Albert Pujols is entering his 10th and final year of his huge contract that never worked out for the Angels.
The Albert Pujols experiment is officially going into the last year of its contract as 2021 is year 10. While at the time of the signing it seemed like it would catapult the Angels into October year after year, it has done everything but that. To say this signing backfired is an understatement, but the time has come where it is officially almost over.
Albert Pujols was an absolute beast in St. Louis during his time there between 2001 and 2011. He would be called a World Series champion twice and an MVP three times. During his time with the Cardinals, he finished batting under .300 once and that year’s average was .299. The year he didn’t have 100 plus RBIs, he had 99. For the first decade of the 21st century, Albert Pujols was regarded as one of, if not the best player in baseball.
The Halos signed Albert Pujols thinking they were getting Superman and later found out they got Clark Kent. Pujols never hit over .300 again, had one to many dates with an operating room and was never himself after St. Louis. In 2015, Albert Pujols found his way on to one more All-Star team, but it didn’t matter. He was nothing but a shell of his former self with flashes of what could have been.
What Angels fans saw with Albert Pujols is what St. Louis fans deserved to see after his career there. Hitting number 3,000, climbing into the top five of home runs all time, getting 2,000 RBIs. It’s not saying that Angel fans didn’t appreciate Albert and the company he had entered, because they did. Cardinals fans cheered him on through his great years and would have appreciated those moments more even if he had fallen off as a star. He was was their guy and his ovation by those fans in 2019 speaks volume to what he meant to them.
Pujols is set to make 30 million in 2021 and then it is over. David Fletcher, Jared Walsh, even Shohei Ohtani are under team control through at least 2024. They can backload a pitching contract this year, go out and be aggressive next offseason and even make trades with higher salaries and big-name players they likely couldn’t have before.
The AL West is set to be a free for all. The A’s lost Billy Beane and there is no telling how that will impact the organization moving forward. The Astros are losing Justin Verlander to Tommy John for a good chunk if not all of 2021, Springer is gone, and they are shopping Carlos Correa this offseason. The Mariners are young and talented but still probably too young to make real noise in the division. The Rangers are, well, they play baseball too. The Angels have a chance with their roster to take over the division moving forward.
10 years for 240 million and a full no trade clause. It’s officially year 10 on one of the more shocking free-agent backfires in baseball history. Albert Pujols will be a first ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time. To some Cardinals fans, he is the greatest player they ever rooted for, ever saw. He was their superman. To Angel fans, he’ll always be respected, appreciated for who he is. He is still Albert Pujols, a legend, one of the best to ever do it, but he wasn’t Superman in Los Angeles.
Maybe that’s just the way this was supposed to be. A first half of a career littered in awards, and titles. A first half of excellence, consistent greatness. All of that greatness to be followed by a second half of injuries and flashes of what was.
It’s hard not to romanticize this kind of thing. It’s hard to watch someone fall off year after year that was so great. It’s hard to hear him get beaten up by average baseball fans who don’t know anything about his tenure in St. Louis. Albert Pujols was so good that he has hit .258 in his time in Los Angeles and still has a chance to finish his career as a .300 plus hitter. While likely he’ll fall short, it’s impressive it’s even a possibility after his past four years of hitting under .250.
The tenure with the Angels speaks for itself. While it was a rough 10 years, it’s a part of the history of the team now. Regardless of how it worked out in Los Angeles, Albert is still one of the greats. Maybe Albert just always needed St. Louis as much as St. Louis needed Albert.