around from one team to the next, and while he’ll always be known as a Laker, it can’t be ignored that the guy rocked as many jerseys as he did. Pujols has an opportunity to be a rarity, the legend that plays his whole career with one team. Does he really want to be like Michael Jordan, who is a Bull through and through, but also played a few seasons with the Wizards?
Pujols has already accomplished more than any baseball player ever hopes for and has the opportunity to add to his impressive run. I just hope it’s with the only team he’s ever known.